CIVIL SOCIETY PAKISTAN

June 16, 2008

Karzai Threatens to Send Soldiers Into Pakistan – WHAT A JOKER! AMERICAN STOOGE – “MAYOR OF KABUL”

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THE NEW YORK

Published: June 16, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened on Sunday to send soldiers into Pakistan to fight militant groups operating in the border areas to attack Afghanistan. His comments, made at a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, are likely to worsen tensions between the countries, just days after American forces in Afghanistan killed 11 Pakistani soldiers on the border while pursuing militants.

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Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at a news conference in Kabul on Sunday.

“If these people in Pakistan give themselves the right to come and fight in Afghanistan, as was continuing for the last 30 years, so Afghanistan has the right to cross the border and destroy terrorist nests, spying, extremism and killing, in order to defend itself, its schools, its peoples and its life,” Mr. Karzai said.

“When they cross the territory from Pakistan to come and kill Afghans and kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to go back and do the same,” he said.

Mr. Karzai repeated that he regarded the Pakistani government as a friendly government, but he urged it to join Afghanistan and allied nations to fight those who wanted to destabilize both countries, and to “cut the hand” that is feeding the militants.

The prime minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gilani, said the border was too long to prevent people from crossing, “even if Pakistan puts its entire army along the border.”

“Neither do we interfere in anyone else’s matters, nor will we allow anyone to interfere in our territorial limits and our affairs,” The Associated Press quoted Mr. Gilani as having said.

Mr. Karzai named several militant leaders, including Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani who has sent scores of fighters and suicide bombers to Afghanistan, and Maulana Fazlullah, a firebrand militant leader from the Swat Valley. Both men have recently negotiated peace deals with the Pakistani government, but vowed to continue waging jihad in Afghanistan.

“Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house,” Mr. Karzai said.

The president also taunted the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar, calling him a Pakistani, since he has been based in this country since fleeing Afghanistan in 2001.

“And the other fellow, Pakistani Mullah Omar, should know the same,” Mr. Karzai said. “This is a two-way road in this case, and Afghans are good at the two-way-road journey. We will complete the journey and we will get them and we will defeat them. We will avenge all that they have done to Afghanistan for the past so many years.”

“Today’s Afghanistan is not yesterday’s silent Afghanistan,” he warned. “We have a voice, tools and bravery as well.”

Mr. Karzai’s comments came two days after Taliban fighters assaulted the main prison in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, blowing up the mud walls, killing 15 guards and freeing about 1,200 inmates. It is not known if the fighters received assistance from outside Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai has adopted a tougher stance in recent months toward Pakistan and even toward foreign allies like the United States and Britain, a shift that analysts say is driven by political concerns at home, with presidential elections due next year.

He says Pakistan has been giving sanctuary to militants for several years and his frustration has grown as the threat has grown. He has often accused the premier Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, of training and assisting militant groups, to undermine his government and maintain a friendly proxy force for the day that United States and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

His relations with the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, have deteriorated over the years, amid mutual recriminations that the other side was not doing enough to curb terrorism. Mr. Musharraf always denied that the Taliban was operating from Pakistani territory and accused Mr. Karzai of failing to put his own country in order.

Mr. Karzai has welcomed the electoral victories of the secular, democratic parties in Pakistan, since he had longstanding good relations with the late Benazir Bhutto and her Pakistan Peoples Party, and in particular with another coalition partner, the Awami National Party.

In a recent interview, Mr. Karzai expressed optimism that relations between the countries would improve under the new government, in particular because of its opposition to militant Islamism.

Yet Afghanistan has watched Pakistan’s peace deals with militant groups with concern and has protested that cross-border infiltration has already increased.

In southern Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai said, British commanders reported that 70 percent of the Taliban fighters killed in recent fighting in the Garmser district were from Pakistan, and 60 percent were Pakistanis.

Mr. Karzai complained that the Pashtuns, the ethnic group that lives on both sides of the border, have been used by the Inter-Services Intelligence and have suffered the most at the hands of the militants. Mr. Karzai is an ethnic Pashtun and spoke out for his fellow tribesmen in Pakistan as well as in his own country.

The militants “have been trained against the Pashtuns of Pakistan and against the people of Afghanistan and their jobs are to burn Pashtun schools in Pakistan, not to allow their girls to get educated, and kill the Pashtun tribal chiefs,” Mr. Karzai said.

“This is the duty of Afghanistan to rescue the Pashtuns in Pakistan from this cruelty and terror,” he said. “This is the duty of Afghanistan to defend itself and defend their brothers, sisters and sons on the other side.”

Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Did Karzai speak on behalf of US?

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THE NEWS

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Updated at  
Monday, June 16, 2008
Comment

By Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: Afghan President Hamid Karzai must have been very angry and frustrated that he put all diplomatic niceties aside and threatened to send his troops across the international border into Pakistan to combat Taliban commanders such as Baitullah Mahsud and Maulvi Omar.

His tone was bitter in the press conference that he addressed in Kabul on Sunday. The rise in Taliban attacks across Afghanistan and the setback that his forces are suffering must be weighing heavily on his mind when he spoke those words. There couldn’t be a bigger embarrassment for his beleaguered government than the jailbreak in Kandahar following a spectacular Taliban attack that freed more than 1,000 inmates. This must be one of the biggest jailbreaks in history.

President Karzai should know that sending Afghan troops across the Pak-Afghan border would constitute violation of Pakistan’s territory and resisted. Pakistan’s armed forces until now have not made any effort to stop violations of its airspace by US gunship helicopters, jet-fighters and drones but they would certainly not allow Afghan troops to intrude into Pakistani territory to hit targets.

This is the first time that Mr Karzai has hurled a threat to send his soldiers into Pakistan. Earlier, he was pleading with US-led Nato forces to take action against the bases of militants that in his view operated in Pakistan. His argument was that the Nato troops should focus on targeting Taliban hiding in Pakistan instead of launching attacks against the militants in Afghanistan. There is also this feeling that the Afghan President was speaking on behalf of the US, which has lately increased pressure on Pakistan by opposing its peace accords with Taliban militants and launching airstrikes in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

One is sure President Karzai doesn’t mean to carry out his threat to send Afghan troops across the border to Pakistan. The only manner in which he can hope to do so is to convince the US and its Nato allies to undertake such a mission in Pakistan and then order some of his Afghan soldiers to accompany the Western forces. The US until now has refrained from sending its ground troops into Pakistan and has instead relied on its pilotless Predator planes to carry out airstrikes against suspected hideouts of militants in South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Bajaur. Also, it is no secret that the fledgling Afghan National Army is confronted with major military challenges at home due to the spreading Taliban insurgency and ordering it to launch strikes in another country would be unwise.

Pakistan has been insisting that its own forces would carry out operations against militants in its territory. It has resisted demands by the US that its troops be allowed to conduct operations in Pakistan. The issue has caused friction in their ties. The relationship has become uncertain following the recent US airstrikes that killed several civilians and 13 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers manning a border post in Mohmand Agency.

Mr Karzai cited the right of self-defence as the reason that gave Afghan forces the excuse to go after the Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mahsud. It wasn’t clear if he meant the Afghan Taliban leader Mulla Mohammad Omar or the Pakistani Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar when he issued a similar warning. It appears that he meant the spokesman Maulvi Omar, who like Baitullah Mahsud is a Pakistani and has admitted sending fighters across the border to Afghanistan to fight US-led coalition forces. While it is wrong on the part of these Pakistani Taliban commanders to send their men to Afghanistan to attack Afghan and Nato forces, still it doesn’t give Afghan National Army the right to cross the international border and operate in Pakistani territory. As Pakistan Army isn’t crossing the Durand Line border to enter Afghanistan and fight there, the same principle would apply to the Afghan National Army. Crossing the border by regular armies of the two neighbouring countries would complicate the situation and fuel hostility in their already uneasy relations. A better option would be to pool efforts to stop the militants infiltrating the long and porous Pak-Afghan border. It is another matter that such efforts didn’t succeed in the past. One probable reason for this is that all the armies fighting the militants and ranging from the US and Nato forces to those from Afghanistan and Pakistan have been under-estimating the strength of the resilient and resurgent Taliban.

June 12, 2008

Filed under: FOREIGN RELATIONS — civilsocietypakistan @ 4:33 pm

U.S., Pakistan at Odds Over Strike in Tribal Area

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WASHINGTON POST

Attack Killed 11 Troops, Islamabad Says

Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, June 12, 2008; Page A01

 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 11 — U.S.-led forces dropped more than a dozen bombs in and near Pakistan’s tribal regions Wednesday in an attack that dramatically exacerbated tensions along the Afghan border and, according to authorities here, killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops.

Many details of the incident remained unclear late Wednesday. A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan said airstrikes were launched after an incursion by “anti-Afghan forces,” and Pentagon officials said the strikes had been coordinated with Pakistan.

The Pakistani military, however, said the attack was “completely unprovoked and cowardly” and “hit at the very basis of cooperation” in the U.S.-Pakistani battle against terrorism. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said Pakistan “vehemently condemned” the airstrikes.

While the Pentagon defended the strikes as justified, a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan said the United States “regrets that actions . . . resulted in the reported casualties among Pakistani forces, who are our partners in the fight against terrorism. We express our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.”

The incident comes at a sensitive time. The United States is seeking to forge closer cooperation with the Pakistani military on curbing insurgent activity, and Pakistan’s new government is negotiating with tribal groups, some of which are allied with the Taliban. Taliban fighters have taken refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and some Western officials have alleged that members of the country’s intelligence services and military are aiding the fighters.

A Taliban spokesman said the group’s fighters had fought “side by side” with Pakistani paramilitary soldiers during Wednesday’s incursion into Afghanistan. The spokesman, Maulvi Omar, also said at least nine Taliban fighters and one child were killed.

A Western military official in Pakistan familiar with operations in the tribal region said that officials have become increasingly concerned that Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, the paramilitary forces charged with monitoring activities along the border, is not properly trained.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities, said in an interview a day before the strike occurred that some Western officials had begun to harbor doubts about the paramilitary group’s ability to handle the challenges posed by the Taliban. The Frontier Corps’ members are recruited from the tribal areas and are known in some instances to have fired on U.S. troops.

“The Frontier Corps was sent in to do a job they were not trained to do,” the military official said.

This month, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited with several top Pakistani officials in Islamabad, including the newly appointed head of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani. While Mullen publicly lauded the Pakistani military’s efforts to control the growing insurgency, he privately expressed concern with the Pakistani government’s recent moves to negotiate with militants, according to a Western diplomat who was briefed on the meetings.

On Wednesday, the clash erupted when U.S.-supported Afghan troops tried to establish a checkpoint near the Sheikh Baba area in the Mohmand tribal region, along the disputed knife’s-edge border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to local villagers and Pakistani military officials. Taliban troops then opened fire on the Afghans.

According to the U.S. military, two Air Force F-15E jets and a B-1B Lancer bomber then dropped the bombs, which included both precision-guided and unguided munitions and which weighed between 500 and 2,000 pounds. The bombs were used “to destroy anti-coalition members in the open and in buildings in the vicinity of Asadabad,” Afghanistan, according to a statement released by the U.S. military’s Combined Air and Space Operations Center for Southwest Asia.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell defended the U.S. strikes as justified because, he said, U.S. troops in Afghanistan were under fire from forces in Pakistan.

“Every indication we have at this point is that the actions that were taken by U.S. forces were . . . legitimate, in that they were in self-defense,” he said. “Our forces . . . came under fire from forces that had come over from the Pakistani side into Afghan territory, and then retreated into Pakistani territory and continued to fire upon our forces, even though we did not pursue them into Pakistan,” he said.

Morrell said he did not know who, if anyone, died in the U.S. strikes. “We are going to work to find out who was killed in this attack, and we will be doing so with the Pakistani government,” he said.

U.S. officials acknowledged that communications along the border are often difficult, despite efforts by all sides to improve the situation.

“This a complex attack involving . . . an airstrike and artillery and a number of forces . . . along a border that has traditionally been a problem and is often the cause of some confusion as to who the forces are that are involved,” Morrell said.

Another U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, put it more bluntly: “This sounds like a mess-up of communication all the way around.”

Tyson reported from Washington.

 

 

 

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Muhammad Sajjad/Associated Press

A Pakistani tribesman in a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Wednesday after being injured in a clash between Afghan forces and Taliban militants.

 
June 11, 2008    

 

Ali Imam/Reuters

In Peshawar, Pakistan, on Wednesday, prayers were offered for a Pakistani paramilitary soldier killed Tuesday night by an American air and artillery strike.

 
 

Pakistan Angry as Strike by U.S. Kills 11 Soldiers

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NEWYORK TIMES

 

 

Published: June 13, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — American air and artillery strikes killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers during a clash with insurgents on the Afghan border on Tuesday night, a development that raised concerns about the already strained American relationship with Pakistan.

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Ali Imam/Reuters

In Peshawar, Pakistan, on Wednesday, prayers were offered for a Pakistani paramilitary soldier killed Tuesday night by an American air and artillery strike.

Hasham Ahmed/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Pakistani mourners in Peshawar carried the coffin of a paramilitary soldier reportedly killed in a U.S. airstrike on Wednesday.

The strikes underscored the often faulty communications involving American, Pakistani and Afghan forces along the border, and the ability of Taliban fighters and other insurgents to use havens in Pakistan to carry out attacks into neighboring Afghanistan.

The attack comes at a time of rising tension between the United States and the new government in Pakistan, which has granted wide latitude to militants in its border areas under a new series of peace deals, drawing criticism from the United States.

NATO and American commanders say cross-border attacks in Afghanistan by insurgents have risen sharply since talks for those peace deals began in March.

Although Pakistani government officials softened their response through the day on Wednesday, the Pakistani military released an early statement calling the airstrikes “unprovoked and cowardly.”

Shaken by the initial Pakistani reaction, administration officials braced for at least a short-term rough patch in relations with Islamabad.

“It won’t be good,” said a Pentagon official who followed developments closely throughout the day. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The precise circumstances surrounding the reported deaths remained unclear, and American officials said an American-Pakistani investigation was expected to begin immediately.

But according to accounts from American officials, the incident started when Taliban fighters from Pakistan crossed about 200 yards into Kunar Province, on the Afghan side of the border, and attacked American-led forces with small-caliber weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

After coalition forces returned fire, driving the insurgents back into Pakistan, two United States Air Force F-15E fighter-bombers and one B-1 bomber dropped about a dozen bombs — mostly 500-pound munitions — on the attackers. An Air Force statement said the militants were struck “in the open and in buildings in the vicinity of Asadabad.”

On Thursday, the United States released video footage purporting to show the airstrike, according to the BBC and news agencies. The film footage, carried by the BBC on its Web site, shows fighters on a ridge exchanging fire with coalition troops, and coalition forces later responding with a series of precision bombs.

A spokesman for the Taliban said their forces had attacked an American and Afghan position near the border, and said eight of their fighters had been killed and nine wounded in the fighting.

Before the airstrike, a Pentagon official said, American forces alerted a Pakistani military liaison officer, trying to ensure that friendly troops were out of harm’s way.

But the Pakistani officer was either unaware that Pakistani paramilitary forces had moved into the area near the insurgents, or the Pakistani forces never got the word to get out of the way, American officials said.

“They got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the Pentagon official said.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan denounced the attack in Parliament and said he had instructed the Foreign Ministry to make a formal protest to the American ambassador, Anne Patterson.

But the Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, told reporters in Washington that “every indication we have at this stage is that it was a legitimate strike in self-defense.” American rules of engagement bar American forces from crossing or firing into Pakistan except to protect themselves.

By Wednesday afternoon, Pakistan’s new ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, had softened his government’s reaction, telling Reuters, “We do look upon it as not an act that should cause us to reconsider our partnership but rather to find ways of improving that partnership.”

Seth Jones, an analyst with the RAND Corporation who was conducting research in Kunar Province last week, said: “It’s almost surprising more of this hasn’t happened given the vast amount of traffic across the border. This creates a real serious impetus for the U.S. to coordinate more closely with Pakistan forces.”

American officials in Pakistan and in Washington, while expressing regret for the Pakistani deaths, said the episode underscored the need to improve the equipping of and coordination with Pakistani security forces operating near the border, including the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from ethnic groups on the border.

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Muhammad Sajjad/Associated Press

A Pakistani tribesman in a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Wednesday after being injured in a clash between Afghan forces and Taliban militants.

The New York Times

 

American and Pakistani officials say the Frontier Corps, which is drawn from Pashtun tribesmen who know the language and culture of the tribal areas, is the most suitable force to combat an insurgency over the long term in the border region, where the regular Pakistani military often is not welcomed.

It was unclear whether the Pakistan liaison officer involved in the airstrike on Tuesday was from the Pakistani Army or the Frontier Corps, an important distinction because the two security forces have not always worked together smoothly, American officials said.

Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman in Washington, said, “This is a reminder that better cross-border communications between forces is vital.”

The Pentagon has spent about $25 million so far to equip the Frontier Corps with new body armor, vehicles, radios and surveillance equipment, and plans to spend $75 million more in the next year.

Over all, administration officials have said the United States could spend more than $400 million in the next several years to enhance the Frontier Corps, including building a training base near Peshawar.

Until recently, the Frontier Corps had not received American military financing because the corps technically falls under the Pakistani Interior Ministry, a nonmilitary agency that the Pentagon ordinarily does not deal with.

Gen. David D. McKiernan, the new NATO commander in Afghanistan, said last week that one of his first trips as commander would be to meet with the Pakistani Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to try to resurrect a commission created by NATO and the Afghan and Pakistani militaries to address border issues. In recent months, Pakistan has not taken part in the commission.

The United States, which has about 34,000 military personnel in Afghanistan, part of an international presence totaling about 60,000, is also in the midst of building six border coordination posts that will be operated by Pakistani, American and other allied forces.

At the Pentagon, Mr. Morrell said, “It is incumbent upon both of us not to let an incident like this or any other interfere with that fundamental shared goal of making sure the F.A.T.A. is not a refuge for terrorists.” He was referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the contested border area.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to discuss the event with her Pakistani counterpart on Thursday at the Afghan donors conference in Paris, American officials said.

There have been several American strikes recently on insurgents inside Pakistani territory. In March, three bombs, apparently dropped by an American aircraft, killed nine people and wounded nine others in the tribal area of South Waziristan that officials say provides sanctuary to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In late January, one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants, Abu Laith al-Libi, was killed by two Hellfire missiles launched from a Predator surveillance aircraft.

The clash on Tuesday occurred at a border post called Chopara on the frontier with the Afghan province of Kunar, where American and Afghan forces have battled insurgents for several years. The insurgents have been using Mohmand and the adjacent area of Bajaur as a base for attacks into Afghanistan.

Fighting has been reported on the Afghan side of the border between insurgents and Afghan and American forces. According to one news report, one militant was killed and three wounded in a firefight on Monday.

The dead on the Pakistani side included a major and were all from the Mohmand Rifles, a paramilitary detachment of the Frontier Corps, the force deployed in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a security official said, speaking in return for customary anonymity.

Officers in the Frontier Corps are generally assigned from the Pakistani Army. The bodies of the dead were being flown to Peshawar on Wednesday morning, the government official said. Among five wounded were three civilians, he said.

Local tribesmen with rocket launchers and Kalashnikov rifles gathered Wednesday near the checkpoint to show their outrage after the attack, Agence France-Presse reported.

Earlier this month, the American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said that Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan were fleeing to the Pakistani border after being routed in recent operations by the United States Marines.

Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who stepped down last week as NATO commander in Afghanistan, seemed to warn Pakistan to contain the threat emanating from its land, and said the Taliban and drug traffickers had long used refugee camps across the border as a sanctuary from American firepower.

He said that if the Taliban and foreign insurgents continued to enjoy free sanctuary outside Afghanistan, their numbers would continue to grow.

The new Pakistani government sought peace deals with the militants after many Pakistanis saw a drastic increase in suicide bombings in Pakistan as being in retaliation for American strikes.

June 11, 2008

Filed under: FOREIGN RELATIONS,MILITARY RULE,NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 1:37 am
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JANG

JUNE 11, 2008

June 5, 2008

Bush loyal to Musharraf

Filed under: FOREIGN RELATIONS,NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 3:27 am
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DAWN

JUNE 04, 2008

By Tariq Fatemi


THE Americans are preoccupied these days with their forthcoming presidential election, which promises to be unusually exciting.

It could also create history if the African-American Barack Obama, who has aroused unprecedented enthusiasm among the educated youth, is able to enter the White House. His victory could actually unleash powerful forces of change that may, among other things, restore much of this country�s international image and credibility.

But even in the midst of this hard-fought campaign, current developments in Pakistan continue to cause grave concern in the US, especially among those involved in national security issues. This was clearly discernible in my meetings in Washington with senior officials in government, Congress and think-tanks, over the past couple of weeks.

Admittedly, Iraq remains a highly contentious issue, with most Americans and certainly the Democrats advocating an early withdrawal from that country. On Pakistan, however, there is little to distinguish among the front runners. In fact, even those critical of the way in which the administration has pursued the war on terror, are cognisant of Pakistan�s critical importance to the success of this campaign. They also view the battle lines in both Afghanistan and Pakistan as intrinsically linked, to the extent that failure in one could make success in the other virtually impossible.

Though McCain is more in tune with Bush, most Democrats have major misgivings about the manner in which this administration has �mollycoddled� Musharraf. Foreign policy advisors to both Obama and Clinton told me that they are convinced that Musharraf was never sincere in his claim that he was determined to root out the radicals. But it is Obama�s people who have a greater degree of scepticism, accusing the military dictator of pursuing a duplicitous policy on domestic extremism as well as combating foreign terrorists.

The Democrats are also critical of the administration for not recognising the significance of the February elections and not distancing itself from Musharraf thereafter. What explains this? For one, Bush is loath to give up on any policy, however unpopular, if perceived as being done under pressure. He may also have other shortcomings, but cannot be faulted for abandoning friends.

Over the years, Bush has not only gotten to know Musharraf well, but has become fond of him, viewing him as a faithful though somewhat inconsistent ally. Dick Cheney, who oversees policy on Pakistan, may have no emotional connect with Musharraf, but as an ideologically-driven exponent of American interests, he is no fan of democratic governments in the Third World, claiming that they are inherently weak and also highly inefficient.

It was, therefore, no surprise to learn that at a time when coalition partners in Pakistan were discussing how to respond to the popular demand that Musharraf be eased out, Bush phoned him to assert that he was �looking forward� to the president�s continuing role in �strengthening US-Pakistan relations�. There could be no better evidence of the administration�s insensitivity to the democratic aspirations of the Pakistanis.

Lest it be forgotten, the administration never expected elections to bring Musharraf�s foes to power. After all, it had worked assiduously to �craft� a new political set-up in Pakistan that while attractive, would nevertheless involve little change in substance. In other words, Musharraf would retain overall authority over issues relating to national security, while the civilians would be left to occupy themselves with the economic and social sectors. The ugly features of the authoritarian regime would thus be wrapped up in the attractive packaging that Benazir Bhutto constituted.

Interestingly, I was informed that unlike the past when the State Department was usually in favour of adopting more liberal positions, it is the Pentagon this time that appears to be more cognisant of the changes that have taken place in Pakistan. Its current assessment is that the US can now distance itself from Musharraf, without damaging the operations against the militants, that was being handled by the army chief about whose professional ability and commitment to the war on terror the Americans are in no doubt.

It is also true that US intelligence is currently sounding more confident of its eventual success. For the first time, it is portraying the terrorists as having suffered major reverses in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and being on the defensive throughout the region. This is, however, in sharp contrast to the National Intelligence Estimate issued last August which had described the border areas as an Al Qaeda �safe haven� for terrorists reorganising themselves for attacks against the West. This optimistic assessment led the Democrats to accuse the administration of trying to influence the outcome of the election.

In any case, Washington is not prepared to reduce its pressure on Pakistan, as borne out by the recent remarks of General Dan McNeill, until recently Nato commander in Afghanistan, who charged that Pakistan had not only failed to follow through on promises to tackle militancy on its side of the border but that in recent months it had stopped cooperating with Nato and Afghan forces. He echoed the misgivings being voiced by other US officials over Islamabad�s peace overtures to the tribes, claiming that dialogue with them had always led to an increase in attacks against US and Nato forces. He did , however, add that this may be on account of the �dysfunction� that he attributed to political changes in Islamabad.

Notwithstanding the administration�s claims to the contrary, the fact is that our relations with the US have become totally subservient to the latter�s global war on terror. Not surprisingly, I was warned that though this administration is �the lamest of lame-ducks�, having only a few months to go, its ability to do mischief should not be discounted. Its embrace of the democratic government in Pakistan is at best a tactical retreat, while its preferred option remains an authoritarian dispensation that does its bidding.

The real test, therefore, is that of our own political leaders who have to recognise where the country�s real interests lie. Should they fail the test, the fragile plant of democracy could be smothered in its infancy and authoritarianism raise its ugly head again.

May 31, 2008

‘Why should I talk to the IAEA?’ A.Q.KHAN

GUARDIAN

The following are extracts from an telephone interview conducted yesterday by the Guardian’s Pakistan correspondent, Declan Walsh, with the father of the country’s nuclear weapons programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Four years ago you made a televised confession offering your “deepest regrets and unqualified apologies” for selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Was it genuine?

“I never was selling. This is the western garbage that uses the word selling. I never sold anything to anyone. I never sold anything and I never got any money. Nobody has proved this and nobody can prove it.

Was your confession made of your own free will?

“It was not of my own free will. It was handed into my hand.”

So why did you agree to go along with it?

“Oh, in the national interest I guess. And the promises which were made.”

What promises?

“Freedom, rehabilitation, all these things.”

Are you happy that you went along with it?

“No, not now. I was hand-tied. I think it was a mistake. At that time things were not so clear and you couldn’t see that people could go back on their words and renege their promises.

Do you hold President Pervez Musharraf personally responsible for this?

One person holds the reins, the others follow … There are always self-seekers and sycophants and more lies. This goes on.

President Musharraf might say that American evidence forced him to act against you?

The Americans presented to the whole world the proof against Iraq. And you know what it was. And now about Iran, and so it goes on. It’s unbelievable that Bush and Colin Powell and Dick Cheney and Condolleezza Rice are bringing lies, lies, lies, bringing photos and false documents … it can happen everywhere.

Do you feel any responsibility for the nuclear programmes in North Korea, Libya or Iran?

No … you must have read that the Swiss president destroyed papers that included weapons blueprints. [That shows that] the western countries have all those blueprints and technology and papers and know-how. So they were supplying to everyone. They were supplying to us, they were supplying to them. The only thing is that they were using the same route as we were using.

Which route was that?

Dubai. It was a free port. We were importing all our things from Dubai and all the other countries were importing from Dubai.

Some people say you were running a “nuclear supermarket”, Time magazine called you a “merchant of menace”. How do you feel about these terms?

I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me at all. They don’t like our God, they don’t like our prophet, they don’t like our holy book, the Qur’an. So how could they like me?

… I have come to realise that one person writes – sorry to use the word – a shitpile and everyone picks up and quotes him whether it is true or not. It is meant for the western public, the western media, who are mostly totally ignorant of the facts here. [they say that] my house is a huge white villa, I have 43 villas here, I have so many bank accounts. Nobody could ever prove anything. [They say that] I had a very huge $10m hotel in Timbuktu. You should have gone and seen – it was an eight-room mud brick house where the poor people reside.

So you are not a rich man?
Never was, never will be.

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The IAEA wants to send its investigators to speak with you. Would you speak to them?

Why should I talk to them? I am under no obligation. We are not signatory to NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]. I have not violated any international laws. So why should I talk to them?

So even if it were possible, you wouldn’t?

Why should I? This is my internal affair and my country’s affair – why should I talk to them?

They say they want to make sure no other country can illegally acquire the bomb.

Why don’t you talk about Israel, why don’t you talk about South Africa. Why did you supply and help South Africa to manufacture six bombs … this is a discriminatory approach. That is wrong with us and it should be wrong with them also.

——————-

There’s been a lot of speculation that you are keeping an “insurance policy” — documents that shows links between nuclear smuggling and the Pakistani military – with your daughter in London. Are you?

No such thing happened. MI6 has spoken to my daughter, they have been to her house. I did not keep any official paper in my house or anywhere. I know it’s an official secret. … When I left I had a few ballpoints and a small table calendar and nothing else.

——————-

What did you do for the celebrations to mark 10 years since Pakistan became a nuclear power?

I stayed at home. I saw on the TV what was going on, I saw on the newspapers. Some people sent flowers, some people phoned and congratulated.

How did you feel?

Two days are important in the history of Pakistan – the 14th of August, when Pakistan was created, and this 28th May, when at least Pakistan got the capacity of protecting itself against aggression and threats and blackmailing. It was a very big day. And since you have been a part of it, you feel proud of being such an historical movement.

What has Pakistan gained from having the bomb?

Peace. No attacks from India in the past 36 years. Otherwise there might have been a war in Kashmir, there might have been a war in Punjab … that has given something, some sense of security to the country.

How has it defined Pakistan’s relationship with the west. You said in the past the west was hostile to Islam. So what has it done?

You know very well the west never likes any country to be a bit independent, whether it is making a bomb, or whether it is financial position and stuff. They want to keep them under thumb. It is not giving any threat to anyone … We have to look after our interests as the western countries look after their interests.

——————-

Where are you speaking from?

I am inside my house. I’m in the living room. I can see the guards. You can see them, they are all around.

Do you hope your house arrest will be lifted soon?

There’s always hope as long as the world is there. As long as you are living there is always hope. Without hope you can’t survive.

Disgraced atomic scientist disowns confession

GUARDIAN

· Father of Pakistan’s bomb rejects smuggling claim
· Khan defiant in first talk to western media since 2004

Supporters of Pakistan Muslim League-N party

Supporters of Pakistan Muslim League-N party hold a picture of disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan as they gather near a replica of Chaghi mountain, where the nuclear tests were conducted. Photograph: Reuters/Faisal Mahmood

For four years Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, has lived in the shadows, confined to his Islamabad home since a tearful televised confession in which he admitted selling nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. But yesterday the 76-year-old scientist returned to the spotlight with a bold new twist: that he had not meant a word of his earlier admission.

In his first western media interview since 2004, Khan said the confession had been forced upon him by President Pervez Musharraf. “It was not of my own free will. It was handed into my hand,” he told the Guardian. More worryingly, he swore never to cooperate with investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite persistent fears that nuclear technology traded by his accomplices could fall into terrorist hands.

“Why should I talk to them?” he said. “I am under no obligation. We are not a signatory to the NPT [nuclear non-proliferation treaty]. I have not violated international laws.” He said details of his clandestine nuclear supply network were “my internal affair and my country’s affair”.

Despite numerous requests from the IAEA and the US government, Pakistan has refused access to Khan, who is still considered a national hero. A spokesman at the UN watchdog’s headquarters in Vienna declined to respond to his comments.

Until this week Khan had been unseen and largely unheard since his February 2004 appearance on state television, in which he said he had hawked the country’s nuclear know-how abroad. He offered his “deepest regrets and unqualified apologies”. Since then Khan has been confined to his villa below the Margalla Hills in Islamabad, where he lives with his wife, Henny. He was initially subjected to tight restrictions. Telephone calls were monitored, internet access was forbidden and visitors were turned away by soldiers camped at his gate. He was allowed to leave the house in August 2006 only for a cancer operation in Karachi, which was successful.

But as Musharraf’s powers have ebbed over the past year, so have the ties on Khan been loosened. First he was allowed to have lunch with close friends, then last month he gave his first interview from his house arrest to a local Urdu language newspaper. Now he hopes that the newly elected prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, will set him free.

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Link to this audio
Hear Declan Walsh speaking to Abdul Qadeer Khan

“As long as you are living there is always hope,” he said, adding that he would wait for pressing economic and political crises to pass. In reality, he may be waiting for Musharraf to be forced out.

Yesterday the military dismissed speculation, prompted by changes in the army command, that Musharraf was about to quit as president. “A section of press is trying to sensationalise routine functional matters,” said a spokesman.

Khan has emerged as Pakistan celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 1998 test that catapulted the volatile nation into the nuclear club. Speaking by telephone, he displayed the mix of defiant nationalism and religious ardour that has endeared him to many Pakistanis.

Reports that nuclear technology was smuggled abroad were “western rubbish”, he said, and unfavourable accounts of his life were “shit piles”. He brusquely dismissed nicknames such as “the Merchant of Menace” from a Time magazine cover.

“It doesn’t bother me at all. They don’t like our God, they don’t like our prophet, they don’t like our holy book, the Qur’an. So how could they like me?” he said.

He dismissed reports that he owned 43 houses in Islamabad, had many bank accounts and owned a $10m hotel in Timbuktu, Mali. “The journalists should have gone and seen – it was an eight-room mud-brick house where the poor people reside,” he said, referring to the latter. Asked if he was rich he answered: “Never was, never will be.”

International nuclear investigators and the Pakistani government paint a very different picture. In 2005, Musharraf confirmed that Khan had supplied North Korea with centrifuges used to enrich uranium. This week the IAEA board received further confirmation linking Pakistan with Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.

Khan said yesterday that nuclear technology was freely available in the west to Iran or North Korea. “They were supplying to us, they were supplying to them … [to] anyone who could pay,” he said.

But for all his defiant talk, one subject remains out of bounds for Khan. Supporters claim he was made a scapegoat for Pakistani generals involved in nuclear trading. Khan refuses to discuss the issue. “I don’t want to talk about it. Those things are to forget about,” he said.

He denied speculation he had hidden evidence of military collusion with his daughter, Dina, who lives in London. “MI6 has spoken to my daughter, they have been to her house. I did not keep any official papers in my house or anywhere,” he said.

Khan directed Pakistan’s nuclear enrichment programme for 25 years. Born in pre-partition India – his family moved to Pakistan after 1947 – his passion for developing a nuclear bomb was driven by hatred of his country of birth.

Khan is worshipped as a hero at home, but the former CIA director George Tenet described him as “at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden”, and fears of the damage wreaked by his smuggling network were realised when North Korea exploded a nuclear device in October 2006.

In Musharraf’s 2006 memoir, he said he sacked Khan after learning that he was “up to mischief”.

Khan blames this on the “self-seekers and sycophants” around Musharraf, who had allowed Pakistan to become a “banana republic”.

Backstory

The quest for a Pakistani nuclear bomb was launched by Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1972. “You men here will make it for me and for Pakistan,” he told a secret meeting of scientists and generals. Bhutto’s motive was to counter India’s more developed programme. His secret asset was metallurgist AQ Khan who, while working in a Dutch nuclear laboratory, smuggled secrets home. Khan returned to head the programme in 1976. Pakistan exploded its first nuclear device in 1998. The army has an estimated 50 nuclear warheads.

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