Quotulatiousness

October 8, 2014

Pakistan’s public health emergency

Filed under: Asia, Health — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:07

The number of reported cases of polio is now the highest it has been for more than a decade, and at least some of the blame has to go to the CIA for using health workers as a cover for some of their covert operations.

As world health officials struggle to respond to the Ebola epidemic, Pakistan has passed a grim milestone in its efforts to combat another major global health crisis: the fight against polio.

Over the weekend, Pakistan logged its 200th new polio case of 2014, the nation’s highest transmission rate in more than a dozen years. The spread has alarmed Pakistani and international health experts and is prompting fresh doubt about the country’s ability to combat this or future disease outbreaks.

By Tuesday, the number of new polio cases in Pakistan stood at 202, and officials are bracing for potentially dozens of other cases by year’s end. Pakistan now accounts for 80 percent of global cases and is one of only three countries at risk of exporting the disease outside its borders, according to the World Health Organization.

[...]

In far-flung areas of the country, some parents and religious leaders are skeptical of the vaccine, requiring considerable face-to-face outreach by vaccination teams.

But the Pakistani Taliban and other Islamist militants have waged a brutal campaign against those teams, killing more than 50 health workers and security officials since 2012. The attacks began after it was discovered that the CIA had used a vaccination campaign to gain information about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

May 5, 2013

Sorcery, conspiracy theories, and a magical worldview

Filed under: Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:12

Strategy Page looks at some of the widely held beliefs in some Islamic countries:

… in most countries where there is a dominant religion, especially a state approved one, there is usually still a fear that the previous religion (or religions) will try to make a comeback. The former faiths often involved some really old-school stuff, including magic and sometimes animal, or even human, sacrifice. It is not uncommon for there to be civil laws covering those accused to be practicing such sorcery, and severe punishments for those convicted. At the very least, the accused will be driven from any senior government jobs they might hold, and that’s what’s being done to dozens of Ahmadinejad associates.

All cultures have a certain belief in magic and what Westerners call “conspiracy theories” to explain otherwise unexplainable events. In the Islamic world, there is a lot of attention paid to sorcery and magic, and people accused of practicing such things are regularly attacked and sometimes executed. Conspiracy theories are also a popular way to explain away inconvenient facts.

For example, back in 2008 many Pakistanis believed that the then recent Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai, India was actually the work of the Israeli Mossad or the American CIA and not the Pakistani terrorists who were killed or captured and identified. Such fantasies are a common explanation, in Moslem nations, for Islamic terrorist atrocities. Especially when women and children, and Moslems, are among the victims, other Moslems tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems).

[. . .]

American troops arriving in Iraq after 2003 went through a real culture shock as they encountered these cultural differences. They also discovered that the cause of this, and many other Arab problems, is the concept of “inshallah” (“If God wills it.”) This is a basic tenet of Islam, although some scholars believe the attitude was a cultural trait that preceded Islam. In any event, “inshallah” is deadly when combined with modern technology. For this reason, Arab countries either have poorly maintained infrastructure and equipment (including military stuff), or import a lot of foreigners, possessing the right attitudes, to maintain everything. That minority of Arabs who do have a realistic attitude towards maintenance and personal responsibility are considered odd, but useful.

The “inshallah” thing is made worse by a stronger belief in the supernatural, and magic in general. This often extends to technology. Thus many Iraqis believed that American troops wore sunglasses that enabled them to see through clothing, and armor vests that were actually air conditioned. When they first encounter these beliefs, U.S. troops thought the Arabs are putting them on. Then it sinks in that Arabs really believe this stuff. It’s a scary moment.

January 13, 2013

The “successes” of the drone war can only be measured in body counts

Filed under: Africa, Asia, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:48

In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins discusses the negative aspects of the drone war:

The greatest threat to world peace is not from nuclear weapons and their possible proliferation. It is from drones and their certain proliferation. Nuclear bombs are useless weapons, playthings for the powerful or those aspiring to power. Drones are now sweeping the global arms market. There are some 10,000 said to be in service, of which a thousand are armed and mostly American. Some reports say they have killed more non-combatant civilians than died in 9/11.

I have not read one independent study of the current drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the horn of Africa that suggests these weapons serve any strategic purpose. Their “success” is expressed solely in body count, the number of so-called “al-Qaida-linked commanders” killed. If body count were victory, the Germans would have won Stalingrad and the Americans Vietnam.

Neither the legality nor the ethics of drone attacks bear examination. Last year’s exhaustive report by lawyers from Stanford and New York universities concluded that they were in many cases illegal, killed civilians, and were militarily counter-productive. Among the deaths were an estimated 176 children. Such slaughter would have an infantry unit court-martialled. Air forces enjoy such prestige that civilian deaths are excused as a price worth paying for not jeopardising pilots’ lives.

[. . .]

Since the drone war began in earnest in 2008, there has been no decline in Taliban or al-Qaida performance attributable to it. Any let-up in recruitment is merely awaiting Nato’s departure. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has called the attacks “in no way justifiable”. The Pakistan government, at whose territory they are increasingly directed, has withdrawn all permission.

The young Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana protested in the New York Times of the carnage drones are wreaking on the politics of his country, erasing “years of progress and trust-building with tribes”. Yemenis now face al-Qaida recruiters waving pictures of drone-butchered women and children in their faces. Notional membership of al-Qaida in Yemen is reported to have grown by three times since 2009.

January 2, 2013

Potential hotspots for 2013

Filed under: Africa, Asia, China, India — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:37

Strategy Page has the advance listing of places around the world where peacekeeping or peace-making may be required this year:

Planning for peacekeeping works a lot better if you have a good idea of where the next crises will occur. For 2013 there are several potential hotspots where diplomats can’t handle the mess and armed peacekeepers may be needed. In some cases, there might also be a call for more peacekeepers in an existing hotspot. That might happen in the eastern Congo, where the largest force of UN peacekeepers has been trying to calm things down for nearly a decade, but the violence just keeps going. There’s increasing hostility between Sudan and newly created South Sudan. There are some peacekeepers there, but, like Darfur (western Sudan) the violence never seems to stop.

There’s always been the possibility of large scale fighting between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There’s been more and more small scale violence on the border and growing threats from both countries. There is still a lot of tension between Pakistan and India, over Pakistani support for Islamic terrorists making attacks in India. Pakistan denies any responsibility, despite a growing mountain of evidence. Neither country would be very hospitable to peacekeepers.

And then there the developing mess in the Western Pacific off China, where Chinese claims to a lot of uninhabited rocks and reefs is causing a growing outrage from the neighbors. China keeps pushing and with all those armed ships and aircraft facing off, an accidently, or deliberate, shot is possible. China will also be a major player if North Korea finally does its political collapse. The North Korean economy has already tanked as has morale and living standards. If the government loses control China and South Korea have both made claims on responsibility for taking over and dealing with the mess.

November 25, 2012

21st century navies to watch: China and India

Filed under: China, India, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:07

The Economist provides some background on a growing naval rivalry between the two biggest powers in Asia:

Samudra Manthan is the title of a new book on this topic by C. Raja Mohan, an Indian writer on strategic affairs, for whom the myth is a metaphor for the two countries’ competition at sea. This contest remains far more tentative and low-key than the 50-year stand-off over their disputed Himalayan border, where China humiliated India in a brief, bloody war in 1962. But the book raises alarming questions about the risks of future maritime confrontation.

[. . .]

China’s naval plans receive more attention. By 2020 its navy is expected to have 73 “principal combatants” (big warships) and 78 submarines, 12 of them nuclear-powered. Last year its first aircraft-carrier, bought from Ukraine, began sea trials; indigenous carriers are under construction. Proving it can now operate far from its own shores, China’s navy has joined anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Of course this evolution is not aimed at India, so much as at building a force commensurate with China’s new economic might, securing its sea lines of communication and, eventually perhaps, challenging American dominance in the western Pacific, with a view to enforcing China’s view of its national sovereignty in Taiwan and elsewhere.

Indian strategists, however, tend towards paranoia where China is concerned. China’s close strategic relations with India’s neighbours, notably Pakistan, have given rise to the perception that China is intent on throttling India with a “string of pearls” — naval facilities around the Indian Ocean. These include ports China has built at Gwadar in Pakistan; at Hambantota in Sri Lanka; at Kyaukphyu in Myanmar; and at Chittagong in Bangladesh.

[. . .]

India’s naval advances are less dramatic. But it has operated two aircraft-carriers since the 1960s, and aims to have three carrier groups operational by 2020, as part of a fleet that by 2022 would have around 160 ships and 400 aircraft, making it one of the world’s five biggest navies. Like China, it also hopes to acquire a full “nuclear triad” — by adding sea-based missiles to its nuclear deterrent. While China has been testing the waters to its south and south-west, India’s navy has been looking east, partly to follow India’s trade links. India fears Chinese “strategic encirclement”. Similarly, China looks askance at India’s expanding defence ties with America, South-East Asia, Japan and South Korea.

November 19, 2012

Victims of state-sponsored violence in Pakistan and Gaza

Filed under: Media, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:52

Brendan O’Neill wonders why fans of Obama’s re-election (and therefore also of his bloody record of drone strikes in Pakistan) are almost uniformly against Israel’s counter-attacks in Gaza:

All the people who two weeks ago were ecstatically cheering the re-election of Barack Obama are now having paroxysms of fury over Israel. Where the blogs, Twitterfeeds and daily conversations of these caring, Left-leaning folk were packed to bursting point with glowing praise for Obama on 7 November, now they are full of scorn for Israel and its inhuman, bloodthirsty bombing of Gaza. The intensity of these individuals’ delirium over Obama’s second term now finds its match in the intensity of their disgust with Israel’s military antics.

Which is weird, when you consider that Obama, their hero, has already done to the tribal regions of Pakistan what Israel, their nemesis, is now doing to Gaza.

Obama, like Israel, launches bombing raids on foreign militants, and Obama, like Israel, ends up killing innocent people in the process. Indeed, of the 283 drone strikes launched by Obama in rural regions of Pakistan over the past four years, which have killed an estimated 2,600 people, only 13 per cent have successfully killed an al-Qaeda or Taliban militant. Shockingly, this means that around 2,200 non-militant Pakistanis — or what we might call innocents — have been killed by Obama: bombed in their beds, or while herding sheep, or while driving their cars. This death toll dwarfs what has been unleashed by Israel over the past week or during the first Gaza war in 2008, when around 1,400 Palestinians died.

[. . .]

What is behind these mammoth double standards? Is it that Pakistanis are considered less important than Palestinians, and therefore there’s no need to protest when they get killed? Is it that Obama is viewed as so supercool and liberal that he can bomb whom he likes and still his cheerleaders won’t kick up a fuss? Is it because Israel is a Jewish State, and we are more offended by the sight of Jews bombing brown people than we are by the sight of America’s Democratic Party bombing brown people? What is it? There must be some explanation. Perhaps if you are one of those people who cheered Obama’s re-election and is now jeering at Israel’s militarism you might take a few minutes to tell us why some forms of militarism make you see red, and others do not.

September 19, 2012

Pakistan’s predicament

Filed under: Asia, Government, India, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:58

Strategy Page outlines the nasty situation the Pakistani government finds itself in:

The Pakistani government has asked the U.S. government to stop publically demanding that Pakistan take action against the terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan. Such public demands make it more difficult for Pakistan to act as such an operation would be jumped on by the Pakistani media as Pakistan taking orders from the United States. This is a deadly accusation in Pakistan, where decades of government enthusiasm for Islamic radicalism and hatred of the United States has made it impossible for a Pakistani government to have cordial relations with America. The way the local culture works in Pakistan, this attitude means America can be blamed for just about every problem in Pakistan. That would include the persistent poverty, corruption, bad government and constant threat of another military coup. Pakistan means, literally, “Land of the Pure” and that means it’s easy for Pakistanis to believe that their problems must be caused by some external force. The United States and India have been tagged as the cause of Pakistan’s problems for so long that it’s simply not acceptable for any Pakistani politician or media outlet to describe the source of Pakistan’s problems any differently. Actually, there are a growing number of politicians and media outlets who are questioning the traditional attitudes towards the U.S., India and the personal responsibility of Pakistanis. Alas, such heretical opinions can still get you killed and many such Pakistanis emigrate or keep silent. In Pakistan, politics is very much a contact sport.

[. . .]

Pakistan has actually been sponsoring terrorist groups for decades but has so far managed to avoid admitting it. Those efforts are failing now that the U.S. and India have been pressing Pakistan more energetically to shut down terrorist operations in its territory. The recent U.S. designation of the Haqqani Network (based in North Waziristan and long under the not-so-subtle protection of the Pakistani military) as an international terrorist organization has annoyed Pakistan a great deal. For decades, it’s been no secret in Pakistan that Haqqani has government sponsorship. But the official position of the Pakistani government was that Haqqani either didn’t exist or had no government recognition or support. The U.S. presented compelling evidence to the contrary, which was another way of calling several decades’ worth of Pakistani officials liars. This designation means the Americans will now prosecute government and non-government organizations working with Haqqani. The Pakistani government knows this means specific individuals and organizations within the Pakistani government as well as banks and other commercial organizations. The U.S. prosecutors have proved to be quite relentless since September 11, 2001 and the Pakistani nightmare is retired military and intelligence officials being arrested while vising Europe or the Americas. Suddenly, the world is a more dangerous place for many Pakistani officials and businessmen who worked with Haqqani over the years. Likewise, India won’t let up on pressuring Pakistan to shut down Islamic terror groups based in Pakistan that are continuing to support Islamic terrorism in India. Pakistan has officially shut down 43 terror groups (all but two of them since September 11, 2001), and that includes 14 so far this year. But the U.S. and India point out that most of these groups simply disband and reform under another name and continue to be left alone by the Pakistani government.

September 17, 2012

Volokh: When you reward certain kinds of behaviour, you get more of it

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:52

The context here is the various arms of the US government scrambling to condemn the alleged maker of the alleged film Innocence of Muslims. Eugene Volokh explains that this is actually inviting further demands for “satisfaction” on the part of the offended:

In recent days, I’ve heard various people calling for punishing the maker of Innocence of Muslims, and more broadly for suppressing such speech. During the Terry Jones planned Koran-burning controversy, I heard similar calls. Such expression leads to the deaths of people, including Americans. It worsens our relations with important foreign countries. It’s intended to stir up trouble. And it’s hardly high art, or thoughtful political arguments. It’s not like it’s Satanic Verses, or even South Park or Life of Brian. Why not shut it down, and punish those who engage in it (of course, while keeping Satanic Verses and the like protected)?

I think there are many reasons to resist such calls, but in this post I want to focus on one: I think such suppression would likely lead to more riots and more deaths, not less. Here’s why.

Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated. (Relatedly, “once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane.”) Say that the murders in Libya lead us to pass a law banning some kinds of speech that Muslims find offensive or blasphemous, or reinterpreting our First Amendment rules to make it possible to punish such speech under some existing law.

What then will extremist Muslims see? They killed several Americans (maybe itself a plus from their view). In exchange, they’ve gotten America to submit to their will. And on top of that, they’ve gotten back at blasphemers, and deter future blasphemy. A triple victory.

Would this (a) satisfy them that now America is trying to prevent blasphemy, so there’s no reason to kill over the next offensive incident, or (b) make them want more such victories? My money would be on (b).

August 28, 2012

A possible solution to Pakistan’s Taliban problem

Filed under: Asia, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:11

Strategy Page on recent developments in Pakistan over domestic terror groups and the Afghani Taliban:

There are currently 150,000 troops in the Pakistani tribal territories, and nearly 40,000 surrounding North Waziristan (an area of 4,700 square kilometers, with 365,000 people). North Waziristan has been surrounded since late 2009, but Pakistani generals have refused to go in and take down this terrorist refuge. Politicians have been under growing pressure from the West, especially the United States to do something about the continued terror attacks by what the Pakistanis call “bad Taliban”. These are mostly Pakistani Taliban who wants to establish a religious dictatorship in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban, who wants to establish a similar government in Afghanistan are considered “good Taliban” (along with the minority of Pakistani Taliban who don’t want to overthrow the government.)

In the last two years, the Pakistani Taliban have also caused hundreds of casualties among pro-government tribesmen throughout the tribal territories, and it’s no secret that the army hires tribesmen and puts them in dangerous situations to minimize army casualties. The army cannot afford to lose the support of the loyal tribes up there. All this has put pressure on the army to eliminate the refuge the killers can flee to in North Waziristan. Several times, because of the demands of Pakistani and American politicians, the Pakistani generals have said they will consider advancing into North Waziristan. But it hasn’t happened yet. The most likely outcome to all this is a very special army operation in North Waziristan, one that will avoid doing too much damage to their terrorist friends, and just go after a few towns known to be terrorist (who attack Pakistan) hangouts. In other words, the army will put on a show, and hope that the intended audience (the United States) approves. Bad reviews will be bad news indeed. Then there’s the fact that there will be a lot of advance publicity for this operation, including details (in the Pakistani media) of which Pakistani brigade will go where, giving the terrorist groups plenty of time to get out of the way. This has happened before, and could happen again.

The bottom line is that the Pakistani military is not likely to attack its longtime and loyal terrorist allies (especially Haqqani Network) in North Waziristan, at least not as long as the elected politicians have no control over selecting the senior military leaders. The Pakistani military is a self-selected aristocracy that extorts a large chunk of the national wealth to sustain itself. More Pakistanis are looking at the military this way, especially in light how well serving and retired generals (and lower ranking officers) live. But the military has the firepower and few civilians are eager to take the troops on.

The Pakistani generals deny that there is any agreement with the Americans to shut down terrorist operations in North Waziristan in return for NATO action against Pakistani Taliban hiding out in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, in the last week, American air power appears to have done just that, killing several senior Pakistani Taliban leaders in their Afghan hideouts. Now the Americans are waiting for their Pakistani counterparts to do something in North Waziristan. This is one reason civilians in North Waziristan are fleeing their homes. They know how such deals work; you do a big favor for someone and there has to be payback. It’s the code of honor and must be observed. But maybe not. Officially, Pakistan opposes the American UAV patrols over North Waziristan and the hundreds of missile attacks on terrorists below. Pakistani politicians openly decry these attacks as violations of Pakistani sovereignty, while privately supporting these operations that kill Islamic terrorists the Pakistani security forces will not or cannot get to. It’s all a convenient hypocrisy.

August 4, 2012

The tribal and political divisions of Afghanistan

Filed under: Asia, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:31

A brief primer from Strategy Page on the volatile mix of tribal rivalries that makes Afghanistan such a difficult place to conduct business (or military operations):

The war against the Taliban is increasingly just another chapter in the centuries old conflict between the Pushtun and non-Pushtun tribes of Afghanistan. President Karzai and his allies are from Pushtun tribes that have long been rivals to the tribes that form the core of Taliban leadership and manpower. All this is made worse by the fact that the non-Pushtun Afghans (Tajiks, Hazara and Uzbek), who comprise 60 percent of the population, do not want to lose the increased power (more in proportion to their size of the population) they obtained once democracy was installed in 2002. While Pushtuns are 40 percent of the population, Tajiks are 24 percent, Hazara ten percent, Uzbek 9 percent and various other non-Pushtun minorities the rest. This struggle between Pushtuns and the rest has defined Afghanistan since its creation three centuries ago. The Pushtun are not happy with the recent revisions that gave the majority more power. For Pushtuns, that is just not right. The Taliban are seen as major players in the fight to right this wrong, and for many Pushtuns that makes up for a lot of the evil the Taliban does.

This tribal animosity played a role in the American reaction to Pakistan closing its border to NATO truck traffic last November. The U.S. played hardball with the Pakistanis and shifted truck traffic to the more expensive northern route. This was great for the non-Pushtuns up north, who got a lot more lucrative trucking business. It was a disaster for the mainly Pushtun trucking companies in the south, and the Taliban who extorted “protection money” from the truckers to avoid being attacked. Aware of all that, NATO traffic is not returning to its pre-November levels, and may be reduced still more if the Taliban become more troublesome because their cash flow has increased.

[. . .]

Afghanistan is different to the extent that it has a more violent (than the norm) tribal culture and heavy resistance to anti-corruption efforts. Most Afghans who reach a leadership position consider corruption (demanding bribes and stealing government funds) a right and stealing something of an obligation to make his family/clan/tribe stronger and better able to survive. Many Afghans have noted that countries with less corruption are more prosperous and peaceful, but this anti-corruption faction is still a minority. Corruption continues to be a major problem in Afghanistan and it will get worse when most foreign troops leave in 2014. At that point, the anti-corruption activists will be at more personal risk, as will auditors and other monitors of how foreign aid is spent.

Many (if not most) Pushtuns, and nearly all non-Pushtuns, are hostile to the Taliban and their alien radical Islamic ways. Aside from the lifestyle restrictions, Afghans don’t like the Taliban demand that Afghans put religion before tribal and family obligations and, worst of all, strive for Islamic world conquest. Most Afghans see the Taliban as a bunch of intolerant fanatics who like to execute (often by beheading or bombs) those who oppose them. The Taliban leadership has been aware of these attitudes for years and has tried to restrain its frontline fighters. But this has been difficult, as Pushtun teenagers with guns are prone to bullying less well-armed civilians, especially if they are from another tribe. Ancient cultural habits are hard to break.

June 11, 2012

UAVs and the Pakistan problem

Filed under: Asia, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:13

Strategy Page on the Pakistani mess:

American leaders have become very public lately in expressing exasperation at Pakistan’s pro-terrorism policy. Officially, Pakistan denies that it supports Islamic terrorists, but the evidence is extensive and more is piles up daily. One reason Pakistan, at least the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, is so hostile to the American UAV campaign in the tribal territories is that most of the time these pilotless aircraft are just watching what is going on down on the ground. What the UAVs see daily is vivid examples of Pakistani troops cooperating with Islamic terrorists. This surveillance process also identifies Islamic terrorist leaders and the UAVs fire missiles that kill them and their bodyguards and civilians used as human shields. Pakistan doesn’t mind it when terrorists who are, or have, attacked Pakistani targets are killed, but get very upset when terrorists allied with Pakistan are wacked. Pakistan can’t openly admit this, so the military makes a big deal of the U.S. “violating Pakistani territory.” The U.S. ignores the Pakistani complaints, the Pakistanis don’t escalate (like using American made F-16s jet to shoot down the UAVs) and the charade goes on. The Americans are fed up with it, as are the Afghans and a growing number of Pakistanis. But speaking out against the military in Pakistan, especially for a journalist, can get you jailed, murdered or “disappeared.” American are sometimes also in danger and even U.S. diplomats will suffer harassment.

The U.S. is particularly angry at Pakistan’s continued support for the Haqqani Network, a largely Afghan group that operates out of Pakistan to make attacks on enemies (political and business) in Afghanistan. Haqqani is also a major criminal organization, which is how it finances its mayhem across the border. The ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency, controlled by the army, which handles liaison with Pakistani terrorist groups) has been assisting Haqqani Network efforts to start a new umbrella organization (the Muraqba Shura) to control all Islamic radical groups operating in North Waziristan, a terrorist sanctuary on the Afghan border.) This effort began late last year, and the Muraqba Shura now provides a semblance of unity among Islamic terror groups in North Waziristan.

April 16, 2012

Member of the House of Lords offers £10 Million bounty for capturing Barack Obama and George Bush

Filed under: Britain, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:11

I’m not sure what they’re putting in the drinking water in the House of Lords, but whatever it is, it must be powerful:

During a recent visit to Pakistan, Lord Nazir Ahmed, a member of the British House of Lords who originally hails from Pakistani Kashmir, announced he was putting up a bounty of £10 million for the capture of U.S. President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush. The announcement, made at a conference held in the Pakistani town of Haripur, came in response to a recent U.S. announcement offering a $10 million reward to anyone providing information leading to the capture of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, founder of the Pakistani jihadi organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and emir of LeT’s charity arm, Jamaatud Dawa.[1]

Stressing the seriousness of his offer, Lord Ahmed said he would back the bounty at any cost, even if it meant selling his house. Qazi Muhammad Asad, minister for education in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, was among those present at the conference at which the announcement was made.

Yes, it’s likely a fake story, but it’s too funny to check before running it.

Update: Oh, perhaps it’s a real story after all:

Lord Ahmed suspended from Labour Party after ‘offering £10m bounty for capture of Obama and Bush’

Lord Nazir Ahmed, 53, who in 1998 became the first Muslim life peer, was reported to have made the comments at a conference in Haripur in Pakistan.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “We have suspended Lord Ahmed pending investigation. If these comments are accurate we utterly condemn these remarks which are totally unacceptable.”

[. . .]

But Lord Ahmed complained that party chiefs had not spoken to him before announcing the move and challenged the party to produce evidence against him.

He had told the meeting that Mr Bush and ex-Labour prime minister Tony Blair should be prosecuted for war crimes however, he added, speaking from Pakistan.

[. . .]

Asked about the reported comments, he said: “I never said those words.

“I did not offer a bounty. I said that there have been war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and those people who have got strong allegations against them — George W Bush and Tony Blair have been involved in illegal wars and should be brought to justice.

“I do not think there’s anything wrong with that,” he said — adding that he was equally concerned that anyone suspected of terrorism should face justice as well.

March 24, 2012

The state of Pakistan: grim and getting grimmer

Filed under: Asia, Economics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:00

Robert Fulford in the National Post, examines the evidence presented in Ahmed Rashid’s book, Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan:

In rich, persuasive detail, Rashid describes corrupt leaders and a despairing population, an army that obeys orders only when it wants to, a stagnant economy, disastrous relations with neighbouring countries — and above all, a persistent national tendency, exemplified by Zardari, to blame others when anything goes wrong. Americans are often seen to be at fault, and sometimes Israelis. India is considered permanently blameworthy.

Half of school-age Pakistanis don’t attend school. At the state’s founding in 1947, 52% of the citizens were literate; in 65 years that number has been raised to 57%. In the last 20 years, Rashid notes, Pakistan has not developed a single new industry or cultivated a new crop. On the level of imagination, it has died or lapsed into a coma.

Politicians and military officers take turns forcing each other out of power; that’s the only system of regime change that operates, and it does nothing to eliminate corruption.

Rashid makes it clear that Pakistan’s core problem is as much a moral as a political failure, a matter of shirked duties, profound dishonesty and rancid hatreds that encourage murder. Reforms don’t happen, he believes, because neither political, nor military leaders have the courage, will and intelligence to carry them out.

February 19, 2012

Pakistan: “as many as 80% … considered non-Muslims to be enemies of Islam”

Filed under: Asia, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:05

According to this article in the National Post, Jonathan Kay says anti-Americanism and support for Taliban operations in Afghanistan is far more than just realpolitik “Great Game” positioning — it’s actually a vastly popular cause with ordinary Pakistanis:

A good indication of what ordinary Pakistanis think comes to us courtesy of a U.S. government-sponsored study called “Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan,” recently produced by the U.S.-based International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, in conjunction with an independent Pakistani policy think tank called the Sustainable Development Policy Institute. Together, their researchers conducted an in-depth study of the attitudes toward non-Muslims reflected in 100 sampled Pakistani textbooks, and in interviews with teachers and students at 37 of the country’s public schools and 19 madrassas.

The interviews with teachers were especially telling: This is precisely the stratum of society — literate, educated, middle-class — that one would expect to embrace relatively moderate and enlightened attitudes. But generally speaking, the opposite is true. Almost half of the surveyed public-school teachers did not even know that non-Muslims could become citizens of the Pakistani state. A common theme was that non-Muslim religions are inherently sinister, and that friendly relations between the faiths are worth maintaining only insofar as they can generate opportunities for Muslims to attract converts.

[. . .]

In Pakistani textbooks, the line between mosque and state is virtually non-existent. Students learn that international boundaries — say, between Pakistan and Afghanistan — don’t count for much: “In all the textbooks analyzed, the student is presented a world where concepts such as nation, constitution, legality, standing armies, or multi-lateral organizations — except where they are prescribed by Islamic doctrine of sharia law — do not exist.”

There is some good news in the report: Many of the interviewed Pakistani teachers expressed the belief that, on an interpersonal level, non-Muslim students and their religious practices should be treated with respect. But overall, “as many as 80% of the respondents considered non-Muslims to be enemies of Islam.” This feeling of enmity was justified by reference to a grab bag of complaints against the West: acts of anti-Islamic “blasphemy,” “spreading the evil of alcohol in Muslim society,” “killings of innocent Muslim citizens through missiles,” and “the banning of veils [in France].”

These views help explain why Pakistani mobs often erupt in incendiary spasms of anger not only at drone strikes in Pakistani territory, but also at symbolic slights — such as perceived defilements of the Koran: Bitterness and anger at non-Muslims are deeply felt, widely shared attitudes in Pakistan; and it is doubtful they can be addressed by any sort of goodwill campaign or foreign-policy adjustment. Jihad, if only by proxy, will remain a popular cause for Pakistani governments seeking to promote their Islamic bona fides.

January 21, 2012

A surprising admission in Conrad Black’s survey of the Muslim world

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Military, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:29

The surprise? The unexpectedly nice words for, of all people, former prime minister Jean Chrétien:

All this toing and froing begs the question of why the West has expended such time and resources in Afghanistan, where Pakistan is the chief backer of the main killer of NATO forces (the Haqqani faction), and the chief supplier of ammonium nitrate, the principal ingredient in anti-personnel bombs used against Western forces.

We all started into Afghanistan in 2001 in solidarity with the Americans after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The Americans largely decamped to Iraq after a year, became mired in the quicksand of nation-building, and then in the even deeper and more hopeless morass of trying to make something out of the gigantic, murderous cesspool of Pakistan. It is time this country recognized its debt to Jean Chrétien for taking a pass on the Iraq debacle — and I was one who disagreed with him at the time (though I then had no idea the U.S. would try to take over the governance of the country and try to turn it into Oklahoma).

Although he may have been right in hindsight, he was right for the wrong reason. Prime minister Chrétien “volunteered” Canadian military support in Afghanistan to ensure that we could not be expected to help in Iraq (because in the parlous state of the Canadian Forces, it was impossible for us to support more than one overseas campaign). The Canadian troops did magnificent work in Afghanistan, and certainly raised Canada’s stock with our allies, but we were there — politically — to avoid being in Iraq.

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