Playing With Fire in Pakistan

Almost no one wants to say it out loud. But between the threats from extremists, an unraveling economy, battling civilian leaders and tensions with its nuclear rival India, Pakistan is edging ever closer to the abyss.In a report this week, The Atlantic Council warned that Pakistan’s stability is imperiled and that the time to change course is fast running out. That would be quite enough for any government to deal with. Then on Wednesday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court added new fuel upholding a ruling barring opposition leader Nawaz Sharif — a former prime minister — and his brother from holding elected office. That touched off protests across Punjab Province, the Sharifs’ power base and Pakistan’s richest and politically most important province.The Sharifs charge that the Supreme Court is a tool of President Asif Ali Zardari. They are backing anti-government lawyers who have long campaigned for the reinstatement of the country’s former top judge who was dismissed by former Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2007.We don’t know if Mr. Zardari orchestrated this ruling, as Nawaz Sharif and many others have charged. (The government actually argued Mr. Sharif’s side in the case, which stems from an earlier politically motivated criminal conviction.) We do know the danger of letting this situation get out of control.
When Mr. Zardari became president, he pledged to unite the country. He has not. Like Mr. Zardari, Mr. Sharif is a flawed leader and no doubt is manipulating the combustible court ruling for personal political gain.For Pakistan’s democracy to survive, a robust opposition must be allowed to flourish and participate peacefully in the country’s political life. That includes finding a way for Mr. Sharif to run for office.It also means Pakistan must get serious about tackling its problems, including the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Mr. Zardari, whose wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by extremists, seems to understand.Unfortunately, the powerful chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, still seems far more focused on the potential threat of India than the clear and present danger of the extremists. He is said to have supported the recent deal in which the government effectively ceded the Swat Valley — in the border region but just 100 miles from Islamabad — to militants in a misguided bid for a false peace.Pakistanis need to understand that this is their fight, not just America’s. We hope top American officials delivered that message loudly and clearly when General Kayani visited Washington this week.There was a time when Messrs. Zardari and Sharif pledged to work together for the good of Pakistan. Their country is in mortal danger. And they need to find a way to work together to save it.

The Swat deal is wrong

Shaukat Qadir
The Swat deal amounts to the opening of a Pandora’s Box: where will it stop? The other chapters of the Taliban are only waiting to ask for their own ‘Islamic’ government. Is this the beginning of the real Talibanisation of the NWFP?
The Taliban in Pakistan are far from a monolithic structure. There is, at best, a loose union with a disputed leadership and undefined hierarchy. However, the undisputed Taliban leader in Swat is Fazlullah. Pakistan has attempted to strike a peace deal with the Swat Taliban, in return for the imposition of sharia — Islamic law — in Swat. The attempt has been heralded by some, viewed sceptically by others, and condemned by a few. Let us attempt to examine what is wrong with this deal.
To begin with, the government’s deal has been brokered with Sufi Muhammed, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, not with Fazlullah who, despite their relationship (or because of it), is not on the best of terms with Sufi. If Fazlullah accepts Sufi’s terms, it might result in Sufi becoming more powerful; else the endeavour could deteriorate to an internecine battle for turfs, doomed to fail from the outset.
If one vectors into this equation that the Taliban are hated by the population for all that they stand for and can rule only by force, it is obvious that the deal can, at best, offer a breather and no more.The provincial government, having announced that it is prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the success of this deal, has now announced its intention of arming the local population to fight against the Taliban and that ‘arms not being used against the Taliban would be withdrawn’. How that will be discovered or how the arms, once given, will be recovered remains a mystery. The central government is having second thoughts anyway.However, irrespective of whether it works or not, this deal is a recipe for disaster, unless we are prepared to hand Islam over to the Taliban and allow them to legalise their violation of every law of the land and every tenet of Islam. The Quran states again and again that Islam is progressive; even Saudi Arabia that had been living with its archaic laws is attempting to change. Pakistan is, on the other hand, prepared to allow itself to be held hostage to these self-styled saviours of Islam.I have persistently numbered among those who advocate negotiating with terrorists, though from a position of strength, and that the use of force alone is not the answer. I have continued to quote the IRA and Sein Fenn as an example of erstwhile terrorists who are today negotiating the fate of Ireland with the British government.However, there is a line beyond which it is not possible for any state to cede its authority. While it is possible to negotiate a mutually acceptable form of government that reflects the aspirations of the people, no state should be prepared to accept a state within a state, which is governed by force, irrespective of the wishes of the governed.
One meaning of the word ‘Islam’ is peace; the Quran forbids its followers to kill innocent people or to take their own lives. However, the Taliban preach that to take one’s own life as a suicide bomber is not only the path to heaven for the bomber, but that he/she is also doing a favour to those killed for, unknowingly, they too will have died in the cause of Allah and will thus go to heaven.Hazrat Bibi Khadija RA asked the Prophet PBUH for his hand in marriage. Islam permits each woman to choose her mate and seek divorce if unhappy, just as to the male. Yet the Taliban find justification for ‘honour killing’; the killing of disobedient female offspring, and women who choose their own mate or seek divorce against their parents’ wishes.
Islam asks its followers to seek knowledge and educate themselves; one of the most famous sayings of the Prophet PBUH is ‘seek knowledge, even if you have to travel to China for it’. Yet the Taliban condemn knowledge as being un-Islamic: they burn girls’ schools, throw acid on the faces of girls who defy them in persisting to seek knowledge, and murder persistent teachers.Even if schools in Swat resume classes, what will they teach? If they have their own courts, what justice will they offer? Will not the next generation of Swatis be condemned to become Taliban?They forget history and declare democracy to be un-Islamic. The first Caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr RA was deemed to have been nominated by the Prophet PBUH, since he was asked by the Prophet PBUH to lead the Friday prayers when He fell ill. Yet, Abu Bakr RA did not assume his office until the Friday congregation following the death of the Prophet PBUH, when he was accepted unopposed and unanimously by the congregation. The same occurred following the death of Hazrat Abu Bakr RA when Hazrat Omer RA became Caliph. Following Hazrat Omer’s death, Hazrat Ali RA decided to contest the nomination of Hazrat Osman RA, but withdrew when he realised that Hazrat Osman RA was likely to win. What else is an election or democracy?In fact, Islam is the first democracy in which not only was the Caliph appointed in accordance with the wishes of the people, he was accountable to the people during his rule. Numerous instances are recorded in history when common people challenged ruling Caliphs and had to be satisfied.
Finally, the Swat deal amounts to the opening of a Pandora’s Box: where will it stop? The other chapters of the Taliban are only waiting to ask for their own ‘Islamic’ government. Is this the beginning of the real Talibanisation of the NWFP?If so, does no one realise that if they are permitted to take over a province, they will find time to consolidate and, some day in the not too distant future, threaten Islamabad, something they are incapable of doing, now or ever, unless the state gives them such an opening in Swat.


M Waqar
Another shameful day for Pukhtuns.Bad news that the government has given in to demands of the scoundrels in Swat...they say that Nizam i adl is to be imposed in Malakand/Swat now...thus giving in to the mullahs by the authorities...a black day, sad and could you let murderors and criminals to have their way like this...instead of crushing them like pests and vermin that they are, they're being rewarded by giving in to their medieval, absurd, and contorted demands. Way to go! Be that as it may, looks like this cancer will spread and spread until it will eventually remove the smug smirks from the faces of johnies who call themselves arjuns, jaypees, ajeyas, nkgs and stuff...and all their baniya's hard painstaking work that they have done for themselves in business finagling would eventually come down to aught.So called leaders of pukhtuns and Pakistani regime surrendered to thugs and criminal and killers of Pukhtuns. This is indeed a shameful day, when the elected representatives of the swati people were ignored and the state put under the tender mercies of the scoundrels who wear the mask of "islam" and "sharia" to hide their power-grab.Will these mullahs and ignorant Taliban leaders will be punished for killing so many people?, destroying busnises, destroying schools,will they be punished for using bombs and suicide bombers for imposing their views on majority?
Pakistani elite,bourgeious and corrupt politicians,one more time pushed Pukhtuns in backwardness.

analysis: In a state of failure —Salman Tarik Kureshi

Daily Times
Analysis: In a state of failure —By Salman Tarik Kureshi
The painful processes of state collapse lead to the emergence of precisely such quasi-governmental set-ups. It is rule by the most ruthless and violent, to which the ordinary people are obliged to acquiesce in the absence of available alternatives
The region of Swat, along with various other parts of FATA and the NWFP, as effectively lost to the state of Pakistan.This is an example of localised state failure. Over the derelict remnants of Swat’s former administration and judiciary, alienated as it was from the people by reasons of incompetence and corruption, a makeshift and semi-barbarous revolutionary regime has been erected.Do the people of Swat ‘approve’ of this new regime? Would they vote for it if they could? It does not matter, since Maulana Raidwa (‘Radio’), as Maulvi Fazlullah is called, and his colleagues are clearly not interested in winning any beauty competitions, popularity contests or elections. Quite vocal about considering democracy to be anathema to Islam, they believe in brute force, in terror and in power.Is it possible for a non-representative regime, one perhaps hated by its subjects, to endure? It would be nice to think that it could not. But consider only the fact that the longest-lasting Pakistani regime to date was the seemingly endless nightmare of the usurper Zia-ul Haq, which sowed the furrows that Maulvi Fazlullah and his ilk harvest today.
Moreover, it was no popular movement that eventually removed that satanic dictator, but the secretive conspiracy of a band of still unknown assassins. No, dear reader, unpopular dictators can and do continue in power and twist and warp the societies they rule, provided they are effective rulers. And, as I also suggested in my last article, the TNSM has indeed been effective in establishing its administration and courts, according to its own brutal ideology.The painful processes of state collapse (such as have been permitted — indeed, fostered and encouraged — in Pakistan’s north-west) lead to the emergence of precisely such quasi-governmental set-ups. It is rule by the most ruthless and violent, to which the ordinary people are obliged to acquiesce in the absence of available alternatives.Could the kind of state failure that we see in FATA and Swat spread through the breadth of the poverty-stricken, multiethnic country of Pakistan, with its violent history and its many fault lines? Could the horrors attendant on state failure afflict all of us?Let us recall that, at the very beginning of our national existence, in what is now our largest province, the state did in fact fail for a time. There were three specific issues in Punjab in 1947, beyond those in the rest of the country.First, there was the Radcliffe Award that irrationally sliced through the province. Second, in the hiatus following the resignation of the Unionist Party government of Khizar Hayat Tiwana and before the appointment of Iftikhar Hussain Mamdot of the Muslim League, all governance and law and order totally disintegrated under the Governor’s Rule of Sir Francis Mudie. Third, and too little examined, was the social tinder of more than three million recently demobilised soldiers, the Punjabi Muslim and Sikh soldiers who had fought World War II in North Africa, Italy, the Middle East and Burma.The result was that independence brought to Punjab the very worst kind of communal violence and massacres and the largest forced migrations of refugees in human history. Is it far-fetched to regard the Punjab upheavals of 1947 as an example of state failure?I believe not. That order was restored and a functioning state machinery became effective quite quickly speaks volumes for the political leadership and the indefatigable administrative services of those times.Fast-forwarding to 1971, we see that the 'Islamic ideology' trumpeted by the state establishment proved a failure as a binding cement against the realities of ethnic and linguistic differences, geographic separation, denial of democratic and provincial rights, capped by naked exploitation, arrogance and discrimination.Taking advantage of the political ferment engendered by the standoff between Mujibur Rahman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the army staged its now infamous action in Dhaka on March 25, 1971, almost simultaneously with the Mukti Bahini's atrocities in Chittagong. The region of what had been East Pakistan descended into civil war and state collapse for a prolonged period. The trauma of the military defeat that terminated the Yahya regime in December 1971 threatened to cause anarchy in West Pakistan as well.Again, it took political skills of a high order — those of Bhutto here (remember the “pieces, the very small pieces, from which we must rebuild”?) and of Mujib in Bangladesh — to permit the regeneration of organised states. (It is interesting that both these institution-building leaders were eventually assassinated by military putschists.)As the examples of 1947 and 1971 show, state failure on a still larger scale than what has already occurred in Swat, Bajaur and FATA, is certainly a possibility in Pakistan. A failing state is defined by the Fund for Peace as having such qualitative attributes as loss of physical control of its territory or losing the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force.Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It includes erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions; inability to provide reasonable public services. Look around you, dear reader.
How does the country in fact score on these counts?
Well, in 2008, the Failed States Index (FSI) of the Fund for Peace judged five countries — Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad and Iraq — as the most failing states, with an FSI of over 110. Next among the Top Ten, with an FSI of over 103, were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan and the Central African Republic. Pakistan had in fact ‘risen’ by three positions to attain this ranking as the ninth most failing state in the world. Where we will be adjudged to be in 2009, I do not know.
The FSI rankings are based on twelve indicators of state vulnerability — four social, two economic and six political. The social indicators are: (a) Demographic pressures, including high population density relative to food supply and other resources; (b) massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples, both within and between countries; (c) legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievances, including atrocities committed with impunity against communal groups and/or specific groups singled out by state authorities or dominant groups; and (d) chronic and sustained human flight, the ‘brain drain’ of professionals, intellectuals and political dissidents and voluntary emigration of the middle class.
The economic indicators are: (a) Uneven economic development along group or regional lines, determined by group-based inequality in education, jobs, and economic status; and (b) sharp and/or severe economic decline, measured by a progressive economic decline of the society as a whole (using per capita income, GNP, debt, child mortality rates, poverty levels, business failures) and the growth of hidden economies, including the drug trade, smuggling and capital flight.
The six political indicators are: (a) criminalisation of the state, endemic corruption of ruling elites and resistance to transparency, accountability and political representation; (b) deterioration of public services, including failure to protect citizens from crime, terrorism and violence, and collapse of essential services like health, education, sanitation and public transportation; (c) disregard for and widespread violation of human rights, emergence of authoritarian, dictatorial or military rule in which constitutional and democratic processes are suspended or manipulated, public repression of political opponents, religious or cultural persecution; (d) security apparatus as a ‘state within a state’ that operates with impunity; (e) use of nationalistic political rhetoric by ruling elites in terms of communal irredentism or of communal solidarity, e.g. “defending the faith”; and (f) intervention of other states or external actors, military or paramilitary, in the internal affairs of the state.
These indicators are like milestones along, what we can sadly call, the Road to Swat. At a national level, we have crossed almost all of them. And this has not been the ‘achievement’ of one or the other party or government. All have made their contributions in bringing us to this pass. Worst of all has been the role of our supposedly educated elite that continues to place self before principle.
Does the shoe fit, dear reader? Then, what should we do about it, other than wave our Green Cards on the way to the airport?
The writer is a marketing consultant based in Karachi. He is also a poet


Afzal Khan Lala , who spent most of his time struggling for getting the rights of his nation. The enemies of Pashtun are bent upon to eliminate him physically and create a vacuum in the Pashtun for a leader of the caliber of Khan lala. It is evident to all including international community that Pashtun region is engulfed by the terrorists and their promoters .What is happening to the people of Swat is a tragedy. When Swat has gone out of control and there is no writ of the government and even the elected member of the assemblies have either been killed by the terrorists or they have fled the area, there is one person who is like ‘Last Man Standing.’ One man who hasn’t bowed in front of ignorant Taliban despite of many attempts on his life and property. That brave son of pukhtunkhwa is, ’’AFZAL KHAN LALA’’. Through your newspaper, I salute him for his courage and bravery. I salute to his heroism,he is Pukhtun’s Hero. Mohammad Afzal Khan has chosen a place in history for himself. From the gravity of the situation it seems he is up against insurmountable odds. It is a do or die situation for the veteran nationalist leader. His opposition to the Taliban puts his opponent in unfavorable position. Mohammad Afzal Khan will be remembered as a brave leader of the landed classes and of Pakhtun nationalism. In spite of leaving his people he will prefer to die and only a real man, a brave man can face death without any fear. Afzal Khan Lala is one of those leaders who is willing to risk his life for his people. He is presently resisting the ignorant and thugs TTP (Tehrik Taliban Pakistan) from his village near Matta, Swat. Unlike some other leaders who have decided to take shelter in Islamabad or Norway ,Afzal Khan Lala does not want to abandon his people to the brutality of the TTP. Today People of Swat are suffering under the mediaeval and archaic and cruel “laws” being “administered” by the illiterate and backward Taliban in full sight and hearing o f the “law-enforcement agencies”. Where is Islamabad’s writ??? Why one powerful army can’t control this situation??? Why can’t you shoot or arrest leaders of Taliban who are involve in crimes against humanity? Are they more powerful then Army??? It is a matter of life or death for the country, the way in which the Taliban have been allowed to have their way. I use the term “allowed to” advisedly and purposely. The question to ask, however, is who will hold the security agencies to account for what has been wrought by the Taliban in Swat? Who will hold the intelligence establishment to account for its shameful and massive failure in Swat and also in Fata? Who, indeed, will take stock of the present standards of training of the army which seems helpless against the motley and ragtag Taliban. (A passing thought: if the much-touted and very expensively maintained Pakistan Army cannot handle the Taliban whom they outnumber 1,000 to one how the devil will they face a greater, numerically superior enemy? From all accounts it is not even picketing and patrolling, the two most important military operations that are absolutely essential for Frontier/tribal warfare. What Pakistani Govt doing for all those kids who can’t go to schools any more? Where is the writ of the government? Why is not anything being done is the questions generally raised by people after reading the bloody incidents taking place in Swat on daily basis. While scrutinizing the theory of Taliban aiming at enforcement of Shariah one can see that the brutal acts done by them on daily basis do not justify any context of Islamic preaching. One can find many references and quotations made by the Holy Prophet and Kalifas of Islam that instead condemn these acts. For instance; in a hadith narrated by the Caliph Omar (Bukhari, 4:258): Abu Bakr, the first caliph and friend of the Prophet Mohammad, summarizing the Prophet's message, telling the leaders of his armies, "Do not kill a woman, a child, o r an old man. Do not cut down a blossoming tree, do not destroy a building, and do not kill a sheep or camel, except for the purpose of eating it. Do not submerge or cut down a palm tree. Do not be excessive, and do not be cowardly." What Islam do they want to preach? The people of swat have been in this suffering for almost 18 months now, and they are all alone in their suffering as they have suffered more than the Taliban and the military forces who are supposed to fighting each other. According to local sources, there have been more than 2800 deaths (official sources, always trying to reduce the numbers, put it at 1000), and more than 90% of them innocent civilians. There is no electricity, no water, no gas, no education, no health facilities, not even a good night sleep. There are reports that the people of Swat pray for American drones to come and bombard the bases of Taliban. Today Swat is also waiting for justice that has been denied to many in the pages of history.

In the view of analysts, the growing nightmare in Swat is a capsule of the country's problems: an ineffectual and unresponsive civilian government, coupled with military and security forces that, in the view of furious residents, have willingly allowed the militants to spread terror deep into Pakistan. This bloody movement started with "Maulana radio" and his radio and should end with silencing his 500 KV FM radio! I can't believe that Pakistani Government and its allies in terror can not afford a one Mega Volt radio to silence .Why can't the Government shut down his radio and start information warfare against these ignorant, criminals of pukhtuns, thugs, religious fanatic Taliban.??? How is it possible that a killer uses a tool, the radio, a tool of civilization, for spreading his message of killers around? Obviously technology is then good when the notorious criminals are calling for support of his crimes! For how long that stupidity will be tolerated??? This Taliban "lea der" communicates by radio instead of coming out in the open to do so , but what can one expect from someone who, under all that religious bluster, is probably just some spineless coward who uses religion to deal with his personal issues about the world. Those so called religious Waco’s should read the Qur'an! Their violence and subjugation is so anti-Muslim. How can they not see it! And their misinterpretation of "jihad' is so off the real meaning. These people are nuts.

The crushing, un-Islamic cruelty of this fanatical movement is felt by all, but mostly by the women and girls who are being punished, even killed, for having careers and for desiring to get an education. I remember Swat from the 80s and 90s as a peaceful place, where people were gentle and polite, the environment was pristine, and girls schools were flourishing , female literacy was actually higher than the national average. I cannot believe the brutal crimes that are being committed in this beautiful region in the name of some mis-guided concept of religion. Pakistani citizens everywhere must stand up against this terror and reject this inhumanity. Taliban got to be crushed and there is no other option. Pakistani army and security establishment has failed in making any real progress, despite all claims that army operation has been undertaken to control the situation. What is pakistani army for? Why is it so ineffective? Why cant it control a group of few thousand hardliners and mercenaries who have terrorized the whole region. People are being misled and great efforts are being made in pakistani media to portray all this as the price of supporting the American war on terror. The civilian government, led by nationalist party, in the Frontier province has been made totally ineffective as elected representatives fear for their lives. Who is supporting and financing taliban? Why is no one talking about Saudi connection as huge amount of private saudi money is coming to support the arab millitants operating in the region. Islamic radicalism like Saudi-supported wahaabism and the taliban movement could be strongly denounced by sincere and true and educated Islamic thinkers and theologians. Governing by fear and destruction is a direct path back into the dark ages. What kind of educational back ground do these Taliban "leaders?" have ... 6th grade or less? Too bad they are not required to at least have a bachelor's degree.

ISI brought out this jinnee from the bottle. World and Pakistan government should ask ISI to go to Swat and face this terrible music. Pretty faces of women activists appearing on Paki TV to " defend" their rights, have a lot to defend, before Taliban reaches their cozy homes in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. Pak armed forces keep warning India about giving befitting reply in case of a conflict ,they too should feel ashamed that they are unable to rein in these mercenaries.

Anyone who thinks that Govt should talk to Taliban is either living in fools paradise or hiding their heads in sand, how can we reason with individuals who throw acid on young girls for attending school? This is humanity at its worst and it is an ideology that must be exposed for what it is. It must become socially and morally unacceptable in their own culture and that can only be achieved through education and example. For every school you burn, we will build two more. Enemies of education and Pukhtun’s are targeting schools. They started out with girls schools. Now it is indiscriminate and boys schools are being destroyed too. Swat was a state found in early 20th century on modern principles. The only way to defend against the menace of ignorance is education to innocent minds. Can we stop destruction of existing beacons of light. This systemic and well planned brutality will have a huge price for humanity. There are no more schools in Charmang, a rural village of mud-brick homes and lush wheat fields nestled in the mountains of Bajaur, a tribal territory, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Taliban are in control now, dreams of pukhtun kids are shattered by ignorant Taliban.

Some interesting questions remain though, who is paying the mercenary Taliban foot soldiers? Where are night goggles and FM transmitters coming from? Who is paying the suicide bomber's families? I suggest the Pakistani Government and Swat residents do the following:
1-Since almost everyone have guns in their home, they should accompany their daughters/sisters to schools....2000-4000 Taliban can not fight every one.
2-Start effective propaganda and information warfare separating Taliban from being the custodian of Islam. Their name should be "anti-Islam" not Taliban(which literally means students!)
3-shut down their radio!
4-The houses of suicide bombers be demolished and family watched for receiving compensation money
5-Put the soldiers on the ground rather than tucked in insulated areas. Stop using long range ineffective artillery indiscriminately.
6-Increase the ratio of soldiers to Taliban to 10:1, provide them with modern spying gears/equipment.
7-Make s pecial courts for trying these bastards and legislate the sentence as hanging for documented Taliban combatants.
8-No one should impose their will on Swatis ...if any opinion polls/referendum.

I find it highly distressing that this erstwhile idyllic, peaceful and picturesque Swat valley is now hounded by these ignorant religious zealots. A corrupt and inept political system has given rise to illiteracy and lack of economic opportunity. Combine that with the puritanical form of Islam imported from Saudi Arabia during the anti-Communist Jihad in the 80s .Taliban is an evil which must be destroyed. These Talibans are product of thousands of madarsas set up throughout Pakistan by ISI and its military initially to fight USSR in Afghanistan with the help of CIA ,West and Saudi Arabia.

At the advent of 21st century intellectuals the world over predicted that the new millennium will usher in peace, human rights and dignity of man. Mankind will show tolerance, endurance and maturity. The man of this planet who has conquered space will be a messenger of peace to other planets. But unfortunately this century began with such chaos, wars, religious and sectarian extremism, violence, brutality, suicide bombing, and destruction that it rather disgraced humanity. There seems no end to this phony, aimless reign of terrorism. Economy is shattered in Pakistan and particularly in Pakhtunkhawa. The Gateway towards central Asia for international trade is closed. The worsening law and order situations and fragile economy have led to capital flight. Investors in Hayatabad “Industrial state” are compelled to shift their business from Peshawar.

Taliban have no right to force their views on people who disagree with them . Swat, a city of breathtaking natural beauty turned into a nightmare by those who use the name of Islam but all their actions are against Islam. Taliban have no right to deny girls education, Taliban are not only denying pukhtun girls education but they are destroying whole generation of pukhtuns by denying education and destroying their schools.

The Pukhtun belt stretching from Kandahar to Swat is burning, roads, bridges, schools, houses are blown , people get beheaded on mere suspicion. Hundreds of people are kidnapped every day for ransom or as part of campaign to eliminate the elements who oppose the thugs. Is it Islam? Pukhtuns are caught in the middle in a fight which serves OTHERS strategic interests. Normal day to day living has become a painful experience leave alone Education, economic,social, cultural activities. In such a situation we Pukhtun are in a state of shocksimply flabbergasted. Our minds have turned blank as if we all have collectively suffered a concussion injuries to our head. Our eyes are wide open but see nothing. It is for the Muslims to raise against these psychopaths ignorant Taliban. What are the oil-rich countries doing? If the Muslim world will not raise against this evil, their future generations would look back in d isgust and shame for what their fathers and grandfathers did or did not do.. (like Germans reckoning with their Nazi past!). It's really up to them. I think the Swat residents would welcome foreign help in removing the Taliban, if the Pakistani government would be courageous enough to invite them or afraid to use iron hand against them. People in Pakistan should realize that the Taliban are as much a foreign power as western nations are. The Taliban are not about religion, but only about gaining power to abuse people. We need brave leaders like AFZAL KHAN LALA, who can look into eyes of these monsters and not afraid of them, what a great man of principles, I salute his moral values and courage.

POLISH ENGINEER VIDEO,Pakistan unsure over identity of man beheaded in Taliban video

video is from,I am not sure if its reaaly him,but its very sad and I offer my condolences to his family in Poland,Readers comments are welcome on this story.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani authorities have not confirmed that a kidnapped Polish engineer is the man that was beheaded on a Taliban video, despite assertions from Polish officials that they are certain the man is Piotr Stanczak.
"We want to be absolutely sure," said Abdual Basit, a spokesman for Pakistan's foreign office."Hopefully we would be able to confirm it shortly, but unless we are 100 percent sure, it would be premature for us to react."He noted that the Pakistani government is waiting to be informed by "concerned authorities."News of Stanczak's death came on Friday. Polish officials have said they were kept in the dark during negotiations for his release, but Basit denied that.Stanczak was kidnapped September 28 from the city of Attock in the Punjab province. He had been based there for a Polish survey company searching for natural gas.Polish embassy spokesman Peter Adams said there had been no demands for ransom. The Taliban had demanded the release of Taliban prisoners being held by the government and a pullout of government security forces from the tribal areas.Adams said all efforts had been made by Polish authorities to pressure the Pakistani government to do whatever it could to secure Stanczak's release."From the Polish side we did whatever we could, pressuring the Pakistani government on the presidential and prime minister level," Adams said. "Problem was, this was solely Pakistan's responsibility. Demands were only towards (the) Pakistan government."While there were assurances that the Pakistani government was doing everything it could and that Stanczak would be freed soon, Adams said it was never clear what the government was actually doing to secure his release."We are waiting for confirmation and waiting for any answer (about) how this happened and why did this happen," Adams said.Kidnappings and attacks against foreigners have risen sharply in recent months throughout the country. Most recently, an American working for the United Nations was kidnapped in Quetta, and Peshawar has also been the scene of various attacks against foreign diplomats and journalists.

Afghan Leader Finds Himself Hero No More

KABUL, Afghanistan — A foretaste of what would be in store for President Hamid Karzai after the election of a new American administration came last February, when Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a senator, sat down to a formal dinner at the palace during a visit here.

Between platters of lamb and rice, Mr. Biden and two other American senators questioned Mr. Karzai about corruption in his government, which, by many estimates, is among the worst in the world. Mr. Karzai assured Mr. Biden and the other senators that there was no corruption at all and that, in any case, it was not his fault.

The senators gaped in astonishment. After 45 minutes, Mr. Biden threw down his napkin and stood up.

“This dinner is over,” Mr. Biden announced, according to one of the people in the room at the time. And the three senators walked out, long before the appointed time.

Today, of course, Mr. Biden is the vice president.

The world has changed for Mr. Karzai, and for Afghanistan, too. A White House favorite — a celebrity in flowing cape and dark gray fez — in each of the seven years that he has led this country since the fall of the Taliban, Mr. Karzai now finds himself not so favored at all. Not by Washington, and not by his own.

In the White House, President Obama said he regarded Mr. Karzai as unreliable and ineffective. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said he presided over a “narco-state.” The Americans making Afghan policy, worried that the war is being lost, are vowing to bypass Mr. Karzai and deal directly with the governors in the countryside.

At home, Mr. Karzai faces a widening insurgency and a population that blames him for the manifest lack of economic progress and the corrupt officials that seem to stand at every doorway of his government. His face, which once adorned the walls of tea shops across the country, is today much less visible.

Now, perhaps crucially, an election looms. Mr. Karzai says he will ask the voters to return him to the palace for another five-year term. The election is set for Aug. 20, after what promises to be a violent and eventful summer. In a poll commissioned by a group of private Afghans, 85 percent of those surveyed said they intended to vote for someone other than Mr. Karzai.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration will have to decide what it wants from Mr. Karzai as it tries to make good on its promise to reverse the course of the war. Or whether it wants him at all.

With the insurgency rising, corruption soaring and opium blooming across the land, it perhaps is not surprising that so many Afghans, and so many in Washington, see President Karzai’s removal as a precondition for reversing the country’s downward surge.

“Under President Karzai, we have gone from a better situation to a good situation to a not-so-bad situation to a bad situation — and now are going to worse,” said Abdullah, a former foreign minister in Mr. Karzai’s government who may now challenge him for the presidency (and who, like many Afghans, has only one name). “That is the trend.

“So let us say Karzai stays in power through the summer and that nothing serious happens and then he wins re-election,” Dr. Abdullah said. “Then there will be two scenarios, and only two scenarios — a rapid collapse or a slow unraveling.”

People close to Mr. Karzai say the man is exhausted, wary of his enemies and worried for his physical safety. He feels embattled and underappreciated, they say, but is utterly determined, in spite of it all, to run again and win. In recent weeks, the growing American dissatisfaction with Mr. Karzai, coupled with a simmering frustration among Afghans over what they regard as the reckless killing of civilians by American forces, has prompted extraordinary reactions from Mr. Karzai.

At a news conference on Tuesday at his marble-floored palace, Mr. Karzai appeared side-by-side with Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general. Mr. Karzai wore his signature outfit of fez and cape, but his visage was wan and slack. Asked by an Afghan reporter about his relations with American leaders, Mr. Karzai sprang to life, accusing unnamed people in the American government of trying to “pressure” him to stay silent over the deaths of Afghan civilians in attacks by Americans.

“Our demands are clear — to stop the civilian casualties, the searching of Afghan homes and the arresting Afghans,” Mr. Karzai said of the Americans. “And of course, the Americans pressured us to be quiet and to make us retreat from our demands. But that is impossible. Afghanistan and its president are not going to retreat from their demands.”

Mr. Karzai did not touch on larger frustrations, which Afghan and Western officials here say he harbors, about the overall American effort, namely, the relegation of Afghanistan to second-tier status after the invasion of Iraq. Many Afghans and Western officials here believe that it was the Iraq war, more than any other factor, that deprived Mr. Karzai of the resources he needed to help the Afghan state stand on its own, and to prevent the resurgence of the Taliban that Mr. Obama is now vowing to contain.

Yet for all the doubts about Mr. Karzai — and for all the strains he labors under — he remains by far the strongest politician in the country. He commands the resources of the Afghan state, including the army and the police, and billions of dollars in American and other aid that flows into the treasury.

In his seven years in office, Mr. Karzai has successfully presided over the transition of the Afghan state from the devastated, pre-modern institution it was under the Taliban to the deeply troubled but largely democratic one it is today. Perhaps most important for his future, Mr. Karzai has assembled a team of senior administrators whose competence and experience would be difficult for any challenger to match.

Perhaps for that reason, of the many prominent Afghans who have hinted that they may run against him, including Dr. Abdullah and a former finance minister, Ashraf Ghani, only a handful of Afghans have so far declared their intentions. Some Afghan leaders say they will announce their candidacies soon, but it seems just as likely that they are waiting to see if Mr. Karzai stumbles.

As for the members of Mr. Obama’s team, they may yet discover that Mr. Karzai is the man they will be forced to deal with, whether they like him or not.

At the palace news conference, Mr. Karzai acknowledged his own unpopularity, and then offered a vigorous defense of his record. He declined to be interviewed for this article.

“Well, I have been in government for seven years. It’s natural that I would not be as popular now as I was seven years ago,” Mr. Karzai said.

“The institutions of Afghanistan have worked very well,” he added. “The Afghan people participated in the election for president. They participated in elections for Parliament. The parliamentary system has been functioning a lot better than some established parliaments in the world. They have been making laws, approving laws. The government institutions are increasingly in progress — the economy, the national army, the growth of education. We went from almost two or three universities in 2002 to 17 universities, to the freedom of the press, hundreds of newspapers and radios and all that. I and the Afghan people are proud of our achievements.”

And, he might also have said, six million Afghan children attending school, a quarter of whom are girls, whose education was prohibited by the Taliban.

One of the people with the most generous words for Mr. Karzai is William Wood, the American ambassador. Under the ambassador’s former boss, President Bush, Mr. Karzai enjoyed a favored personal status, even if his state did not. That special relationship was symbolized by the videoconferences in which the two men participated regularly.

“The guy works very hard,” Mr. Wood said of Mr. Karzai. “He faces a problem set every day that would daunt anyone. He’s got an insurgency based outside the country, and a level of poverty and criminality inside the country that feeds the insurgency. He’s got an army that had to be built from zero following the ouster of the Taliban. He’s got a police force that had to be reformed.

Speaking in an interview at his office in Kabul, Mr. Wood added: “Yeah, I think he’s tired. And I think frankly that everyone — the international community, the United States, the United Nations, Western Europe, the international press — were unrealistically optimistic about the problem of Afghanistan following the ouster of the Taliban.”

Mr. Wood will soon be replaced by Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a former commander of American forces here.

In his last tour, which ended in 2007, General Eikenberry enjoyed good relations with Mr. Karzai. Given Mr. Karzai’s mood these days, that is probably a good thing.

At a ceremony last month for the first graduates of Afghanistan’s National Military Academy, Mr. Karzai stood and addressed the assembled 84 cadets as well as a group of diplomats, including Mr. Wood. Mr. Karzai turned the occasion into a populist barnburner.

“I told America and the world to give us aircraft — otherwise we will get them from the other place!” Mr. Karzai roared, prompting applause. “I told them to give us the planes soon, that we have no more patience, and that we cannot get along without military aircraft!

“Give us the aircraft sooner or we will get them from the others!” Mr. Karzai roared again. “We told them to bring us tanks, too — otherwise we will get them from other place!”

Mr. Karzai never said what the “other place” was.

Pakistan heads toward crisis as coalition flounders

U.S. looks on with alarm as key Western ally's inability to deal with jihadist menace threatens to destabilize region.
ISLAMABAD -- Almost a year after elections were held in Pakistan, which restored democracy after more than eight years of military rule, growing Islamist violence, a crisis of governance and an economy in a tailspin threatens this key Western ally with collapse.The new U.S. administration of President Barack Obama has made Pakistan one of its foreign policy priorities. Aides say that the U.S. President is "scared" by what he sees in Pakistan, a country that is crucial to meeting his goals of stabilizing Afghanistan and routing al-Qaeda. Next week, Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy just appointed to handle Afghanistan and Pakistan, arrives in Islamabad on a fact-finding mission, which is expected to be followed by swift action by Washington.Critics say the Pakistani government is gripped with paralysis, as patronage, not policy, occupies Islamabad under President Asif Zardari. Some see echoes of the last period of civilian rule in Pakistan, between 1988 and 1999, when a series of floundering governments were repeatedly toppled by the army amid allegations of massive corruption and misrule.Already the military and civilians are privately blaming each other for inaction as jihadists push ever deeper into the country from the northwest, with a de facto extremist mini-state now existing in Swat, a valley just 160 kilometres from the capital, Islamabad. Along the border with Afghanistan, Taliban and al-Qaeda enjoy a safe haven, undermining the international coalition's fight against insurgents in Afghanistan.
"The civilian leadership is weak and fearful of the inevitable in Pakistan, that it oversteps the mark and runs the risk of being removed [by the army]," said Rashed Rahman, a political analyst based in Lahore. "It is a non-functional government. There is no legislative program. Parliament was always a talking shop in Pakistan but they have taken it to new heights."A coalition central government led by Mr. Zardari's Pakistan People's Party is made up of an unwieldy 70 ministers from four different political parties - ranging from the secular to reputed Taliban sympathizers. But power is said to rest with the President, leading to a logjam. Critics say it is simply too much work for one man.Mr. Zardari's government enjoyed no honeymoon period. In a poll taken last October by the International Republican Institute, a U.S. pro-democracy group, just 21 per cent of people responded positively to the government, while Mr. Zardari's personal approval rating was a paltry 19 per cent. Since October, conditions in the country have sharply deteriorated by most measures.The violence seems to mount every week. On Thursday, a bombing of a Shia religious procession in the central town of Dera Ghazi Khan, in Punjab province, claimed at least 27 lives - the Taliban and al-Qaeda belong to the majority Sunni sect of Islam. Yesterday, attacks by government helicopter gunships killed 52 militants in the Khyber area of the tribal borderland with Afghanistan, the army said.There is little doubt about Mr. Zardari's personal commitment to fighting terrorism, which claimed the life of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in 2007. In a speech in Peshawar yesterday, he pledged to "finish off this cancer or it will dictate to us."But the government has been unable to forge a political consensus on the campaign against terrorism, with opinion deeply divided - even within the ruling coalition - between those political parties who favour military action against the extremists and those who want to negotiate with them. As a result, no clear direction has been given to the army by the government."The civilian government just doesn't have enough capacity, especially in security issues," said a retired general with experience of dealing with the government, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. "When there's a vacuum like that, it has to be filled, and who else is there but the army?"Worse, there are many in Pakistan, including members of parliament, who question the army's commitment to fighting the extremists, pointing to its apparent helplessness against the insurgency in Swat and its inconsistent actions elsewhere - the military is fighting Taliban in one part of the tribal area, Bajaur, but there are no active military operations in other parts, including Waziristan, the base for the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda.
"There is this notion that the Taliban can be an ally," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, author of the book Military, State and Society in Pakistan. "It's a question of Pakistan's identity: Was it created for Islam? This kind of confusion is a threat to Pakistan's existence as a nation state."The army insists that, after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, it abandoned a policy that had seen it openly patronize the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan-based jihadist groups.The problem, the army says, is a lack of manpower to fight on so many fronts - the border with traditional enemy India to the east is given priority even before the militancy-plagued tribal area on western frontier in Afghanistan - and a lack of key military hardware, including night-fighting equipment.It is unclear whether Pakistani politics is heading toward its familiar meltdown or whether civilian rule is just taking time to establish itself."We have been through a very long military dictatorship. Transitions take time," said Afrasiab Khattak, a senior member of the Awami National Party, part of the Islamabad government.
"Democracy is a messy, noisy business."


By NBC News’ Mushtaq Yusufzai and Carol Grisanti
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – There are no more schools in Charmang, a rural village of mud-brick homes and lush wheat fields nestled in the mountains of Bajaur, a tribal territory, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Taliban are in control now.
"First, the Taliban imposed a ban on wearing western-style school uniforms at my private school," said Amjad Ali, a 17-year-old former student from Charmang. "Then they stopped all the girls from attending classes and finally they just blew up the building."
In Charmang, the Taliban torched and destroyed more than 40 private schools because the students wore Western-style uniforms and learned English. The Taliban also accused the schools’ administrators of following a pro-Western curriculum and allowing co-educational classes – in Taliban terms that makes them un-Islamic.
But Saleh Mohammed, Ali’s father, was determined to educate all his children. After their school, The Islamia Model School, was destroyed, he brought Ali and his two younger daughters – Shaista and Nafeesa – to the public school in Charmang. Ali’s father wanted to ignore the Taliban threats, but the principal of the school was too afraid – he registered Ali but refused to accept the girls.
"The Taliban would come to my public school and deliver lectures about jihad against the infidels, who they said are occupying Afghanistan and will soon invade Pakistan," said Ali. "Most of my classmates registered for jihad training and would go to their meetings after school."
Ali explained how things just got worse with time. "Later on the Taliban just took over our school and turned it into a training camp. I refused to join the Taliban, and my family became very afraid, so we left Charmang in the dark one night."
He said he still thinks about Charmang every day.
"Charmang was so beautiful in those days," he recalled.
"What happened to me and my family was so sudden that I sometimes think I am having a bad dream. My whole world just disappeared," Ali said sadly. "And now I have to live in this tent," referring to the internally displaced persons camp he now lives in with his family outside of Peshawar, the provincial capital of the Northwest Frontier Province.
Sandwiched between the Taliban and the army
Last August, the Pakistani military, under pressure from the United States, launched an operation to go after the Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the Bajaur tribal agency, a crucial passageway for fighters who creep over the mountains to attack U.S. forces inside Afghanistan. After months of fierce fighting, the army has been unable to dislodge the hardcore militants who are either entrenched in mountain strongholds or who hide inside a maze of underground tunnels that run into Afghanistan.
The military campaign against a band of some 500 Taliban militants in Charmang terrorized the local villagers. Most of the 80,000 inhabitants who once lived in Charmang have fled. Many of them were farmers who had dual Pakistani-Afghan nationality and frequently crossed over into Afghanistan to sell their produce or visit family members. They kept homes on both sides of the border.
When the villagers felt sandwiched in by the Taliban on one side and the Pakistani army on the other, they left, in the thousands, for Afghanistan. Pakistani authorities said that it was the first-ever migration of Pakistani refugees into Afghanistan. Others went to live as refugees in internally displaced persons camps elsewhere in Pakistan.
No more school or cricket
Adeel Khan, another 18-year-old high school student from Charmang, said he misses his friends and hates living in the refugee camp, the same one Ali ended up in near Peshawar.
"I used to play football, hockey and cricket at home," Khan said.
"Suddenly there was a war between the government and the Taliban and my family made us leave everything we owned and come here in a hurry. I want to play cricket with my friends and I want to go back to school," he added forlornly.
Khan’s father, Abdul Qadir said he spent seven years in the United Arab Emirates driving a taxi to save enough money to give his five children a good education back home in Charmang.
"I wanted all of them, my sons and my daughters, to become doctors and engineers," Qadir said."Now, I have lost my home and my bread shop in Charmang," he said. "How can I give them an education when I can't even give them two meals a day?"
According to an education official in Khar, the main city of the Bajaur Tribal Agency, there are more than 80,000 students across Bajaur who can no longer go to school. The schools have either been destroyed by the Taliban or occupied by the security forces during the military operations.In North Waziristan, another Taliban-run tribal area along the Afghanistan border, most of the schools are now closed because of the ongoing violence and the fear of the U.S. drone attacks. The Government Post Graduate College in Miranshah, the main city, once boasted 1,300 students who were studying for degrees in medicine and education.
Bayar Khan Wazir attended the college before it closed. "Today, we have no more schools and we have no recreational facilities," Wazir said. "So most of the students will now join the Taliban," he said.
"We have nothing else to do all day. And perhaps there is a certain charm and power to grow a beard, let your hair grow long and pick up a gun," he said.
Wazir went on to say that Waziristan has become synonymous all over the world with militancy, but many don’t know that Pakistan’s best doctors, teachers and academics were once trained there.
‘All of our dreams are shattered now’
The displaced people of Charmang are angry with the Taliban for occupying their lands but more angry with the Pakistani army for destroying their homes during the campaign against the Islamic extremists.
"I had a big house in Charmang," said Qadir, the bread shop owner.
"Now, seven of us have to live like this," he said, pointing to a small white tent in the Kacha Garhi refugee camp.
"I have no more dreams," he said. "All of our dreams are shattered now."

Swat: Interview with Afzal Khan Lala

Mohammad Afzal Khan, ANP leader and the hero of Swat
The 82-year old Mohammad Afzal Khan has emerged as a hero in Swat and beyond, to those who oppose the Taliban ideology. At a time when almost every politician and landlord, known as Khans, has moved out (of Swat) to escape harm at the hands of the militants, Afzal Khan has refused to leave his village, Bara Drushkhela, located in the Taliban stronghold of Matta. He has politely declined requests from relatives, his political colleagues from the Awami National Party (ANP) and well wishers to abandon Swat.The militants have attacked his house a few times. He was injured in a roadside ambush in which his two bodyguards were killed and his nephew and Matta tehsil Nazim Abdul Jabbar Khan were wounded. His two other nephews were killed in another attack by militants, who have repeatedly threatened to eliminate Afzal Khan.
The News on Sunday: President Asif Ali Zardari recently phoned you and praised your courage while the Army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, arranged for you to be flown in a military helicopter to the Frontier Constabulary centre at Kanju in Swat for a meeting. What transpired in the President's phone call and your meeting with Kayani? Do you think the military's new operations in Swat are more focused and targeted?Mohammad Afzal Khan: The President offered support in the battle against militants. General Kayani invited me for a meeting to offer consolation and backing and discuss the Swat situation. It was my first meeting with the General and I found him a sober, sincere and determined man. For the first time in the last two years of military operations in Swat have I found the security forces to be on the offensive. In the past, the Taliban were on the offensive and the troops were on the defensive. The three military strikes in Manglawar, Ningolai, Charbagh and Matta in which the army claimed to have killed several militants were focused and intense.
TNS: You have been seeking support of the government and the forces to arm the people and raise village militias to defend their villages against the Taliban. Do you think the authorities would now accept your proposal? Will this initiative succeed or trigger further clashes between the militants and villagers?
MAK: I made this proposal about 10 months ago but nobody in the government responded positively. My plea is that the people of Swat are mostly unarmed and are, therefore, at the mercy of the militants. Besides, the Swatis have lived under authoritarian rulers in the past and become somewhat subdued. The fear of the Taliban who terrorise the population through beheadings and target killings has snuffed the life out of our people. They need support so that their spirit could be revived. Moreover, the army cannot guard every village and street after having carried out military action and defeated the militants. In the absence of an effective police force and lack of the civil armed forces, the local people would be required to defend their towns and villagers and keep the Taliban at bay. For this purpose, the government must arm and equip them to fight the militants.TNS: Many people in Swat and outside the valley were critical of the military until now for not doing enough to defeat the Taliban. What do you think was lacking in the military operation against the militants?
MAK: Once an army officer reportedly said that the military should not take sides in the conflict in Swat. I wondered why such a statement was made. The military has to take sides as the government writ has been challenged by a group of militants who want to set up a parallel administration and impose their will on the people. They are using heavy arms and strongarm methods to extend their writ at a time when the law-enforcement agencies in Swat are paralysed and the civil armed forces are nowhere to be seen. It is a battle between the state and the Taliban. The state in such circumstances must stand with those people who are refusing to bow before Taliban and offering sacrifices while resisting the militants. The military is now changing its tactics and is ready to fight back and stand with the people who are willing to die fighting the Taliban.

TNS: Your name tops the list of the 47 men wanted by the Taliban in Swat. You have been ordered to appear before their Shariat courts. Comment.

MAK: I have done nothing wrong and am at a loss to understand why am I being targeted. I am also very religious. And so is my family. However, we don't accept the Taliban interpretation of Islam.

TNS: Why did your party leaders not consult you before inking a peace deal with Taliban in Swat? Is Asfandyar Wali Khan or NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti in touch with you now on the issue?

MAK: The peace accord was signed in a hurry and the ANP leadership and the provincial government agreed to certain measures that were beyond its powers. Military officials have been complaining that the peace accord emboldened the militants and gave them time to regroup for fighting fresh battles. The peace agreement was doomed when the Taliban started destroying schools and their spokesman, Muslim Khan, claimed responsibility for these attacks. Strangely, the provincial government was defending the agreement and claiming that the militants weren't involved in the attacks on schools. However, I don't want to create difficulties for ANP. In any case, one political party cannot resolve the entire problem. I don't complain that Asfandyar Wali hasn't phoned me because he has been ill. As for the chief minister, I was told he called but was unable to locate me.

PAKISTAN'S ELITE:Out of touch with reality

Poor Pakistani Selling his kidney....

MINDLESS of the stark reality of a severe economic downturn in the country, which has compelled it to go round with a begging bowl, Punjab's newly appointed parliamentary secretaries are fussing about getting new cars to go about their official business. When the PML(N)'s Rana Arshad raised the issue on the floor of the House on Tuesday that though appointed some days back, they had neither been provided with staff nor cars, and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah assured him that old "out of order" vehicles were being disposed of and new ones purchased, Rana Masud, who was in the chair, directed him to attend to it without further delay and report to him within five days. He underlined the point that bureaucrats were given perks and privileges immediately on assuming charge of office. The PML(Q) MPAs' point that when their government had taken a similar decision, the PML(N) had raised a hue and cry was lost in the debate.
A vast majority of people do not have the means to afford an independent means of transport: cars, motorcycles or even cycles, not even old ones. The government has miserably failed to meet their needs of public transport, with the result that the commuters have to wait for hours to hitch a ride on overcrowded buses.
Perks and privileges and lavish lifestyle at the expense of the government, whether by the bureaucracy or the elected representatives, have invariably been the bane of Pakistan. And the essential requirements of the socioeconomic sector - building roads and bridges, dams and powerhouses, schools and colleges, hospitals and clinics, and a host of other works - are relegated to the background. It is a pity that the expectations, which the replacement of Musharraf's military regime with a popularly elected set-up had raised, have not been borne out. It is evident from the debate about the new cars that while privileged classes keep getting special treatment, the man in the street is left to fend to himself.

Obama risks going down in history ........

Obama risks going down in history (the LBJ way)

You aren't really the US president until you've ordered an airstrike on somebody, so Barack Obama is certainly president now: two in his first week in office. But, now that he has been blooded, can we talk a little about this expanded war he's planning to fight in Afghanistan?
Does that sound harsh? Well, so is killing people, and all the more so because Obama must know that these remote-controlled Predator strikes usually kill not just the ''bad guy'', whoever he is, but also the entire family he has taken shelter with. It also annoys Pakistan, whose territory the US violated in carrying out the killings.

It's not a question of whether the intelligence on which the attacks were based was accurate (although sometimes it isn't).

The question is: do these killings serve any useful purpose? And the same question applies to the entire US war in Afghanistan.

Obama may be planning to shut Guantanamo, but the broader concept of a ''war on terror'' is still alive and well in Washington. Most of the people he has appointed to run his defence and foreign policies believe in it, and there is no sign that he himself questions it. Yet even 15 years ago the notion would have been treated with contempt in every military staff college in the country.

That generation of American officers learned two things from their miserable experience in Vietnam. One was that going halfway around the world to fight a conventional military campaign against an ideology (communism then, Islamism now) was a truly stupid idea.

The other was that, no matter how strenuously the other side insists it is motivated by a world-spanning ideology, its real motives are mostly political and quite local (Vietnamese nationalism then, Iraqi and Afghan nationalism now).

Alas, that generation of officers has now retired, and the new generation of strategists, civilian as well as military, has to learn these lessons all over again. They are proving to be slow students, and if Obama follows their advice then Afghanistan may well prove his Vietnam.

The parallel with Vietnam is not all that far-fetched. Modest numbers of American troops have now been in Afghanistan for seven years, mostly in training roles quite similar to those of the US military ''advisers'' whom presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy sent to South Vietnam from 1956-63. The political job of creating a pro-Western, anti-communist state was entrusted to America's man in Saigon, Ngo Dinh Diem, and the South Vietnamese army had the job of fighting the communist rebels, the Viet Cong.

Unfortunately, neither Diem nor the South Vietnamese army had much success, and by the early 1960s the Viet Cong were clearly on the road to victory.

So Kennedy authorised a group of South Vietnamese generals to overthrow Diem (although the US president seemed shocked when they killed him).

And Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy soon afterwards, authorised a rapid expansion of the American troop commitment in Vietnam, first to 200,000 by the end of 1965 and ultimately to half a million by 1968. The US took over the war. Then it lost it.

If this sounds eerily familiar, it's because we are now at a similar juncture in America's war in Afghanistan. The United States' man in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, and the Afghan Army he theoretically commands have failed to quell the insurrection and are visibly losing ground.

So the talk in Washington now is all of replacing Karzai (although it will probably be done via elections, which are easily manipulated in Afghanistan), and the US troop commitment in the country is going up to 60,000. Various American allies, Australia among them, also have troops in Afghanistan, just as they did in Vietnam, but it is the US that is taking over the war.

We already know how this story ends. There is not a lot in common between president John F. Kennedy and president George W. Bush, but they were both ideological crusaders who got the United States mired in foreign wars it could not win and did not need to win.

They then bequeathed those wars to presidents who had ambitious reform agendas in domestic politics and little interest or experience in foreign affairs.

That bequest destroyed Lyndon Johnson, who took the rotten advice of the military and civilian advisers he inherited from Kennedy because there wasn't much else on offer in Washington at the time.

Obama is drifting into the same dangerous waters, and the rotten advice he is getting from strategists who believe in the ''war on terror'' could do for him, too.

He has figured out that Iraq was a foolish and unnecessary war, but has not yet applied the same analysis to Afghanistan.

The two questions he needs to ask himself are first: did Osama bin Laden want the United States to invade Afghanistan in response to 9/11? The answer to that one is: yes, of course he did. And second: of all the tens of thousands of people the US has killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, would a single one have turned up in the United States to do harm if left un-killed? Answer: probably not.

Other people might have turned up in the US with evil intent, but not those guys.

So turning Afghanistan into a second Vietnam is probably the wrong strategy, isn't it?

Gwynne Dyer's latest book, Climate Wars, was published recently in Australia by Scribe.