How Pakistan Failed Itself

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Thursday, May. 14, 2009
How Pakistan Failed Itself
By Aryn Baker / Islamabad
In the Himalayan resort town of Nathiagali, a party is under way. Ice clinks in tumblers and corks pop while the conversation — an amalgam of English and Urdu that is the mark of Pakistan's élite — flows from meditation techniques to a heated debate over a U.S. politician's warning that Pakistan is on the brink of collapse. The hostess, Rifat Haye, 54, is one of two female pilots with the national airline and is celebrating her promotion to captain. She wears jeans. Her hair is streaked with blond, and a diamond nose stud glints in the sun, as does the jeweled Allah pendant around her neck. She is frustrated with the image the world has of Pakistan, that of a failing state overrun by Muslim fanatics. Pointing first to herself, then at her guests, she says, "This is Pakistan." Then she waves her hand over the valley beyond the deck of her summer cabin. "But that is also Pakistan."

By that she means all those Pakistanis who do not belong to her class and who have as much to do with the Taliban as she does, which is to say nothing at all. But her sweeping wave inadvertently encompasses a part of Pakistan she has failed to address — the Swat valley, where the army has embarked on a campaign to rout out Islamic insurgents who threaten to destroy the Pakistan Haye knows and cherishes.

Pakistan is a complicated country, one of religious and political diversity, fractured by class and ethnicity. Pakistanis like to quip that they have a population of 170 million — and as many different opinions. Which is why defensiveness sets in when outsiders attempt to reduce the country to a terrorist statistic. The problems in Swat don't define Pakistan, says Haye. It's not that she doesn't care — she does — but that Pakistan has very little to do with her Pakistan. "What is all this talk of Talibanization? Not once have these maulvis [religious leaders] complained that a woman is flying their plane," she says. Guests nod in agreement. "There is no way the Taliban can take over Pakistan," says one. "We are too many, and they are too few."

It is indeed unlikely that Pakistan's Islamic militants can seize power. But to spread fear and insecurity and slow down economic development, they don't need to. Hundreds of terrorist attacks have taken more than 2,500 lives in the past 18 months. Talibanization may not have reached Pakistan's élite, but it is already threatening others. Women in the city of Rawalpindi complain that they are harassed if they don't wear headscarves. In Lahore, a prep school for girls has banned the wearing of blue jeans, for fear of a Taliban attack. In the capital, Islamabad, the Red Mosque's prayer leader, Abdul Aziz, sanctioned vigilante squads of baton-wielding women to go out and threaten video stores, barbershops and massage parlors for being un-Islamic. Two years ago, his followers kidnapped six Chinese masseuses, calling them prostitutes, and held them hostage. The army eventually cracked down, launching a siege and battle that saw the death of nearly 100 militants. Last month, Aziz was released from prison on the condition that he would not preach against the state. But residents in the neighborhood fear that the vigilante squads will soon be back. Talibanization doesn't start with a military takeover. It happens when there is a Red Mosque in every city and citizens are afraid to stand up to its edicts.

The government, at last, seems to be fighting back. On May 7, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced a military operation in Swat. "The armed forces have been called in," he said, "to eliminate the militants and terrorists. We will not bow before extremists." Only weeks before, the government had finalized a peace deal with the militants in which their principal demand — the establishment of Islamic law in the area — was granted in exchange for giving up arms. At first officials defended the deal, even as the militants moved on a neighboring district and their leader announced that democracy was contrary to Islam. But in a move that coincided with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Washington, the government declared the deal over. "The militants have waged war against all segments of society," Gilani said. "I regret to say that our bona fide intention to prefer reconciliation with them was perceived as a weakness on our part."

The fighting in Swat masks far more serious problems. In Waziristan, a region on the Afghan border, security forces have ceded control to the militants. Outlawed sectarian groups are gaining a foothold in Punjab province. And in the financial capital of Karachi, where Pakistani Taliban insurgents raise funds, ethnic clashes claimed more than 30 lives last month. When U.S. President Barack Obama commented during an April news conference that the Pakistani government did not "seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services — schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of the people," the nation erupted in fury, and effigies of Obama were burned. But privately many Pakistanis agreed with the U.S. President; their nation, for all its people's many talents, has failed to develop the education, economic-development and justice systems that are the bedrock of modernity and stability. "These guys have been in power for more than a year," says lawyer Anees Jillani, speaking of Zardari's government. "What have they done? We still have acute poverty, joblessness and injustice."

A Crisis of Identity
To criticize Pakistan's leaders, however — much though they may deserve it — is to miss the point. It is ordinary people, locked in a series of personal Pakistans, who seem unable or unwilling to unite over the threat to their nation. Pakistanis will point to the oppressive hand of history or the machinations of foreign nations to explain their descent into chaos, and to a certain extent both have played a role. But no one bears more responsibility for a slow collective suicide than Pakistanis themselves. A set of failures has contributed to Pakistan's fall.

Founded as a Muslim nation carved from British-ruled India in 1947, Pakistan has long struggled to unite a population divided by language, culture and ethnicity. It is quite true that Pakistan may never have resolved what Sabahat Ashraf, a Pakistani blogger now living in California, calls its "existential dilemma: Are we an Islamic state, or are we a state of Muslims?" but Islam has always been a common denominator. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the nation rallied under the banner of jihad. Today any attack on Islam, even the perception of one, is akin to an assault on Pakistan's very identity. When the militants say they too are fighting for Islam, just as the mujahedin fought the Soviets, it creates a sense of paralysis.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor at Islamabad's Quaid-i-Azam University, pulls up on his laptop the pages of a first-grade primer distributed in private religious schools. "A is for Allah," he reads. "B is for bandook, or gun." T, for thakrau, collision, is illustrated with a drawing of the World Trade Center in flames, while Z, for zenoub, the plural of sin, is depicted with alcohol bottles, kites, guitars, drums, a television and a chess set. Any attempt to change the religious curriculum is met with fierce resistance. "Many fear that to be seen protesting against the extremists who are pushing Shari'a [Islamic law] would be seen as protesting against Islam itself," says Hoodbhoy.

The paradox here is that historically, Pakistanis have practiced a syncretic version of Islam that venerates saints and emphasizes a personal relationship with God. But the influx of Arab preachers during the war against the Soviets brought a more austere form of the religion. Shayan Afzal Khan, an Islamic scholar who writes about women and Islam, thinks Pakistanis lack the confidence to defend their moderate beliefs. "People are afraid to take on the mullahs because we can't quote the Koran the way they do," Khan says. "We have to take our religion back," but fear gets in the way. She has decided not to publish her most recent book, about early Muslim women, in Pakistan "because the situation these days is too unstable."

Blaming India
If Pakistanis have defined themselves by their religion, they have also defined themselves by what they are not — Indian. The bloody cleavage that marked the birth of two independent nations began a long enmity cemented by three wars and the threat of mutual nuclear annihilation. The contested territory of Muslim-majority Kashmir is the flame that keeps the pot boiling. In Pakistan every prayer ends with a thought for Kashmir. Pakistanis find it impossible to believe that India, with its booming economy and flourishing democracy, has moved on from the rivalry; India, many believe, still seeks the destruction of its neighbor.

One afternoon in early May, an upscale audience gathered in Karachi to hear veteran journalist Ahmed Rashid speak on the Taliban threat. For years, Rashid has been Pakistan's Cassandra, prophesying an extremist-led doom to deaf ears. Now that the threat has become reality, he is a sought-after speaker. "I no longer say that there's a creeping Talibanization in Pakistan," he warned. "It's a galloping Talibanization." For 45 minutes, he expanded on his theme, explaining how the Pakistan Army's narrow focus on India has allowed the militant threat within the country to fester, how money that should have been spent on helicopters to combat the insurgency was squandered on fighter jets better suited to attacking India. But the message failed to sink in.

After his speech, Rashid was peppered with questions about India's designs to destabilize the country, until he exploded with frustration: "We are still getting told every night on our TVs that these Pakistani Taliban are all getting their money from India, that they are armed by India. Until we recognize the fact that this is a homegrown phenomenon and that the people throwing acid into girls' faces are Pakistani, the problem will continue."

Yet continue it does. Every day, it seems, another police official or politician proclaims that he has definitive proof that a "foreign hand" (read: India) is behind the latest bombing. The proof is never produced. It is enough that it bolsters the delusion that Pakistanis are not responsible for the crisis in their own country and thus are exempted from dealing with it.

Resenting the U.S.
Of late, the U.S. administration has sought to convince Pakistani leadership that the Indian threat on the eastern border has passed and that troops should be moved to the west, where both Pakistani and Afghan Taliban have set up training camps. To many Pakistanis, that message is suspect. The Americans have too long a history of pursuing their own interests in the region, they say. The rapid U.S. withdrawal at the end of the Soviet war in Afghanistan left Pakistan in chaos. America's long support for former President Pervez Musharraf's military rule alienated Pakistanis even further. Now it is commonly accepted that every political move in the country conceals an American motive, a belief shared by many Pakistanis living abroad. "It's well known that the present civilian government headed by a corrupt psychopath was conjured up by the U.S. and U.K. to push their agenda," says Dr. Riaz Ahmed, a pediatrician practicing in the U.K. "Pakistan has been helping the Americans with their war, and what do they get in return? Violence, drugs, instability. We Pakistanis think we are being bullied into somebody else's war."

That resentment is fueled by a belief that Pakistan is suffering for Washington's failures. Zardari may say that the war on terrorism is as much Pakistan's as it is the U.S.'s, but that message has yet to take root. The growing militancy in Pakistan's tribal areas "is the price we are paying now for supporting the American war on terror," says Ahsan Iqbal, information secretary for the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). "If we stopped supporting the American war [in Afghanistan], we would have peace tomorrow." Iqbal dismisses recent accounts in the Western press of growing Talibanization in the country as "propaganda." Shireen Mazari, a right-wing columnist, sees even more sinister plots afoot. "Is it really in the American interest to have a stable Pakistan right now?" she asks. "Or is it actually pushing us towards instability in order to achieve its agenda of obtaining access and control over our nuclear assets?" Says Rashid: "All of us go by conspiracy theories. We are all blaming somebody else for our mistakes. Why don't we wake up and start blaming ourselves?"
Missed Opportunities
One answer to that question is, because Pakistan's leaders have been so feckless. When Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, her husband Zardari assumed leadership of her political party and then the presidency. Zardari swore to bring his wife's killers to justice. He has not done so, instead wasting an opportunity to rally the nation against terrorism. There is no national media campaign to combat Taliban propaganda and no clerics on TV or radio denouncing suicide bombers.

"What we need is a national change in consciousness," says Supreme Court advocate Aitzaz Ahsan, who led a lawyers' movement that brought about the downfall of Musharraf. "People need to be bombarded with the reality of what the Taliban represent." Ahsan wants to see videos of Taliban atrocities broadcast every night. Only then, he says, will people understand and act against extremism. "The whole nation needs to see what is happening. Not just the floggings by the Taliban but the beheadings, the digging up of the graves of our saints, the burning of our girls' schools."

Instead, says Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group, Zardari's government has muddled the message: rather than punish those who used terrorist tactics, he originally met their demands in Swat. Wajiha Ahmed, a Pakistani-American graduate student at the Fletcher School of Tufts University, hopes that the current chaos holds a "silver lining ... It might put pressure on the military élite and the political oligarchy to finally change the country's outlook so that it focuses on bettering the condition of its people." But for decades, talented exiles — writers, bankers, software engineers and international civil servants — have been devoutly wishing for such a consummation. It hasn't happened yet.

That sad reality is sinking in back home. In a phone call a few days after her party, Haye, the airline pilot, worried that she might have been too dismissive of the threat. "If the Taliban infiltrates Pakistan, of course that affects us. But what can we do?" One part of the answer, for 170 million Pakistanis, is to recognize their shared destiny. Only when the entire nation understands the threat to its existence — and acts accordingly — will its people be able to confront it.

— with reporting by William Lee Adams / London, Ershad Mahmud / Islamabad and Frances Romero / New York


Hypocrites of Pakistani religious parties had a protest against military operation in Swat, its really amazing that leadership of these so called religious parties never made any statement what Taliban did and doing to the nation, country as well as innocent people, where were their protest rallies when cruel , criminals ,thug Taliban were beheading innocent people, hanging dead bodies to trees and poles? While Pakistan Army is locked with Taliban in fierce battle in the Malakand Agency, especially in the Swat region, some of the hypocrites like Imran Khan and religious parties have started raising hell just to demoralize the nation and to show their inner filth and to just blackmail the government to get more attention and the perks and privileges. Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the ex-chief of Jamat-e-Islami has announced a 3-day sit-in in the Melody chowk Islamabad against the military operation in Swat. Where was this idiot and his clowns, when there was no military operation and government was trying to appease the Taliban by dialogues, deals and accords? Not even once Qazi or his idiots went to Swat or talked with the Sufi Muhammad or Fazlullah. They remained silent. Now just to record their attention they are raising hell. This is the time when they should be helping the IDPs and not creating fissures and fuss. But they have always disappointed the nation. Does our religion propagate this type of politics?. No, never…. These religious leaders actions have nothing to do with religion. This is sheer hypocrisy. These people are using religion and their religious attire to fool the masses who are illiterate, religious minded and tend to fall prey to any religious gimmick. We must not allow these people to take control of our lives and affairs of our country. We need a totally different band of able political leaders who are sincere, honest, dedicated and work with a vision. We must look around, pick such people and encourage them to come forward. We must get rid of these stale feudal and moulvis who only play dirty politics for their interest.
Why did not J.I. leadership go to Swat and talk to those ignorant mullahs sufi and company, why J.I. did not say anything when Taliban were destroying schools and harassing girls if they were going to schools. Why did not they protest when Taliban were killing innocent people, sending suicide bombers across the country, destroying music centers and internet café, what Taliban are doing that was encouraged during MMA Govt in pukhtunkhwa, nation should realize that J.I. is supporting Taliban. IMRAN KHAN and J.I leadership is deaf, dumb and blind, IMRAN KHAN has forgotten when he used to party and clubbing in Europe , he forgets about his play boy past but now he talks about Islam and supports Taliban. Jamaat-e-Islami’s Munawar Hasan is criticizing those politicians who are supporting military operation but why did not QAZI HUSSAIN or he himself go to Taliban and ask them to stop there barbarian activities and stop killing innocent people. Extremism is death of Sanity and a tricky shrewd extremist in high place has potential to ruins the nation. Unfortunately in Pakistani Political chess Board still some religious extremists command the events. These are the people who exploit the conflict and benefits from every side. Lets not forget that Mollana Fazlurehman who is Leader of Pakistan's Jamaat e Ulema Islam or JUI is a person who benefits from every situation and every government.  JI also opposed the creation of Pakistan. It supported Gul Badin Hikmatyar during so called Afghan Jihad. Its leader ship is vocal critic of Army operations against extremists and spreading bitter propaganda against Army and forces fighting Taliban menace. Fazlur Rehman is  "ideological mentor" of the Taliban .

JI also opposed the creation of Pakistan. It takes its ideology from Wahabi school of thought and has deep connections with international Islamist Parties like Akhwan ul Muslimeen of Egypt. It supported Gul Badin Hikmatyar during Afghan Jihad. Its leader ship is vocal critic of Army operations against extremists and spreading bitter propaganda against Army and forces fighting Taliban menace. Leaders of these religious parties supported every military dictator in Pakistan. Gen Zia and the so called Afghan war in 1980 played an important role in the growth of religious parties. Several new parties were formed.
One more Political party who is trying to exploit the situation is PML N . Its leadership is trying to gather the sympathies of religious pressure groups by opposing operation on one hand and on other giving one or two statements in favor of Army operations to remain in good books of Americans. One important leader of PML N even created a drama in a program in Geo TV by shedding tears and appealing government to stop Military operation In swat.
These thugs, barbarians, criminals, ignorant Taliban are involve in crimes against humanity and they must be punished, hang their dead bodies to tress and poles, cut their dead bodies in pieces as they did to many, burn them alive. Pak Army and Pak Govt has full support of educated civil society and the gains in Swat will be useless if we don’t act against the real bases of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, especially Waziristan. Better suffer some casualties now, and suffer collateral damage, then see the whole country become Taliban’s play ground. This is the only chance to defeat militants once in for all.. I wish wars could be fought on papers where their would be no civilian casualties.. we should support our army, put all the political difference behind and for once think about Pakistan and its future . The issue at present is that Taliban; have gained extreme strength that they are placing a stiff resistance to our infantry. The question that comes to mind is that who is supplying them with arms and ammunition. Being the case the Talibans are in collaboration with our enemy with malicious intents on Pakistan. They must be dealt with an iron fist and be immediately be eliminated from within.
I support the Pakistan army and hope for their imminent success. Taliban will and must be defeated at any and every cost.
Its time that people of Pakistan be mentally prepared without doubt to fight Taliban menace. Pakistani majority takes their religious ideology from Sufi saints. These Taliban and sympathizers , who are out come of US and western war against Soviets in Afghanistan are not more then 2 to 4 percent of Pakistani Population. This beheading, flogging is not part of Pakistani culture and Islamic ideology. The best strategy to neutralize Taliban is to neutralize their political support. Government should force JI, JUI and PML N and IMRAN KHAN type political groups to act in loyalty to state or ban them. Its only way we can let the unknown heroes of our security forces who sacrificed for Pakistan and world peace to rest in peace.
SALUTE TO Martyrs Of Rah-E-Rast ,and all those Police officials who sacrificed their lives for Pakistan.



M Waqar
I am glad that entire nation except QAZI HUSSAIN AND IMRAN KHAN is united on war against ignorant, fanatics, thugs and criminal Taliban. These thugs, criminals and killers are not offering anything positive but only death and damaging name of Islam and Pakistan. I am happy to see broad public and political support for the war. I am glad that people have realized that monster Taliban had to be defeated. They are doing no good to any one. The name of Islam, Pakistan and good kind innocent people have been tarnished all over the world because of them. Pakistan Army should punish em real hard and kill or arrest Taliban leaders and bring them to justice, these so called Taliban leaders are involve in crimes against humanity. They beheaded even children ,destroyed schools and other business which QAZI HUSSAIN and IMRAN KHAN DON’T SEE. It is a real test for Pakistan Army, they must crush these lunatics, nation will be very disappointed if they don’t win this war against Taliban and punish them. The emerging situation in Pakistan needs to be combated now in a very aggressive manner. These Hypocrite Taliban are a shame on Islam. It will be a service to Islam and humanity to bring these animals to a court of law. Pakistan’s civil society must target these lumping elements if they want to clean Pakistan of these rabid fundamentalist elements. Taliban have been destroying or occupying government buildings and blowing up bridges, basic health units and hotels, including the one that looked majestic with clouds often swirling around it at the now deserted Malam Jabba skiing and chairlift resort. Electricity and gas installations have been bombed and road blockades and checkpoints set up to add to the misery of the people. Beheadings of personnel of security forces and police and political rivals is common. Bodies of people slain overnight are dumped in the morning by the roadside everywhere in Swat or at the Greens Chowk, nowadays commonly referred to as "Khooni Chowk" (bloody square), in Mingora city. Taliban never had any genuine demands that could be considered. There actions are genocide of innocent peace loving puktuns . Forgiving them the blood of all those that they have killed just for negotiating "peace" sends a very wrong signal to all the other crooks who want to make money out of suppressing others. These guys need to be made an example off or we are bound to see more episodes in the futures. The only solution of the Taliban problem is an armed solution . The Taliban in Swat is a rag tag bunch of around 2000 fighters, besides being small in number they have alienated the local population with their cruelty. This should not be a big problem for the 500,000 strong Pakistan army IF it is willing to take them on. It is equally important to find and expose those elements, groups or countries supporting & re-sourcing Taliban with money and weapons and parallel efforts be made by all, army as well as local tribes to help close the taps. Otherwise it is going to be a long haul fire fighting and extended collateral miseries for the IDPs. We really need to get rid of these Taliban from Pakistan. Once they are eliminated, we should start educating our citizens in those areas to make sure no Taliban is born into another home anywhere in Pakistan. Today majority of Pakistanis from Khyber to Karachi are with our forces fighting with them to eliminate them. I think the operation started bid late, in fact it should have started earlier. I am happy that our Army is advancing and they(So Called Taleban) are retreating and on the run. I believe Taliban are the enemy of our nation and our people. We must support the families who had to vacate their homes at the hands of these barbarians. The bigger issue here is that these thugs are clearly trying to hide in the mass of refugees exiting the area of operation. So the question that arises for the security agencies is - is there a system in place to screen the whole lot of refugees in order to ensure that the Taliban are weeded out of the influx. Otherwise all the operation would end up achieving is a wider dispersal of these animals, leading to a wider geographic spread of the Taliban phenomenon. What Pakistani citizens can do now is to identify these taliban foxes among them and turn these abusers to the officials. If these barbarians really were Muslims they would never enforce their opinion on other people. Even our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never preached Islam by force. Double standards are deeply rooted in their philosophy. The question we must now ask ourselves is that do they really want to spread Islam or do they want to destabilize our country in the name of a peace-loving religion such as Islam. The people of Pakistan will never be forced into the dark ages . These militants are two faced barbarians! Killing people, barring women from education, looting and creating a chaos all in the name of Islam - is this really Islam? It is for people like these that our religion has had a bad press. I really hope and pray that each and every monster/Talib gets killed just as the same way they inflicted torture to people by beheading and disgracing corpses . Taliban and other extremist are savages. We as Pakistanis should do our best to drive them out. It is our failure that we let them in our cities and villages. Now the nation have risen and its time for Taliban and extremist to go where they actually belong and this is in the confinement and prison. They should not be allowed to impose their savagery on rest of the nation. Taliban are not Muslims, they are destroying the peaceful religion.. shame on them.
Pakistani Govt. is taking the right step to once it for all eliminate them, they don’t deserve to be talked about just eliminate them, request to all the parties in Pakistan to be united in this great cause and bring stability to Pakistan and freedom to its people.

Pakistan: Politicking on refugees

Daily Times
As the refugee problem intensified in Malakand Division after the military operation there, PMLN legislators in the National Assembly decided on Wednesday to criticise the government for not consulting parliament before launching the offensive. The answer from the PPP MNAs was that the government had no other option after the failure of the peace deal with the Taliban. Is this the beginning of a policy of isolating the government on a national issue of paramount importance for narrow party political ends?

A PMLN leader delivered a hard-hitting speech favouring the street rumour — and the line adopted by the opposition outside the parliament — that “the government had launched the military operation on the US dictate in order to earn dollars”. Surprisingly, the same leader, at a loss for a solution of his own, insisted that the government should still try “a negotiated settlement of the dispute”.

After that, a very dubious argument was deployed: “The government is trying to fool us. They sought the approval of the parliament for the Nizam-e Adl Regulation when it was not needed, but completely ignored it for the crucial decision of launching the military operation. The parliament has become irrelevant”. But the charge of naiveté on the part of Parliament is not sincere. The truth is that the refugee crisis after the military operation has created an opportunity for the policy of “isolate and oust”.

The PMLN is zeroing in — despite declarations of political piety by its leader Mr Nawaz Sharif. Why was an APC over the post-peace deal situation not called, he wants to know. The prime minister has already said that there was no time for it unless the unintended consequence was to give the Taliban time to consolidate further. However, he has promised to hold the APC now. But the objections have become more fundamental and hark back to the days of the lawyers’ movement and the slogan of “it’s not our war”.

“The Taliban issue has been mishandled. Our army cannot win this war. You (government) cannot win this war. If we continue on the way we are headed, this system will not survive,” said the PMLN leader at the National Assembly. Another said, “This operation will not reach a logical end because the government has zero credibility”. Yet another said the operation was a “drama” — “being staged to roll back Pakistan’s nuclear programme”.

All over the world, politicians go through this charade in times of crisis. In India, for example, after every flooding and displacement of its east coast populations, the opposition goes on the rampage. The only difference is that in Pakistan politicians aim at toppling the government before its tenure is completed. Popular opposition leaders burnish their popularity further by beginning to shine dangerously during crises. But this time it is not a natural calamity that threatens Pakistan, it is an alien terrorist presence that wants to oust democracy and replace it with despotism.

The media highlights the refugee problem, not to dishearten the public, but to spur the government to take a close look at its remediable derelictions. But unfortunately some anchors display an animus that is unworthy and disruptive of the national effort to stand behind our army as it battles with the terrorists and loses its precious manpower as casualties of war. Last time the media adjudged the state as a total failure in the face of the 2005 earthquake, the world turned around and praised the rescue and resettlement efforts made by it and quoted it as an example to the rest of the stricken states.

Pakistan is not fighting for American dollars, and no one is after its nuclear weapons; it is fighting the war of its survival beyond the point of “negotiating” with the terrorists. And the refugee problem is tough like all refugee problems anywhere else in the world. If the politicians stop undermining national unity at this stage, we are sure to win this war.

TALIBAN BARBARIANS.....The final solution

The final solution
Malik Haroon Rashid
It took many years for the government and its majority people to realise what the Americans and the rest of the world had been telling us for so long: that Taliban are agents of destruction, obscurantism and barbarism and that their adventures in the name of Islam will take Pakistan to brink of disaster. Now glorification of the Taliban as holy fighters of Islam among the common people has come to its near end and Taliban stand totally unmasked. Mainstream political parties have reached almost a consensus over the Taliban question. Religious parties and Islamic scholars have distanced themselves from Taliban version of Islam. Punjab and its leadership after having tasted Taliban terrorism has come to its senses and unlike past is showing some sense in their public statements. But there are some differing voices; there are still pockets across the country where Taliban are still considered as the flag-bearers of Islam. Some political and religious leaders, certain educated, influential people, few former civil and military personnel retain a soft corner for the Taliban, provide them moral, monetary support and speak on their behalf on public platform. Overall situation in the country is quite grim, tribal areas are infested with armed, dedicated Taliban. Even in the sprawling urban jungle of Pakistan Taliban and al-Qaeda have their safe heaven, hidden from the eyes of Pakistan security services. But still the general awakening as to true nature of Taliban is an encouraging sign. Let us now at this moment of time destroy the Taliban, for if we don’t, they will destroy us with whatever we have achieved in the last 62 years. If past is any guide then we should learn there can be no negations with the Taliban, we cannot meet them half ways. There exist no moderate Taliban. We have tested all available options. We saw the futility of engaging them in dialogue. We lay prostrate and pandered to their all extravagant demands in the hope that the Taliban will lay down their weapons and areas under their control will see peace. We saw people in Malakand division and Swat firing guns in the air and distributing sweats at the signing of peace deal between the government and Taliban, only to see later their women’s head shaven and their girls flogged publicly. We hoped the Taliban will lay down their weapons but they only hid their lethal weapons from public sight and gave us a sham peace. Then by stealth and deceit, like Milton’s Satan, they moved to neighbouring regions of Buner and lower Dir, began to seduce region’s young one, held its majority people at gunpoint and started enforcing their harsh version of Islam. It is the roughness, and crudity of Taliban mind, which is the real problem. This roughness might have gone unnoticed in the uncivilized, barbaric part of human history, but in the 21st century it only evolves loathing and revulsion. And more tragically Taliban commits their acts of barbarism in the name of Islam, which gives Islam a very bad name in the rest of the world. It is not Islam but a dangerous, lethal ideology, which is the driving passion of Taliban. Only and only after the skull embodying this dangerous ideology is blown up, our country will see lasting peace. There is no other choice. This is the final solution Now the peace deal stands scrapped to all intent and purposes. The Taliban have come out into the open in Malakand Division again, destroying all of government infrastructure, looting and plundering banks, beheading people, using them as human shields. In addition to fighting, the only other skill Taliban know is the skill to destroy. Destroying everything made by state of Pakistan gives Taliban a sadistic pleasure; after all present set up in Pakistan is based on Kufr as their spiritual mentor Maulana Sufi Mohammad stated in a speech. It is ironic that a puny figure like Maulana Sufi whom nobody would ever like to engage in serious discussion gained such a countrywide media attention and assumed such a large stature. This is only because his backers have big guns, and wiled power surpassing that of the state. A question was asked in a TV programme as to why Pashtuns, who believe in revenging upon people who do them wrong, don’t take up arms against the Taliban? It is after all the Taliban who have killed people’s dear one’s, looted their property, have them publicly insulted and had them driven out of their homes. The answer is the Taliban exercise unmatched power and use tactics unwarranted by traditional Pashtun code. If locals decide to hold Jirga to fight them, then Taliban send their suicide bombers, hundreds of tribal elders have been killed thus. After this locals submit and put up no resistance. So traditional Pashtun warlike spirit and their tradition of exacting revenge upon the enemy has basically failed to meet the threat of Taliban. So in this dire and critical condition only Pakistan army has the potential and power to crush and defeat Taliban and rescue Pashtuns, their land and Pakistan. To safely bring the country out of these crises we must own facts and should have a firm grip over the reality. Hold over reality and facts are the exclusive reserve of those who stare reality in the face and are not swayed by cheap emotions. Leaders like Imran khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and some other religious and political figures cannott have a true assessment of the terrible condition in the country. Their opposition to military option and their advocacy of dialogue with the militants is an empty rhetoric totally divorced from the ground realities We shouldn’t care what these dissenting voices say, for their aim is personal at the cost of the country and its vital interests, although they very much claim otherwise. They serve their own vested interests, not truth. If needed during this serious crises and emergency normal political, judicial and civil rights of Taliban, other militants and their sympathizers may be held in suspension. Even a democratic country like US forcibly relocated and interned nearly 110.000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans to “war relocations camps”. If there are people who differ with us in this effort of rooting out this militancy, and their difference only hamper war effort, then they should be silenced by force. Their cheap emotionalism will mislead general public and benefit the extremists. Pakistan needs to be cleansed up of extremists, not only in Swat but the whole tribal belt and the rest of the country. After Swat operation is successfully over, an invasion on Waziristan should follow, in those formidable mountains are hiding the assassins of Benazir Bhutto and the masterminds of various other suicide and terrorist missions against the state and security forces of Pakistan. This looks the most difficult part of the whole effort, but without it the problem of terrorism wouldn’t be resolved. Next in line should be a massive crackdown backed by all intelligence and security forces against the militants and their supporters in rest of the country. Those who survive the military action should be rounded up. We don’t have a Guantanamo Bay, so we should lease a rocky, deserted island in the Pacific oceans where these militants and their supporters should be relocated to serve their sentence. The Taliban, and other militant outfits come from us. They are our blood, and with them we are bound by the bonds of race, language, and religion. But they forsook the very ideals for which this country was founded and instead embraced a blood-soaked, dangerous ideology, which only sowed seeds of chaos and instability in the country. And most importantly they callously imposed their strange version of Islam on helpless people, not realising that attempt to impose their kind of Sharia and their confrontation with Pakistan military will only spell disaster for common people. Taliban’s crime against the state of Pakistan and its people are now unforgivable. We have let them live much long, in misplaced hope they will reform themselves. Now they will have to go down in bloody purge in this Final Solution. Only then Pakistan will rise up again.


For more than 60 years after independence, from almost two centuries of British rule, large scale poverty and illiteracy remains the most shameful blot on the face of  Pakistan.By the age of 62, a COUNTRY - like a man - should have achieved a certain maturity. After decades of existence we know, for good and for bad, who we are, what we have done and how we appear to others. But unfortunately, Pakistan remains curiously immature, a Country with less then 50% rate of literacy can’t bring political wisdom that usually accompanies age. But today the country's national narrative of macho victim hood appears to the rest of the world as simply bizarre. Pakistan's rich, bourgeois, feudal minded leaders have failed their country by failing to protect the poor and failing to give them basic educations and security, the people of swat and buner were betrayed by their own elected ANP government. In last election, religious parties were crushed by voters and ANP was elected but unfortunately followers of BACHA KHAN are pussy cat now and like to hide in presidency , Norway or Turkey, instead of facing storm and helping those who are in refugees camps on their own soil. It is shameful that Pakistani elite is living in total denial, they are aware of miseries people facing in SWAT, they don’t care about the reports of people who are beheaded by barbarian Taliban, they don’t hear screams of a girl flogged by ignorant monsters, they don’t care about the dead bodies hanging to trees and poles. This Pakistani elite ruled this nation on ‘’sub acha’’(everything ok) reports from their mansions, these bourgeois never cared about people committing suicide because of poverty or selling kids and kidneys . Today when Jinnah’s Pakistan is at total collapse, these corrupt politicians are still fighting among themselves for political power. They are blaming U.S. drone attacks responsible for Taliban actions but they ignore that Taliban were present before these drone attacks, burning girls schools, destroying internet cafes, music centers or barber shops has nothing to do with drone attacks. I always criticized ALTAF HUSSAIN of MQM but he has emerged as the conscience of the nation  and I don’t blame him by telling ANP leadership to   wear bangles and sit back in their houses . I agree with him as he said that ’’ by entering into Nizam-e-Adl agreement with Taliban, ANP leaders have left the Pakhtoon people of Swat, Buner and Dir as well as the oppressed people of the entire province on the mercy of the barbaric Taliban and they on their own enjoying life living in their palatial houses with their families. ‘’The so called champions of Pukhtuns rights are flying around the Globe while the dead bodies are lying in the bazaars and streets of Swat. Pukhtun kids from Swat and FATA are not going to schools but living in refugees camps. Caught in the crossfire between militants and security forces, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced to leave their homes in Bajaur, Darra Adamkhel, Kurram, Mohmand, Orakzai, Swat and Waziristan. This human tragedy, which was years in the making, has now reached critical proportions. It is open to question whether the government foresaw such developments and introduced Nizam-i-Adl to unmask the Taliban as people who will accept nothing short of absolute power. Swat citizens and majority of Pakistanis are convinced that the militants cannot be trusted to keep their word but selfish Pakistani politicians and champions of Pukhtuns rights ignored this and living in denial. Children growing up today in squalid refugee camps may well be the militants of tomorrow but Pakistani elite don’t care about this because they have their palaces in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and London. The basic purpose of the state and its apparatus is to ensure the safety and personal freedoms of the citizens but unfortunately state has been failed to impose its writ .
Five thousand square kilometres of Swat are now under Taliban control. Chitral (14,850 sq km), Dir (5,280 sq km), Shangla (1,586 sq km), Hangu (1,097 sq km), Lakki Marwat (3,164 sq km), Bannu (1,227 sq km), Tank (1,679 sq km), Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orkzai, North Waziristan and South Waziristan are all under Taliban control -- de facto. That's a total of 56,103 square kilometres of Pakistan under Taliban control -- de facto. Six thousand square kilometers of Dera Ismail Khan are being contested. Also under 'contested control' are Karak (3,372 sq km), Kohat (2,545 sq km), Peshawar (2,257 sq km), Charsada (996 sq km) and Mardan (1,632 sq km). That's a total of 16,802 square kilometres of Pakistan under 'contested control' -- de facto. Seven thousand five hundred square kilometres of Kohistan are under 'Taliban influence'. Additionally, Mansehra (4,579 sq km), Battagram (1,301 sq km), Swabi (1,543 sq km) and Nowshera (1,748 sq km) are all under 'Taliban influence'. That's a total of 16,663 square kilometers of Pakistan under 'Taliban influence' -- de facto. All put together, 89,568 square kilometers of Pakistani territory is either under complete 'Taliban control', 'contested control' or 'Taliban influenced'; that's 11 per cent of Pakistan's landmass. Where was Pakistan’s army? ,when thugs, criminals, fanatics were taking control of those areas??? 18,000 troops deployed in Swat for a year and a half deliberately avoided targeting the thugs. All the army did was base itself in pastures and forests populated only by wild animals and livestock. In a small ravine like that of Peuchar in Swat, the mega-thug could hide from our well-fed army. How is that an army of 18,000 - fully equipped and trained - could not fight only about 1,000 ???Many Americans think that certain elements of the Pakistan military would rather have a Taliban/military government than the present one. Many here think the Pakistan is worrying about India while the insects are devouring their house piece by piece. Many Americans are amazed that secular Pakistanis and politicians don't seem to care if the present course could mean them being forced into exile . This is a really disturbing period in the history of Pakistan. It is on the verge of total capitulation. What strikes me as strange is why the people of Pakistan don't stand up? They marched nationally for a judge, but can't rise to oust the Taleban? Where is long march of IMRAN KHAN,NAWAZ,QAZI HUSSAIN against those who are killing innocent people, disturbing lives of thousands and imposing their ignorant views on majority of people who wants to live in peace? Pakistan is on course of self-destruction. Due to decades of corruption, divisive policies and injustice from the leadership; the people of Pakistan lack the pride and loyalty to fight for their homeland. As a Pakistani I find this very shameful.

Now the Taliban are coming south and everyone is wondering why no one did anything. Perhaps these politicians should begin by examining their own behavior. They kept denying the threat despite its gravity to score political points. It was the Nawaz Sharifs and the Fazlur Rehmans of this country that refused to blame the Taliban for the trouble in Pakistan. Why did members of the national assembly stand up and oppose the Nizam-e Adl when it was supposedly under debate in the house? Why did no one criticized the halting of military operations when the army was producing results against the barbarians? That’s the hypocrisy of Pakistani elite, they only worry when their lives are in danger, they only cry blues when they see they are loosing power. Every one of these politicians is responsible for letting the country down. This group should have built the national consensus and will to fight the terrorists and they didn’t. One hopes it is not too late for them to have recognized the threat. Nawaz Sharif’s recent statements, where he has expressed dissatisfaction with the peace deal in Swat. He has also expressed concern that the Taliban are trying to export their version of sharia to other parts of Pakistan. Mr Sharif’s ‘discomfort’ with the situation is welcome, but he has a lot to answer for. What does he have to say about his repeated opposition to the war on terror when these very Taliban were brutally murdering troops and civilians? Why did his party, the second largest in the national assembly, not register its protest and vote against the Nizam-e Adl in parliament when it was sent there by the presidency? . Nawaz Sharif knew the risks of cutting deals with the Taliban, and should have voiced his opposition when the political leadership of this country could have done something about it but he did not because he is pro-Taliban too .
Sufi Muhammad, Fazlullah and Muslim Khan have been slowly but surely revealing their agenda, much as feared by the rest of the world. The invitation to Osama bin Laden and the offer of protection to him are not only a flagrant violation of Pakistani laws but also various United Nations Security Council resolutions. How can the state tolerate such elements and even attempt to deal with them under the guise of establishing peace and conceding the long time demands of the Swatis? Pakistan does not need the services of non-state actors like the Taliban . Many had warned of the dangers of negotiating with this band of terrorists given that the government was negotiating from a position of weakness, and past experience of cutting deals with the terrorists was entirely negative. Instead of surrendering to these terrorists, the state should have intensified the fight and liberated our territory from them. With this capitulation, instead of bringing these areas back under the state’s writ, we have simply given the terrorists greater confidence to extend their nefarious activities to the rest of Pakistan. Despite the many voices in the media confusing the people on this issue, the lines are now absolutely clear. The terrorists are against the people of Pakistan, the state of Pakistan, our judiciary, our democracy and our values. They have vowed to destroy all this. We must vow to protect it, united in the fight to save Pakistan. The government must focus on one point : the Malakand Taliban have to disarm as promised at the earliest. If that doesn’t happen, there ought to be no further discussion of any sort with the militants or their representatives. The government and its security apparatus must not be tricked into halting a military operation that is clearly the need of the hour. Selfish Pakistani politicians should be standing and supporting the Govt instead of opposing action against Taliban, nation expect from these politicians to condemn militants. Lets face reality, these Talibans have ruined the reputation of Islam . These ignorant barbarian Taliban have no moral values, education or respect for Islam and Pakistan’s constitution,  the Talibans are blowing up schools, destroying hospitals and usurping the fundamental rights of the people even right to life but Pakistani elite ignored this for a long time, which is shameful and if anything happens to Pakistan, these politicians and elite will be responsible for that. For a long time Pakistani elite, politicians and their supporters claimed that war on terror is America’s war,  this war on terror is very much Pakistan's own war now, as Taliban are killing innocent pukhtuns, destroying their schools, hospitals ,businesses etc. It used to be America's war when the jihadis were funded by the US to fight the Red Army in Afghanistan.  The Pakistani and international jihadis have now made it Pakistan's war. 
Imran Khan the commander-in-chief of Taliban, supports and advocate Taliban justice so proudly. Is there any difference between Imran Khan and the illutrate man who supports Taliban. He is behaving like the street person who has no knowledge of politics. Can such a man lead a party or a country?
Lets admit that Musharraf government played a double role: on one hand it allowed the jihadis to take control of the tribal area and on the other hand showed the US that the Pakistan army was fighting the terrorists. It was during his regime that the army entered into agreements with the Taliban in FATA – and all of these failed . The Pakhtun are experiencing a genocide-like situation at the hands of Taliban and Al Qaida terrorists and now monster is moving towards Punjab and sindh.
Unfortunately Pakistani elite is not reading the writing on the wall and still living in denial, failed politician like Imran Khan often compares the Taliban militancy with the tribal resistance to the British colonial. This is an insult to the Pakhtun history. Unlike the Taliban no tribal resistance leader ever killed fellow Pakhtun in the name of Islam of fight against the British. Anyone who has lived in Swat would have experienced that people of Swat are the most liberal people among the Pakhtuns due to their dependence on a tourism-driven economy. The Sufi Mohammad-style sharia has never been their choice. They would never want their primary industry ’’ tourism’’ to be destroyed by those who rule over them. The argument of JI amir Munawwar Hasan that people of Swat elected the ANP and the PPP because his party boycotted the February 2008 elections is wrong. If religious right-wingers were so darling to the Swatis, they would have elected the JUI-F which was in the field. How come so many tribal leaders were killed all over FATA and no one has ever been arrested for it? How come officials of the state and its institutions socially meet members of the Taliban? People who say that the Taliban militancy has been engineered to send a message to the US and to extract more and more aid. More ominously, these Pakhtuns feel abandoned by the state. If as obvious, Taliban take control of Islamabad and Lahore or Karachi, what will be the reaction of Pakistani elite ? Seems like they will hide their head in sand or fly to LONDON.NEW YORK,SAUDI ARABIA OR DUBAI and leave poor of the country to face cruel rules of Taliban and I am sure that’s what this elite will do. Pakistan has to do the needful , something that it hasn't done so far. This means giving up the idea once and for all that the jihadis are strategic assets to fight proxy wars in Afghanistan and India. The next step would be to conduct targeted operations based on intelligence to destroy jihadi infrastructures all over Pakistan, eliminate their leadership and retake the territory ceded to the jihadis. Third, all those Pakhtuns who have stood up to the Taliban need to be protected. Disturbing as it may sound, the jihadis could well take over all of Pakistan, just like they have taken over Swat and FATA, unless of course the state chooses to crush them with an iron hand.  This is Pakistan’s war, its survival war, lets stop blaming others for our failures and short comings, lets stop looking for foreign powers to help us , Whether the US offers financial help to Pakistan or not Pakistan has to fight this war to survive as a democratic state in the modern world. The 19 months long military operation did not succeed in capturing or killing Fazlullah, Muslim Khan and other culprits who killed thousands of innocent people. The armed forces only claimed that Taliban were being forced to withdraw and we observed that this policy resulted in spreading the writ of Taliban in surrounding areas. Now it is high time that the security forces should immediately arrest Fazlullah, Muslim Khan and all other killers of innocent people, seize the FM Radio channels and give a message to all. This is the ultimate answer and this should be the first step in the ongoing operation. If it is not done, we shall believe that there is something wrong at the bottom , withdrawal of Taliban from a place means, spreading the evil in more places, kill them No mercy should be shown to Taliban and their leaders. They are a scum of the earth .  It is the rope around their necks or a bullet in their heads or stoning to death that has to be their end, inexcusably and mercilessly. Pakistani elite needs to wake up now, living in denial will destroy everything and that will be too late . The shameless betrayal of the Swat peace deal by the Taliban, invasion of other areas and irresponsible and hateful statements by both Taliban and TNSM spokespeople, the nation has now seen the real face of the Taliban. Sufi Muhammad was simply a front with which they fooled the government and most people of Pakistan. Now that the truth is out there, we must wake up and fight the Taliban. The majority of Pakistanis don’t want to live under Taliban tyranny . Pakistani military is powerful to crush Taliban but  there are a number of extremists within the ranks, its military’s leadership job to arrest those who are helping Taliban .These extremists are bigger threat then India today. If Pakistanis are capable of making the nukes then they are very much in the position to protect themselves as well.  We must win this war against Taliban before they take over and foreign troops marching on Pakistani streets .What happened in Swat was a huge wake up call but unfortunately Pakistani Elite ignored that and decided to live in denial . This is also a wake up call for the 6th largest Army in the world, the army must face up to Taliban ! 3 districts and FATA ! How much will they concede to the Taliban ? ?? Sufi Muhammad was supposed to declare war against the Taliban if they did not abide by the NAR, but he has instead condemned the Constitution of Pakistan as an infidel institution. A kind of jihadi nepotism has overcome him as he refuses to see what his son-in-law Fazlullah is doing in Dir and Buner in violation of the accord. Indeed, the Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan has denounced those who criticize the Sufi’s “verdict” against democracy and insists that his brand of shariat will be applied throughout Pakistan, with jiziya (protection tax) imposed on non-Muslims. The message is clear: the Taliban are linked to Al Qaeda and they are counting on such elements in Punjab to help them take their war down to other parts of Pakistan. When the Swat deal was being sewed up, only the MQM objected, but it was soon isolated in parliament when the National Assembly voted in favor of the NAR. The media-mujahideen acted in the same irresponsible manner in which they had acted during the Lal Masjid affair by siding with the Taliban over the videoed whipping of a 17-year-old girl. The Supreme Court added its bit by releasing the Lal Masjid cleric who immediately announced his resolve to spread the Taliban shariat in Pakistan ,it is the army that has to step forward and face the Taliban. It has baulked so far because of adverse public opinion and an equally lethal media tilt. But now that the politicians are waking up to the danger and the media is increasingly disabused, the army must end its India-driven strategy and try to save Pakistan from becoming the caliphate of Al Qaeda. In fact, Islamabad has to reach an understanding with New Delhi over the matter in order to get the army to mobilize in the numbers required. However, if this is not done, the people will have to fight the war on their own. The MQM is asking the right question: what if the Taliban come and the army is not there to protect us?
Swat is the challenge staring us in the face. If we don’t accept it and fight the Taliban, then the world will have to come and fight it the way it thinks fit.

ARGHANDAB VALLEY, Afghanistan — Fighting season is fast approaching, but for the time being, Kandahar is preoccupied with water, food and crops.

All along the Arghandab River valley north of Kandahar city lie fields of wheat. Thousands of pomegranate trees are in blossom; their compact orange flowers scent the air. This is Kandahar at its best, and its most traditional.

Insurgent activity has slowed while young men of fighting age work in local orchards and fields.

Further to the west, in the volatile Panjwaii district, people are consumed with the poppy harvest: Scraping pods that ooze dark opium paste.

The poppy economy remains vexing.

Insurgents will buy the opium paste from local farmers, then sell it in underground markets and use the profits to arm themselves and lure the same men who collect it to their fight.

It's a vicious cycle and one that can be broken, people say, if more legal alternatives to the poppy could develop and flourish. Crucial to that solution is the efficient supply and distribution of the world's most precious resource — water.

That's where Canada comes in.

Canada's civilian component to the large NATO-led mission in Kandahar is often overlooked, thanks in part to the much larger, controversial military deployment here. But it's no less important to solving problems on the ground. And it's ramping up.

After two years of planning, Canada's single largest foreign-aid project in a generation is underway in the Arghandab. The $50-million Arghandab Irrigation Rehabilitation Project is revitalizing an ailing, 57-year-old dam and irrigation system that once allowed this desert province to lay claim as Afghanistan's breadbasket.

Kandahar once produced enough wheat to feed the entire country. The Soviet invasion, civil war and drought changed everything.

Rebuilding the agro-economy is an essential but hugely ambitious task. Fixing the water system is key. The 50-metre high Dahla dam is in relatively stable condition, but its reservoir capacity has shrunk by about 30 per cent from the original 480-million cubic metres, thanks to gradual siltification.

The Canadian plan is not to increase the dam's present capacity, since that would require far more money, but rather to enhance existing infrastructure. It's still a significant investment and it demonstrates Canada is punching above its weight; the United States, for example, is to spend $250 million for agriculture projects in all of Afghanistan.

Most of the work along the Arghandab irrigation system is downstream, where a complex, inefficient arrangement of canals, diversions and weirs badly needs an overhaul. Repairing and replacing the broken pieces of irrigation equipment is expected to take three years, well past the 2011 end date for the military component of Canada's mission in Kandahar.

Streamlining the valley's archaic water management system could take longer. Water sharing and distribution among farmers and villages is the source of constant squabbling. Local power brokers and tribal leaders determine who gets what, and when.

"Afghanistan is one of the least efficient countries in terms of water use, despite thousands of years of its history using water in agriculture," says Chantal Ruel, project leader for CIDA's dam and irrigation project.

Afghan bureaucrats and traditional community stakeholders called Mirabs manage water use and water distribution. They determine when irrigation floodgates open and for how long.

"But no one is trained how to measure water flows, or how to really manage it," Ruel says. "They don't have the tools or skills to do it."

"It can be an arbitrary system based on personalities and tribes," adds Jason Schmaltz, a project officer.

Ruel and Schmaltz both work in Kandahar City, from CIDA offices inside the well-fortified Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team headquarters.

CIDA has hired engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and water consultant Hydrosult Inc., both based in Montreal, to conduct the rehabilitation project. Their contracts are signed; work plans are being refined and civilian employees from Canada will start arriving soon.

"Several thousand" local Afghans are expected to be employed along the Arghandab river and canal route, which runs from the dam, down the Arghandab valley, and into Kandahar city itself, a distance of about 40 kilometres.

To demonstrate the seriousness of its intent, CIDA has already funded the construction of a new bridge near the dam site and repairs to the access road.

Afghan crews were busy working on the paved road this week, when a Canadian military convoy travelled through the Arghandab valley and to the top of the dam itself.

It is a remarkable journey — the route follows the wide, earthen canal, now full with water, and past a diversion weir, and then, briefly, the Arghandab River.

Everywhere is normal, productive activity. The fields are lush. The road veers left, and climbs. The landscape changes dramatically, from pastoral and green to dun brown. It's bone dry. Then the earthen dam comes into view. The base of the dam is surrounded by pine forest that somehow survived the woodcutter's axe.

The convoy climbs another road leading to the top of the dam. And there it is: a 3,000-hectare man-made lake, surrounded by craggy mountains. It's a stunning sight. Soldiers clamber out of their vehicles and snap photos.

People are slowly coming back, but the journey remains precarious.

Improvised explosive devices are frequently planted along the access road. A blast occurred this week and took out a few square metres of asphalt. There were no reports of casualties.

The potential for surprise insurgent attacks remains top of mind, but the war stops here — if only for a moment. From this place life begins. From here it is replenished.

The U.S. Plan for Pakistan

The Washington Post
Where do you draw the line between helpful American assistance to Pakistan in fighting the Taliban insurgency and counter-productive American meddling? Obama administration officials are weighing that balance as they prepare for a crucial visit to Washington this week by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

The administration is finalizing an ambitious package of aid measures, ranging from urgent financial assistance to counter-insurgency training for Pakistani troops at a U.S. base in Kuwait.
To relieve political pressure on Zardari, the administration has even discussed the possibility of joint U.S.-Pakistani oversight of the CIA's secret program of Predator strikes on Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan's tribal areas. But administration officials appear to have decided against any changes in the current approach, in which the Pakistani government privately okays the attacks but publicly criticizes them. Explained one official familiar with the program: "'Jointness' has been tried and it hasn't worked. These operations are designed to save American lives, and who wants to gamble at that table?"

As Washington frets about Zardari's political weakness, and debates a greater role for the opposition, his allies are pushing back--warning that American attempts to meddle in their country's internal politics may backfire.

"The more Americans get in the weeds of Pakistani politics, the less they will accomplish," warned a senior Pakistani official who supports Zardari. He described the growing U.S. pressure against Zardari as an example of "the Diem phenomenon," a reference to the U.S.-supported coup in 1963 against its former darling, South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem. That coup began a series of ultimately disastrous American attempts to steer Saigon politics and suppress the communist insurgency.

Zardari became Pakistan's president last year, with strong U.S. support, after the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto. Since then, despite Zardari's pro-American policies, U.S. enthusiasm for him has waned, to the point that administration officials have urged a greater role for his political rival, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

"There's too much discussion of who can fix the problem, rather than what should be done," complained the pro-Zardari senior Pakistani official.

The sensitivity in the Zardari camp to U.S. criticism illustrates a broader phenomenon in Pakistani politics. Politicians of every stripe are wary of offending Pakistani national pride by appearing too close to Washington--even when they know they need U.S. help. A cartoon on one anti-American website in Pakistan last week showed Zardari talking with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, another former American favorite who now gets low marks. The Afghan is telling his Pakistani counterpart: "The Americans used and ditched me. Now it's your turn to get screwed!"

To show that it's serious about supporting Pakistan, the administration is preparing a series of initiatives for this week's trilateral summit with Karzai and Zardari. According to knowledgeable sources, the list includes:
--quick delivery of $953 million in promised U.S. aid for Pakistan that has been delayed in the pipeline.
--a new Pakistani counter-terrorism strategy, drafted by Zardari's government and the Pakistani military after consultation with counter-insurgency experts on the staff of Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus.
--training for two battalions of Pakistani soldiers a month at a U.S. base in Kuwait that was used to ready American forces for combat in Iraq.
--an expanding Pakistani offensive against the Taliban, including a joint U.S.-Pakistani effort to suppress Taliban radio stations that have been operating in the tribal areas.
--a new agreement on third-country trade that transits Pakistan to Afghanistan. This "transit-trade" agreement would open the way for more shipments to and from India.
--a new framework for sharing information between the Pakistani and Afghan militaries and intelligence services.
--additional joint border posts for monitoring the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.

"We have a plan. We have the will. We are negotiating on getting the means," said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador here and one of the architects of the Islamabad-Washington alliance.

Haqqani argued that if Washington really wants the Pakistani army to move troops from the Indian border to the tribal areas, as U.S. officials often say, then it should get the Indians to reduce their military forces.

"It's time for Obama to put in a call to the Indians telling them, 'If you move some of your troops, they'll move theirs," Haqqani said. According to sources, Pakistani chief of staff Ashfaq Kiyani made just that promise in a recent meeting with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke


For Many Pakistani Children , Madrasas Fill a Void

.....................SLAP ON PAKISTANI ELITE AND BOURGEOIS FACE....................

MOHRI PUR, Pakistan — The elementary school in this poor village is easy to mistake for a barn. It has a dirt floor and no lights, and crows swoop through its glassless windows. Class size recently hit 140, spilling students into the courtyard.

But if the state has forgotten the children here, the mullahs have not. With public education in shambles, Pakistan’s poorest families have turned to madrasas, or Islamic schools, that feed and house the children while pushing a more militant brand of Islam than was traditional here.

The concentration of madrasas here in southern Punjab has become an urgent concern in the face of Pakistan’s expanding insurgency. The schools offer almost no instruction beyond the memorizing of the Koran, creating a widening pool of young minds that are sympathetic to militancy.

In an analysis of the profiles of suicide bombers who have struck in Punjab, the Punjab police said more than two-thirds had attended madrasas.

“We are at the beginning of a great storm that is about to sweep the country,” said Ibn Abduh Rehman, who directs the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent organization. “It’s red alert for Pakistan.”

President Obama said in a news conference last week that he was “gravely concerned” about the situation in Pakistan, not least because the government did not “seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services: schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of the people.”

He has asked Congress to more than triple assistance to Pakistan for nonmilitary purposes, including education. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has given Pakistan a total of $680 million in nonmilitary aid, according to the State Department, far lower than the $1 billion a year for the military.

But education has never been a priority here, and even Pakistan’s current plan to double education spending next year might collapse as have past efforts, which were thwarted by sluggish bureaucracies, unstable governments and a lack of commitment by Pakistan’s governing elite to the poor.

“This is a state that never took education seriously,” said Stephen P. Cohen, a Pakistan expert at the Brookings Institution. “I’m very pessimistic about whether the educational system can or will be reformed.”

Pakistani families have long turned to madrasas, and the religious schools make up a relatively small minority. But even for the majority who attend public school, learning has an Islamic bent. The national curriculum was Islamized during the 1980s under Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, a military ruler who promoted Pakistan’s Islamic identity as a way to bind its patchwork of tribes, ethnicities and languages.

Literacy in Pakistan has grown from barely 20 percent at independence 61 years ago, and the government recently improved the curriculum and reduced its emphasis on Islam.

But even today, only about half of Pakistanis can read and write, far below the proportion in countries with similar per-capita income, like Vietnam. One in three school-age Pakistani children does not attend school, and of those who do, a third drop out by fifth grade, according to Unesco. Girls’ enrollment is among the lowest in the world, lagging behind Ethiopia and Yemen.

“Education in Pakistan was left to the dogs,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physics professor at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad who is an outspoken critic of the government’s failure to stand up to spreading Islamic militancy.

This impoverished expanse of rural southern Punjab, where the Taliban have begun making inroads with the help of local militant groups, has one of the highest concentrations of madrasas in the country.

Of the more than 12,000 madrasas registered in Pakistan, about half are in Punjab. Experts estimate the numbers are higher: when the state tried to count them in 2005, a fifth of the areas in this province refused to register.

Though madrasas make up only about 7 percent of primary schools in Pakistan, their influence is amplified by the inadequacy of public education and the innate religiosity of the countryside, where two-thirds of people live.

The public elementary school for boys in this village is the very picture of the generations of neglect that have left many poor Pakistanis feeling abandoned by their government.

Shaukat Ali, 40, a tall man with an earnest manner who teaches fifth grade, said he had asked everyone for help with financing, including government officials and army officers. A television channel even did a report. “The result,” he said, “was zero.”

A government official responsible for monitoring schools in the area, Muhamed Aijaz Anjum, said he was familiar with the school’s plight. But he has no car or office, and his annual travel allowance is less than $200; he said he was helpless to do anything about it.

With few avenues for advancement in what remains a feudal society, many poor Pakistanis do not believe education will improve their lives. The dropout rate reflects that.

One of Mr. Ali’s best students, Muhamed Arshad Ali, was offered a state scholarship to continue after the fifth grade. His parents would not let him accept. He quit and took up work ironing pants for about 200 rupees a day, or $2.50.

“Many poor people think salaried jobs are only for rich people,” Mr. Ali said. “They don’t believe in the end result of education.”

In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, the despair and neglect have opened a space that religious schools have filled.

“Madrasas have been mushrooming,” said Zobaida Jalal, a member of Parliament and former education minister.

The phenomenon began in the 1980s, when General Zia gave madrasas money and land in an American-supported policy to help Islamic fighters against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

The Islamic schools are also seen as employment opportunities. “When someone doesn’t see a way ahead for himself, he builds a mosque and sits in it,” said Jan Sher, whose village in southwestern Punjab, Shadan Lund, has become a militant stronghold, with madrasas now outnumbering public schools.

Poverty has also helped expand enrollment in madrasas, which serve as a safety net by housing and feeding poor children.

“How can someone who earns 200 rupees a day afford expenses for five children?” asked Hafeezur Rehman, a caretaker in the Jamia Sadiqqia Taleemul Koran madrasa in Multan, the main city in south Punjab. The school houses and feeds 73 boys from poor villages.

Former President Pervez Musharraf tried to regulate the madrasas, offering financial incentives if they would add general subjects. But after taking the money, many refused to allow monitoring. “The madrasa reform project failed,” said Javed Ashraf Qazi, a retired general who served as education minister at the time.

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, says he is acutely aware of the problem and is trying a different approach, recently setting aside $75 million to build free model schools in 80 locations close to large madrasas, a tactic General Qazi had also proposed.

In the district that includes Mohri Pur, a mud-walled village of about 6,000 where farmers drive on dirt roads in tractors and donkey carts piled high with sticks and grasses, there are an estimated 200 madrasas, one-third the number of public schools, said Mr. Anjum, the education official.

Nonreligious private schools have also sprouted since the 1990s. They have better student-teacher ratios, but only the most exclusive — out of reach of most middle-class Pakistanis — offer a rigorous, modern education.

Mr. Ali, the fifth-grade teacher, says the madrasas have changed Mohri Pur. They are Deobandi, adherents of an ultraorthodox Sunni school of thought that opposes music and festivals, which are central aspects of Sufism, a tolerant form of Islam that is traditional here.

There were no madrasas in Mohri Pur in the late 1980s, when Mr. Ali began teaching. Now there are at least five. Most are affiliated with a branch in the neighboring town of Kabirwala of Darul Uloom, a powerful Deobandi seminary founded in 1952, and whose leaders in other parts of Pakistan have links to the Taliban.

Several local residents said they believed the Kabirwala seminary was dangerous. Some of its members were involved in sectarian violence against Shiites in the 1990s, they said.

“People seem scared of them,” Mr. Ali said. “We don’t ask questions.”

Even if the madrasas do not make militants, they create a worldview that makes militancy possible. “The mindset wants to stop music, girls’ schools and festivals,” said Salman Abid, a social researcher in southern Punjab. “Their message is that this is not real life. Real life comes later” — after death.

On a recent Thursday, the Kabirwala seminary was buzzing with activity. Officials showed rooms of boys crouched over Korans, reading and rocking. A full kitchen had an industrial-size bread oven. Flowers adorned walkways. The foundation for a new dormitory had been broken.

There was also a girls’ section, with its own entrance, where hundreds of young women chanted in unison after directions from a male voice that came from behind a curtain. “We have a passion for this work,” said Seraj ul-Haq, a computer teacher who is part of the family that founded the seminary.Teachers preach restrictions. February’s newsletter set out a list of taboos: Valentine’s Day. Music. Urban women “wearing imported perfume.” Talking about women’s rights.

Suicide bombings were neither encouraged nor condemned.

The ideology may be rigid, but it offers the promise of respect, a powerful draw for lower-class young men.

Abed Omar, 24, had little religious education before he was inspired by a sermon at the seminary last year. Better educated than most, he began to work in his family’s sweets shop.

Restless and unfulfilled, he joined a conservative Islamic group, paying about $625 to travel with them around the country for four months on a preaching tour.

The group, Tablighi Jamaat, taught him that Islam forbids music and speaking with women. (He would speak to this reporter only through a male colleague.) American officials suspect that the group is a steppingstone to the Taliban. Pakistani officials say it is peaceful.

Now, when Mr. Omar visits his friends, “they turn off their tape players and give me their seat,” he said, a smile lifting his face, which, in the practice of some conservative Islamists, has a bushy beard but no mustache.

He is frustrated by a lack of opportunity and at how much of Pakistan’s bureaucracy requires political connections, which he does not have. “There is no merit,” he said.

His faith gives him hope. “I want to make everyone a preacher of Islam,” Mr. Omar said brightly, eating honey-soaked fritters in his family’s shop.

He knows about 100 people in his town who have done a four-month tour like his. As for those who sign up for less, he said “they are countless.”

Refugees on a wild frontier between army and Taliban

Islamabad's war with its militants is destroying lives and dislocating communities, as civilians flee in rising numbers
Declan Walsh in Totalai, Buner,
Two hours' drive from downtown Islamabad, with its leafy avenues and upmarket restaurants, a chain of jagged mountains in North-West Frontier Province marks the frontline of Pakistan's war with the Taliban.

A flood of refugees spills down from the hills and on to the plains at the edge of war-torn Buner district, bringing tales of bloodshed and destruction. Many are angry at the Pakistani army which, they say, has shelled homes and mistakenly killed civilians.

In Totalai, on the southern edge of Buner, a clutch of angry men piled off an overloaded tractor pulling a trailer filled with burka-clad women clutching cloth sacks and exhausted children.

"At night we are bombarded by the big guns and in the day by the helicopters," said Muhammad Saleh, a farmer, gesticulating wildly. They had come from Nawagai, a village caught in the crossfire, he said, pointing to a teenager with a bandaged leg, injured by army shelling.

"They should use smaller weapons. They are trying to hit a pigeon with a cannon," he said.

On another vehicle, a 30-year-old teacher, Abdul Aziz, said the head of Nawagai secondary school, Bakht Garim Shah, had been shot in his car by a helicopter gunship as he returned from an examination centre. "There were three other people with him and all were killed. And on the television the government was calling them suicide bombers!" he said. "Now we can't even get their corpses."

Last Friday, a day after the alleged incident took place, a military spokesman said the army had destroyed eight "suicide vehicles" and six vehicles containing fleeing militants.

Other refugees backed the operation, despite its heavy toll. Zakir, a 22-year-old computer store clerk, said his village, Swari, was straining under food shortages and a 24-hour curfew. But life under the Taliban had been worse, he said.

After seizing control last month, militants had robbed two banks, closed barber shops, banned music and forced people to disable their satellite television receivers, he said. They had tried to impose a crude form of justice, threatening to flog a man alleged to have made a sexual advance to another. "This is not right. There is no [use of] force in Islam," said Zakir, speaking from the safety of a house where he had taken shelter.

A journalist from the main town, Daggar, said the Taliban stole women's jewellery at gunpoint, occupied several marble factories and looted the homes of tribesmen who had dared to oppose them.

There is no official estimate of the number of refugees, but it is thought to be thousands. Many are being welcomed into Buner by al-Khidmat, the charity wing of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the country's largest religious party. Volunteers offer food, drink and an Islamist-tinged critique of the situation.

"They should not have launched this operation. The problem could be solved through negotiation," said Ghuluam Mustafa, a JI official and deputy mayor of Buner district.

Further north, along the border, on the edge of the fighting, there were no refugees. In Rustum, the army had set up artillery to fire on Taliban positions in the Ambela pass, scene of the heaviest fighting. On Saturday afternoon the main street was empty and most shops shuttered. But Muhammad Javed, an elderly watch repairman, kept his door open.

The sound of shelling, from a nearby field, was keeping him awake at night, he complained. "Our people are not bad," he said. "It's just our terrible system of governance that has caused all this."

Down the road, Khalid Khan, a teacher and landowner, said the fighting had upset his nightly sessions of online Scrabble. Instead of playing with fellow enthusiasts in England, he said, he used his internet connection to share the sound of battle with them. "Obviously they were pretty shocked," he said.

Khan said the battle was "critical" to Pakistan's future, but US fears of a Taliban takeover in Islamabad, 55 miles to the south, were ill-informed. "The concept that this is an organised army, moving towards the capital, is just wrong," he said.

Last night, though, more fighting loomed as a peace pact in neighbouring Swat hung by a thread. Tensions rose as armed Taliban started patrols in the main town, Mingora. They beheaded two security personnel and blew up a bridge; the government imposed a curfew.

President Asif Ali Zardari, who flies to Washington this week for talks with President Barack Obama, urgently needs a victory. US officials, dangling $400m in aid, have been sharply critical of his government. But it is not just Zardari's fault. Earlier efforts to tackle militancy have been hampered by poor strategy and, sometimes, the ambivalence of those fighting the battles.

Among a small number of refugees in Rustum was a paramilitary soldier with the Frontier Constabulary who said he had surrendered to the Taliban after his platoon was overrun at the Pir Baba sufi shrine last week.

The soldier, who requested anonymity, said the Taliban treated him surprisingly well – offering food, tea, a torch and even a bus fare home. The shalwar kameez he was wearing had been donated by a Talib who took his uniform, he said.

The experience made him develop a certain sympathy for the militants, he said with a shy smile. "From what I heard them say, and what I saw, I feel we are in the wrong," he said.