India Expected To Raise Tension With Pakistan During Commonwealth Games

Security analysts who reviewed India’s record fear New Delhi might use terrorism at Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010 to divert international media’s attention away from deeply embarrassing preparations for the event

In this picture: Indian women work at a construction project in front of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, India. Picture: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

By ANANT SHETH in New Delhi, Gulpari Mehsud in Islamabad
PakNationalists.com
Sunday, 15 August 2010.

NEW DELHI, India—Traffic jams, shoddy game venues and a lousy organization are expected to create an international embarrassment for India in the Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010 in October. Already the media coverage is giving Indian officials sleepless nights, with less-than-inspiring headlines such asCommonwealth Games: Safety fears grow amid chaos‎, Organizers of India’s Commonwealth Games Face Corruption Allegations and Commonwealth Games: Safety fears grow amid chaos‎.

But the worst could be yet to come: a terrorist attack on New Delhi killing international athletes carried out by any one of the one hundred deadly terror groups active in India.  These groups fuel fourteen violent insurgencies that receive little coverage in the international media. Topping the list is the Naxalite insurgency that covers most of northeastern India.

This is to say nothing of the freedom movement in disputed Kashmir where angry Kashmiris are breathing down on New Delhi because of extrajudicial killings and mass rapes by the Indian army. Security analysts say that experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate there is bound to be blowback from an angry suppressed population.

Diplomats from New Zealand have already warned their government about the chances of a terror attack targeting the games.

Already in February this year a German bakery frequented by tourists was bombed killing seventeen people, including four foreigners. No one claimed responsibility but the location could mean one of the northeastern Indian militant groups might have been involved.

Blame It On Pakistan

But even if terrorism doesn’t strike New Delhi, there are reports Indian officials are considering ideas to divert the attention of Indian and international media away from the shabby preparations during the October 4-14 event.

Many Pakistani analysts are worried that New Delhi might resort to false flag operations or a mock terror threat to sidetrack media attention from the mess surrounding the games. In all probability, India could use one of the many Hindu terror groups to mount attacks that would be blamed on Pakistan. India has seen a mushrooming of Hindu terror groups over the past decade.

There are at least two recent precedents where India falsely accused Pakistan for terror acts that Indian investigators discovered later were committed by Hindu terrorists.

In both cases, serving Indian military intelligence officers were found directly involved in carrying out the bombings. The purpose was simple: To implicate Pakistan and its intelligence agencies and build international pressure to force Islamabad into conceding the disputed territory of Kashmir.

For example, an Irish newspaper published this report, India uncovers Hindu terror group that carried out bombings blamed on Islamists . A Hindu extremist and a serving Indian Army officer were arrested and charged with planting bombs in public places that were blamed on Pakistan. That was November 2008.

In Spring 2007, a peace train called Samjota Express carrying Pakistani visitors to India as part of peace dialogue was blown up causing a fire that burned 59 Pakistanis alive. The Indian government accused Pakistan’s ISI of involvement. It said Pakistan’s military wanted to derail Pakistan-India peace talks. A year later three serving Indian military intelligence officers were arrested for planning and executing the attack. The Indian investigator who uncovered the nexus between Indian intelligence and Hindu terror groups was the first casualty of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He was eliminated by a professional sniper far away from the Taj hotel but was his death was blamed on the terrorists who stormed that building. Read more of this post

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Kashmir needs freedom from India: Arundhati Roy

SRINAGAR: Activist and author Arundhati Roy, who was present at the massive Monday rally, said that the people of Kashmir have made themselves abundantly clear. ( Watch )

“And if no one is listening then it is because they don’t want to hear. Because this is a referendum. People don’t need anyone to represent them; they are representing themselves. As somebody who has followed people’s movements and who has been in rallies and at the heart or the edge of things, I don’t think you can dispute what you see here,” she toldTOI .

Roy also said that “since the 1930s, there have been debates and disputes about who has the right to represent the Kashmiri people, whether it was Hari Singh or Sheikh Abdullah or someone else. And the debate continues till today whether it is the Hurriyat or some other party.”

Then she added, “But I think today the people have represented themselves.”

Roy concluded with words, “India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs azadi from India.” –TOI

> Arundhati Roy on BBC Urdu Service about current kashmir violence

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Afghans are freedom fighters fighting for their country and fighting for their faith


Afghanistan Sitrep

By William R. Polk

On June 24, the International Herald Tribune published an editorial from its parent, The New York Times, entitled “Obama’s Decision.” Both the attribution – printing in the two newspapers which ensures that the editorial will reach both directly and through subsidiary reprinting almost every “decision maker” in the world – and the date – just before the appointment of David Petraeus to succeed Stanley McChrystal – are significant. They could have suggested a momentary lull in which basic questions on the Afghan war might have been reconsidered.

That did not happen. The President made clear his belief that the strategy of the war was sound and his commitment to continue it even if the general responsible for it had to be changed.

The editorial sounded a different note arising from the events surrounding the fall of General McChrystal: Mr. Obama, said The Times, “must order all of his top advisers to stop their sniping and maneuvering” and come up with a coherent political and military plan for driving back the Taliban and building a minimally effective Afghan government.”

In short, Mr. Obama must get his team together and evolve a plan.

Unfortunately, the task he faces is not that simple.

First, consider the “team.” It has two major components, the military officers whom McChrystal gathered in Kabul. As they made clear in the Rolling Stone interview, they think of themselves as “Team America” and hold in contempt everyone else. Those who don’t fully subscribe to their approach to the war are unpatriotic, stupid or cowardly. Those officers are not alone. Agreeing with them is apparently now a large part of the professional military establishment. They are the junior officers whom David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal have selected, promoted and with whom they take their stand..

The other “component” is not a group but many groups with different agendas and constituencies. The most crucial for my purposes here are the advisers to the President; they were dismissed out of hand as “the wimps in the White House.” Most, but not all, were civilians. Other senior military officers, now retired, who are not part of “Team America” and its adherents were also disparaged. Famously, General Jim Jones, the director of the National Security Council staff, was called a “clown.”

These were the comments that forced Mr. Obama’s hand and were what the press latched upon to explain the events. But many missed the point that McChrystal had just a few days before his dismissal written a devastating report on his mission. Confidential copies of it were obtained by the London newspaper, The Independent on Sunday, which published it today, but of course the President had seen it earlier. Essentially, its message boiled down to failure.

McChrystal pointed out that he faced a “resilient and growing insurgency,” with too few troops and expected no progress in the coming six months. Despite expenditures of at least $7 billion a month, his politico-military strategy wasn’t working. Within weeks of the “victory” over the Taliban in the agricultural district of Marja, the Taliban were back and the box full of government he had announced proved to be nearly empty. As the expression went in the days of the Vietnam war, whatever happened during the day, the guerrillas “owned the night.” As he described it, Marja was the “bleeding ulcer” of the American campaign.

Behind McChrystal’s words, the figures were even more devastating: Marja, despite the descriptions in the press is not a town, much less a city; it is a hundred or so square miles of farm land with dispersed hamlets in which about 35,000 people live and work. Into that small and lightly populated area, McChrystal poured some 15,000 troops, and they failed to secure it.

To appreciate what those figures mean, consider them in context of Petraeus’s counterinsurgency theory, on which McChrystal was basing his strategy. As he had explained it, Marja should be taken, secured and held. Then an administration – McChrystal’s “government in a box” — should be imposed upon it. Despite all the hoopla about the brilliant new strategy, it was hardly new. In fact it was a replay of the strategy the French General Lyautey called the tache d’huile (the oil spot) and applied in Indochina over a century ago. We also tried it in Vietnam, renaming it the “ink spot.” The hope was that the “spot,” once fixed on the Marja, would smudge into adjoining areas and so eventually spread across the country. Clear and simple, but unfortunately, like so much in counterinsurgency theory, it never seemed to work.

Petraeus’s counterinsurgency theory also illuminated how to create the “spot.” What was required was a commitment of forces in proportion to native population size. Various numbers have been put forth but a common number is about one soldier for each 50 inhabitants. Marja was the area chosen for the “spot.” The people living there, after all, were farmers, wedded to the land, and so should be more tractable than the wild warriors along the tribal frontier. Moreover, it was the place where the first significant American aid program, the Helmand Valley Authority, had been undertaken in the late 1950s. So, if an area were to be favorable to Americans, it ought to be Marja. But, to take no chances, General McChrystal decided to employ overwhelming force. So, what is particularly stunning about the failure in Marja is that the force applied was not the counterinsurgency model of 1 soldier for each 50 inhabitants but nearly 1 soldier for each 2 inhabitants.

If these numbers were projected to the planned offensive in the much larger city of Kandahar, which has a population of nearly 500,000, they become impossibly large. Such an attack would require at least four times as many US and NATO as in Marja. That is virtually the entire fighting force and what little control over Marja and most other areas, perhaps even the capital, Kabul, that now exists would have to be given up or else large numbers of additional American troops would have to be engaged. Moreover, in response to such an attack, it would be possible for the insurgents also to redeploy so the numbers would again increase.

The more fundamental question, which needs to be addressed, is why didn’t this relatively massive introduction of troops with awesome and overwhelming fire power succeed. Just a few days before he was fired, as I have mentioned, General McChrystal posed, but could not answer, that question. I hope President Obama is also pondering it.

For those who read history, the answer is evident. But, as I have quoted in my book Understanding Iraq, the great German philosopher, Georg Willhelm Friedrich Hegel, despaired that “Peoples and governments never have learned anything from history or acted on principles deduced from it” and, therefore, as the American philosopher George Santayana warned us, not having learned from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Indeed, it seems that each generation of Americans has to start all over again to find the answers. Who among our leaders and certainly among college students now really remembers Vietnam? So, consider these simple facts:

The first fact, whether we like it or not, is that nearly everyone in the world has a deep aversion to foreigners on his land. As far as we know, this feeling goes back to the very beginning of our species because we are territorial animals. Dedication to the protection of homeland permeates history. And the sentiment has never died out. Today we call it nationalism. Nationalism in various guises is the most powerful political idea of our times. Protecting land, culture, religion and people from foreigners is the central issue in insurgency. The former head of the Pakistani intelligence service, who has had unparallelled experience with the Taliban over many years, advised us that we should open our eyes to seeing the Afghan insurgents as they see themselves: “They are freedom fighters fighting for their country and fighting for their faith.” We agreed when they were fighting the Russians; now, when many of the same people are fighting us, we see them only as terrorists. That label does not help us understand why they are fighting. Read more of this post

A revolution?

By Marvi Memon

These days there is a lot of talk about revolution and a change of system. I see it as a control-alt-delete button on the keyboard. A clean up action of sorts where a new benchmark of what is acceptable in politics needs to be set up. The constitution is fine. So is parliamentary democracy. The problem is that no one sticks to the system. How does one ensure zero tolerance for wavering from the system? Simple — by ensuring that when there is a wavering from set rules, people are punished according to rules.

There is a common joke going around Islamabad these days: hang a few hundred politicians and this country will be fine. What this seems to suggest is that the politicians are the core problem. I feel that the responsibility lies on the politicians to govern since they are responsible for the fate of millions.

What should one expect from politicians? That they will make good laws and implement them. That they will create an Islamic, social welfare state. That they will rule in an egalitarian way. That if they have clean water to drink themselves, they won’t sleep until they have found a way to provide each Pakistani with clean drinking water too. That if they have access to education and basic health units, they will ensure that each Pakistani has the right to education and health facilities too. And until we don’t give the basic amenities to the poor, we have no business wasting each other’s time politicking.

There is a long list of revolts, rebellions, and revolutions in world history. They happen when people reach the peak of the minimum acceptable level of humiliation and are ready to turn out those responsible for their misery. Read more of this post

Barbarity of Indian Army in Indian Occupied Kashmir

Indian atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir From Jan. 1989 to May 31, 2010

  • Total Killings* = 93,241
  • Custodial Killings = 6,969
  • Civilians Arrested = 117,117
  • Structures Arsoned/Destroyed = 105,845
  • Women Widowed = 22,726
  • Children Orphaned = 107,347
  • Women gang-raped / Molested = 9,912



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Pentagon Seeks Contractor to Move Weapons Through Pakistan/Afghanistan

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by Jeremy Scahill

The United States military is in the process of taking bids from private war contractors to secure and ship massive amounts of US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan, where it will then be distributed to various US Forward Operating Bases and other facilities. According to thecontract solicitation (PDF), “There will be an average of 5000″ import shipments “transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments.” The solicitation states that, “This number may increase or decrease due to US military transportation requirements,” adding, “The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan” within a 30-day period. Among the duties the contractor will perform is “intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

And while it seems the United States is trying to put a Pakistani or Afghan face on the work, the terms of the contract mandate that US personnel will be involved with inherently risky and potentially lethal operations. Among the firms listed by the Department of Defense as “interested vendors” are an Afghan company tied to a veteran CIA officer and run by the son of Afghan defense minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, and a Pakistani outfit with links to Blackwater.

Perhaps most striking about this US military contract solicitation is the admission by the military that contractors are being used for shipping and guarding military hardware as a runaround to the current official policy of the US and Pakistan governments that the US military does not conduct operations in Pakistan. “Due to current limitations on having US military presence in Pakistan and threat levels precluding US Military active involvement with the contractor ‘outside the wire’ in Afghanistan, the contractor must be proactive at identifying appropriate methods for obtaining the necessary in-transit visibility information,” according to the contract solicitation.

Many of the companies that have currently expressed interest in the contract are registered as Pakistani or Afghan businesses. It is well established that the US military depends on Pakistani and Afghan intermediaries to pay off the Taliban and other resistance groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan to allow safe passage of US military hardware and other supplies, meaning the United States is effectively funding both sides of the war. As my colleague Aram Roston reported last year for The Nation, “US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts–hundreds of millions of dollars–consists of payments to insurgents.” Other US military sources have told me the number might be as high as 20 percent.

The current contracting arrangement for which the DoD is soliciting bids is essentially a more formalized way of doing the same thing. But while the contractor may place a Pakistani or Afghan stamp on the paper trail and allow the United States and Pakistan to deny that US personnel are involved, the security language of the solicitation actually mandates that US personnel work the operations.

According to the solicitation, the contractor must provide personnel “capable of facilitating, coordinating, obtaining, and reporting critical movement control data and information from the appropriate US government personnel at multiple locations.” The personnel must “have the ability to obtain necessary identification…to gain access to base camps within Afghanistan without escort.” Most importantly, “Personnel must have a valid US Secret Security Clearance.” That level of clearance—”Secret”—cannot be issued to a foreign citizen, meaning that the contract actually necessitates US citizens working on the contract, presumably in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This arrangement is not new. In fact, this is precisely the arrangement I reported on last year for The Nation (See “The Secret US War in Pakistan“). According to Blackwater and US military sources, US military shipments were being protected on a contract with Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. A former senior Blackwater executive with experience in Pakistan told me that Kestral subcontracted to Blackwater and that “Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan.” Blackwater, he said, was paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. “That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, ‘Hey, no, we don’t have any Westerners doing this. It’s all local and our people are doing it.’ But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work,” according to the former Blackwater executive.

All of this is consistent with the US military’s current contract solicitation. What’s more, Kestral is listed as an “interested vendor” on the current DoD contract. According to federal lobbying records, Kestral has hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues “regarding [Kestral’s] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States.” Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. Since late 2009, Kestral has paid Vision Americas and a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., at least $60,000 to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues. Read more of this post

USA, Israel and India are a pestilence upon the world

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by Asif Haroon Raja

In violation to international law, Bush administration heavy with neo-cons chalked out a policy in 2002 of unilateralism, shock and awe and pre-emption against a state whenever the US felt that its strategic interests were being harmed.

Threat perception also included non-state actors like Al-Qaeda or states harboring or assisting stateless elements. This policy framework got a shot in the arm when Al-Qaeda started to hurl threats that it would strike at US targets within or outside USA whenever opportunity came its way. Strategy of pre-emption was conceived with eye on Iraq and its oilfields and to retain US unchallenged uni-polarism.

Accordingly false story of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was fabricated and drummed up with full vigor. In order to justify the invasion, people of America and western world were frightened into believing that WMD had to be instantly taken control of before those could be used against western interests. None questioned Bush as to why he was risking the lives of American troops and coalition forces when he knew that the enemy was linked with Al-Qaeda and had WMD.

While the sole super power is consuming all its energies to browbeat outfits like al-Qaeda and Taliban for nearly 9 years, and trying to destabilize third world countries like Pakistan and Iran at the cost of its economy, prestige and credibility, Russia and China are busy expanding their influence globally and consolidating their economic gains. China has achieved astounding economic growth despite global recession and is modernizing its armed forces at a fast rate.

Russia too is feverishly engaged in reconstructing its armed forces after it achieved economic recovery. As a consequence, the two countries have surged ahead in the economic race and have also established their credibility on sound footing.

Economically hard pressed and debt ridden countries in particular have begun to veer towards China and Russia and are distancing from untrustworthy America, known for ditching its allies and too obsessed with self interests. Other reasons of US loss of face and credibility are its habit of applying sanctions upon states refusing to tow its line, offering aid on stringent conditions, influencing IMF and World Bank to make the countries seeking loans debt ridden for life, indulging in secret wars to destabilize regimes or bringing a regime change, stealing resources, over dependence on Israel and India, imposing self subscribed democracy in Muslim countries and pursuing dual-faced policies.

The US has no well defined and sound exit strategy from Afghanistan. It relies on force and high hopes which are wishful. The US military planners are still very optimistic that with two troop surges they will be able to sufficiently weaken the Taliban’s fighting potential and force them to come to the negotiating table. They fantasize that Karzai regime which is hated by Afghans would be able to win back majority of Taliban through reintegration and reconciliation policy. It is preposterous and hyperbolic and far from ground realities. On one hand the US invite Taliban to join puppet regime and on the other vicious attacks are launched against them in towns and cities inhabited by peace loving civilians who are forced to act as human shields by the ones trying to throw out occupiers as well as by the attackers who use them as informers and guides. It is the unarmed civilians who receive the major brunt of the crossfire and are the worst sufferers. It is they who are accused by the Taliban as American spies and by the latter as collaborators. Pashtun Afghans hate occupation forces and respect the Taliban waging a Jihad against aggressors who have made their lives miserable.

Reasons which compelled Obama to take the bitter decision to quit Afghanistan were mounting opposition against futile war on terror which had no ending, demand for return of forces by home audience and western countries, sinking morale of coalition troops, corrupt and inept Karzai regime, utterly weak position of ANA and Afghan police, melting economy of USA with little hope of recovery, ever increasing expenses of war in two theatres and debt liabilities crossing over $3 trillions, national debt jumping to $ 13 trillion, rising anti-Americanism, challenges posed by assertive Russia and China, growing power of Taliban, al-Qaeda becoming a global threat. His much touted healthcare has come under clouds due to financial constraints while his efforts to revitalize financial system, enfeebled by global recession have also been hampered by Republicans. Read more of this post

Target Pakistan

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The Nation

AS the US gets more desperate, it begins to increase the pressure on Pakistan, and with over 1000 Americans now dead in Afghanistan and no clear exit in sight, desperation is writ large over the US administration. So they are pushing Pakistan towards the edge through more destabilisation by insisting the Pakistan military commence a full-scale operation in North Waziristan Agency. According to officially placed reports in the US media, the Obama administration has now threatened Pakistan that unless it obeys their command relating to NWA, the Americans may themselves unilaterally conduct raids on the ground into Pakistan. Presumably, the US is counting on the fact that if the Pakistan’s civil and military leadership accepted the drone attacks despite domestic opposition, they will also concede to the invasion of Pakistan’s territory on the ground by US forces. But this would lead to a direct people-government confrontation and more terrorism if the Pakistan military did not respond to such a US move.

However, the anti-Pakistan agenda of the US is far more expansive than just the operation in NWA. The US-Indo connivance against Pakistan has now become overt with US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, clearing stating that in the context of the Pakistan-India relationship, the Kashmir issue should be pushed aside until “vital” issues like terrorism and trade have been addressed. Too bad Mr Blake does not understand Pakistan well enough to know that Kashmir is the most vital issue for Pakistan, not trade with India. But it does reflect the US administration’s mindset vis-a-vis Pakistan. It is unfortunate that our leadership and even our Foreign Ministry have remained silent on this very contentious US statement.

Nor is this all. The US has, to build a case against Pakistan on the terrorism issue, been deliberately planting evidence on young Pakistanis in the US and creating fake cases against them of helping the Taliban. The most recent is the case of Adnan Mirza who was lured by an FBI agent faking to be a Muslim with an interest in jehad and then planting hunting weapons on him so that he could be arrested on charges of “conspiring to help the Taliban fight US troops!” Given the way the whole case of Dr Aafia has been unfolding and the strange instance of Faisal Shahzad, Adnan Mirza’s conviction on 28 May is hardly convincing. Luckily for Adnan, his community work in Houston may help expose the US government’s targeting of Pakistanis. Let us not forget what the UK’s Labour government tried to do with the Pakistani students in Britain before the courts exposed the whole episode for the lie that it was.

As Pakistanis what we should be asking is why our state is deliberately allowing its citizens to become collateral damage, in one way or another, to a US war which is now being directed at Pakistan itself.

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The Fate of Kashmir

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by Yasmin Qureshi
I had wanted to go to Kashmir ever since I visited Palestine in 2007. There are many similarities in the nature of the occupation as well as the struggles, both being nearly 63 years old. One difference is that while Israel is seen as an external occupying force in Palestine, the Kashmir issue is considered an ‘internal’ matter or a conflict between Pakistan and India and the voice of Kashmiris is often lost. As a result there are fewer international organizations monitoring the region and little information about the extent and impact of the occupation gets out.

A lay off from my company in August 2009 gave me the perfect opportunity to visit the region, called ‘a paradise on earth’ by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The unanimous message I heard as I traveled and spoke to journalists, taxi drivers, pony riders, waiters, students and teachers was that they want azadi (independence); freedom from the occupation by India.

As a Muslim minority who grew up in India, it took me some years to take a position on the Kashmir issue. My visit to Palestine forced me to analyze why I could show solidarity with Palestinians but remain unsure about Kashmir. I was also falling into the trap many Indian Muslims do – if only Kashmiris would give up their struggle against the Indian government there would be peace for Muslims in the rest of India and the scars of partition would be gone.

The first striking view of the capital city Srinagar from the landing airplane was the breathtaking beauty of the magnificent Himalayas in the backdrop of a long stretch of army tents and buildings along the runway. Six army men stood around the plane guarding with guns. I wanted to take a picture but was advised against it by my neighbor.

The extent of militarization is appalling. There are 700,000 troops and 70,000 police forces for a population of roughly 10 million. The Indian military has been conducting training sessions with Israel on how to curb resistance in Kashmir. Checkpoints and detention centers (which also turn into torture centers) are all over the valley. “There are more soldiers here than in Afghanistan or Iraq,” said Qazi Mir, my taxi driver who often drove journalists to cover news stories. “How do Indians expect us to be part of their country? Do they know what it is like to live surrounded by armed men?” he asked. The combined troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in March 2010 were roughly around 250,000.

A senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer admitted that unless the longstanding grievances of injustice and suppression of civil liberties are addressed in a fair manner there will never be peace. “Things are better now. Our forces have been reduced but we are still very distant from a healing process”, he said as we chatted during iftaar (the breaking of the Ramadan fast) at an old family friend’s place. Tired of the violence, some members of their family had moved to Delhi during the 1990s.

The nature of the struggle has changed over the years. Non-violent protests and isolated incidences of violence had been taking place for some years. A rigged election in 1987 which lead to massive protests was a turning point. Images of the first intifada(uprising) in Palestine the same year were an inspiration. However, the fraud elections lead to a feeling of deceit and frustration that evolved into a violent insurgency throughout the 1990s. Kashmiris felt that democratic and peaceful means of resistance were choked.

With the rise in arrests, torture, killings and rape by Indian soldiers, young men started taking up arms. Pakistan took advantage of the frustrations of the Kashmiris and started arming groups like Lashkar-i-Tayyaba and Harkatul Mujahedeen. The US-lead mujahedeen resistance movement in Afghanistan against the Soviets also had an influence in shaping the 1990s resistance. More than 300,000 Kashmiris, mostly Hindu pundits were displaced.

Jawed Bukhari was part of the armed resistance but gave up arms some years ago. He now works on documenting missing and torture cases. “Some years ago we were worried about whether the next generation will continue our struggle,” he said. “Now we have no worries. We don’t need an armed struggle anymore. The civil society has taken on the resistance through non-violent actions like strikes and protests,” he continued. The last twenty years of oppression, torture and humiliation has given rise to a more mature, sustained and united resistance movement.

Massive protests in July-August 2008 against the state government’s decision to transfer 100 acres of land to the Amaranth Shrine Board are the best example of this new form of uprising. The state said that the land would be used to build toilets and huts for Hindu pilgrims visiting a cave in the mountain ranges in the state. Thousands of acres of land including forests, hills, orchards and schools had already been taken over by the armed forces over the years. Kashmiris perceived this as occupation of their land, similar to tactics of settlement building by Israel in West Bank. Thousands of people, young and old, men and women, came out on the streets all across the valley in cities and villages.

The only company on the road to Gulmarg, a beautiful city I had pleasant memories of from my visit as a young girl in 1984 was a trail of military trucks. Sadly a lot of the prime land there has turned into an army camp. As we drove through the lush green rolling mountains Mir pointed to a hut where the Hindi film, Bobby was shot. I could visualize Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia singing “Hum tum ek kamre mein band hon”. Prior to the late 1980s Indian films often depicted Kashmir as a romantic and exotic place for Indians, masking the lives and tribulations of Kashmiris [1].

“How can we forget what the army did to our women? One day we will be independent, Inshallah. We know that,” said an old pony owner as we rode towards a glacier. When he pointed out to a far off mountain range on the Pakistan border I asked him if he would want to be part of Pakistan. “We just want an independent Kashmir. What has Pakistan done for us,” he said.

I was lucky to be in Srinagar at a time when two important conferences were taking place. The first was by a delegation of women from Delhi to investigate the Shopian case. The other was on ‘Half Widows and Orphans’ to mark the International day of the Disappeared organized by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). I was stopped at a checkpoint a few meters before the venue for the APDP conference. It reminded me of the checkpoints in West Bank. The policemen let me go after asking where I had come from and why and where I was going. It was an important conference and the police were keeping an eye.

Half widows are women whose husbands have been missing but have not been declared dead. They are neither widow nor can they remarry. In desperate search and hope that one day their husbands will return, these women lead a life of immense stress and hardship. They often don’t qualify for support from NGOs since there is no clause for ‘half widows’.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act gives authorities special powers to search and arrest without a warrant. Anyone qualifies as a suspect. “This is what leads to large scale human rights violations and torture,” explained Parvez Imroze, human rights activist and founder of APDP and Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). His organization also monitors elections.

The act has been in place in the Northeastern states since 1958 and was introduced in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. State authorities have the right to detain persons without charge or judicial review for as long as two years. During this time family members do not have access to detainees, and detainees do not have access to legal counsel. “There have been only 15 cases of militants abducting civilians and military men in 20 years. In contrast, armed forces are responsible for 10,000 missing persons. Families of missing persons struggle for justice for years. This is a failure of the judicial system,” Imroze continued. His life has often been under threat and is closely monitored by the Indian state. Read more of this post

Understanding NATO’s agenda

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by Dr. Shireen M Mazari

By now one should not be surprised by any statement coming from the present leadership in the context of foreign policy. After all, if President Zardari could declare, contrary to all historical facts, that India was never a threat to Pakistan; and FM Qureshi could become virtually hysterical in praising the controversial Kerry-Lugar Act; then why should the PM be found wanting in these absurdities? So, when PM Gilani sought guarantees from NATO not to leave Afghanistan till peace had been established there, one was disappointed but not surprised. After all he had just come back from a visit to Brussels and one knows how Pakistanis, from the media to the bureaucrats (both civil and military) to the political leaders, are easily seduced by NATO in Brussels and their military headquarters not too far away. This scribe has herself seen the extensive PR operationalised by NATO for this purpose and only the diehard dissenters can survive the charm onslaught!

However, one hopes the PM will rethink his belief that NATO can establish peace and security in Afghanistan, given how it, along with the US, has been responsible for the worsening situation in that country because of its military-centric approach. In fact, if NATO were to leave and hand back charge to ISAF as originally decreed by the UN Security Council, peace and stability will probably come quicker to Afghanistan. Certainly, in the context of Pakistan, the stability factor would become more evident with a US-NATO withdrawal from this region.

Unfortunately, NATO is not likely to do so, because since the end of the Soviet Union, NATO has been desperately seeking new rationalisations for its continuation as an organisation. After all, NATO was established as a collective defence organisation and, in legal terms, remains so in terms of its legitimacy through the UN system – under Chapter VIII, Articles 52 and 53, as well as Chapter VII’s notion of collective self-defence as embodied in Article 51.

However, regional collective defence organisations need to operate in the specific region of their membership since decision making is restricted to this membership. Despite NATO expanding its functions and strategic concepts, its essential purpose as stated in its 1999 Strategic Concept remains “to safeguard the freedom and security of its members by political and military means” (Chapter 2: The transformation of the Alliance).

Given the continuing European-Atlantic membership of NATO, it is somewhat disturbing to see NATO transforming itself from a collective defence organisation (Article 5 of the NATO Charter is surely in the context of collective defence?) to a collective security organisation to serve the interests of its membership. There is no legitimacy for any collective security organisation other than the UN with its universal membership. Article 51 of the UN Charter provides a very clear and limited framework for collective defence organisations. Article 52 of the Charter relates to regional arrangements in connection with maintenance of peace and security and talks in terms of these organisations coming into being “as are appropriate for regional action.” Also, under Article 53, there can be no action without authorisation of the Security Council except against an enemy state as defined in Article 53:2. Read more of this post

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