Friday, February 29, 2008

Secularists Face Tests In Northwest Pakistan

By Candace Rondeaux
NAWAGAI, Pakistan -- Parliamentary elections have come and gone in this village of mud-brick homes, but signs of unrest still abound. In the council hall, the walls have been stained by blood, evidence of a preelection bombing at a political rally. In the village cemetery, the graves of more than...(The Washington Post)

Missile Attack, Possibly by NATO, Kills 8 in Pakistan

By ISMAIL KHAN Eight suspected Islamic militants were killed by missiles that appeared to have been launched from NATO-held territory in Afghanistan. (The New York Times)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Pakistan Elections: What Next? -- II

(left to right) Robert Hathaway, Director Asia Program Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Eirc Bjornlund (Cofounder and Principal of Democracy International), Hassan Abbas (Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs), Hassan Askari Rizvi (Annual Pakistan Studies Scholar at John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies), and Marvin Weinbaum (Scholar-in-Residence at the Middle East Institute) at an event “The Pakistan Elections: What Next?” organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars (Photo: Rana Fawad)

'Nawaz to inherit the democratic wind'

In his analysis, Marvin Weinbaum found the Pakistani voters’ enthusiasm against the establishment in this election similar to that in 1971. He termed it a historic election in the sense that “It is the first truly democratic, constitutional transfer of power in Pakistan’s history.” He added that it was a verdict on the last few years of the previous government.

Marvin Weinbaum commented that it was ‘bread and butter election’ because the shortages in wheat and energy really turned people against the incumbent government.

He agreed with Eric Bjornlund that there was a biased pre-election atmosphere in terms of access to the media, the way the Punjab government distributed jobs, judiciary, etc., and “this was meant to go the way of the government.”

He said as far as the United States was concerned, this election was supposed to take the heat off Musharraf. “Obviously, it burned him and burned him very severely,” he commented.

Referring to the down side of this election, Marvin Weinbaum was of the view that it remained about personalities. “It was not an election about issues, manifestoes and, therefore, was keeping in the tone of Pakistan’s politics,” he said and added, “This has to be a disappointment.”

Talking about the voters in Pakistan, Marvin Weinbaum mentioned that contrary to a perception held by many, the electorate was moderate. “It is certainly a conservative electorate, Islamic electorate. But not one which has ever seen the religious leaders as desirable as the leaders of the country,” he argued.

As for the war on terrorism and the impact of the elections, he said on balance it was a good outcome because it meant the future policy on the issue would emerge out of the elected government. He explained that sooner or later the new government would have to recognize the challenges posed by the extremism.

However, he warned that the new policy on terrorism in that region should be disconnected from the American link. He pointed out that as long as the policy was perceived as an American project the people of the country would not support it, though they were turned off by the extremists.

He regretted that apart from congratulating the winners, the US also reminded them of the importance of the war on terrorism. “We would have been better off, if we had left off the latter part of our congratulatory remarks,” he suggested.

Marvin Weinbaum commented that the US policy of seeing Musharraf as indispensable had failed to recognize the change taking place in that country. He added that the US policy did not recognize that Musharraf was increasingly irrelevant because the people gave their verdict against him and he was not any more the army chief.

He said it was going to be the army, feeling the support of the people, which would determine the extent of the policy on extremism. He warned that, “The last thing we should be perceived of now is meddling in that. And I’m afraid that’s the way it’s being seen in Pakistan.”

He told the audience that after the elections, the Pakistani newspapers were already saying the US should stay out of that.

Referring to the US policy on Pakistan, he said it was ironical that “Every time we tried to help Musharraf, we usually make it worse for him. We have failed to appreciate that the last thing he needs is our praise because naturally this reinforces the idea that he acts as an instrument of American policy.”

He pointed out that the congratulations had been provided specifically to Musharraf for holding a free and fair election. “It’s very much like congratulating the thief who, with all his preparations, decided not to rob the bank,” he quipped.

Commenting on the future prospects of democracy in Pakistan, he struck an optimistic note by saying that unlike 1990s, when the political parties gave democracy a black eye, this election gave the leaders another opportunity which is more than just jockeying for power.

Shedding some light on the future leadership in Pakistan, he predicted Asif Zardari would be grooming himself for power in the coming days though Amin Fahim would be the prime minister for the time being.

As for Nawaz Sharif, he said, “I think ultimately the man who will inherit the democratic wind here is going to be Nawaz Sharif” and added, “If this goes in a direction I see it is going, I’m afraid there will be an election long before the next scheduled election.”

He hinted that in the next election largely a unified Muslim League would emerge as the leading party.

Marvin Weinbaum concluded his comments by saying that democracy has another opportunity and the time for the military government is up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

India missile test to start arms race: Pakistan

KARACHI (Reuters) - India's successful test-firing of a nuclear-capable, submarine-launched missile will trigger a new arms race in the region, Pakistan's navy chief said on Wednesday.(The Washington Post)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Pakistan Elections: What Next? -- I

By Rana Fawad

WASHIGNTON: The US should urge President Pervez Musharraf to step down after the Pakistanis gave their verdict against his party in February 18 elections.

This view was expressed by all the speakers at an event “The Pakistan Elections: What Next?” held under the auspices of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars on Monday. Robert Hathaway, Director Asia Program Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars moderated the proceedings while the speakers included Eric Bjornlund (Cofounder and Principal of Democracy International), Hassan Abbas (Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs), Hassan Askari Rizvi (Annual Pakistan Studies Scholar at John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies), and Marvin Weinbaum (Scholar-in-Residence at the Middle East Institute).

Eric Bjornlund, who observed elections in Pakistan, told the audience that despite the fact how flawed and difficult the pre-election environment was, it gave the people an opportunity to express their will. He said that general acceptance of the election was that the results reflected what the people were trying to say.

“The election day was relatively peaceful and there was no evidence of systematic manipulation,” he informed the gathering. He also told the audience about the methodology that was adopted to monitor the elections and added that a detailed report would be released later on.

Referring to his organization’s efforts to monitor these elections, he said his team had the advantage because they had been working with the Asia foundation as well as a domestic election monitoring coalition called Free and Fair Elections Network that resulted in almost 20,000 election observers on the election day.

Hassan Abbas addressed three key questions: one, will the new parliament work; two, was there any element of rigging; and three, will the new government create any complications for the US policy of war on terrorism?

Interpreting the election results, Hassan Abbas opined that despite pre-election rigging by the King’s party and despite pro-Musharraf leniency shown by the US, the people of Pakistan gave a very clear verdict which was anti-Musharraf and anti-mullah. He added that the verdict was for liberal forces, democracy, provincial autonomy, and independence of judiciary in Pakistan.

In his view, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) got a significant share of the vote bank in the Punjab province because Nawaz Sharif took a very strong stance that he will restore the judiciary. As for the People’s Party’s success, Hassan commented that the PPP got 37 per cent of the votes which is about the same because in the previous five elections, this party had the support of 35 per cent of the voters in each election.

However, he termed the success of the Awami National Party (ANP) an important development. Hassan Abbas told the audience that many analysts missed this potential victory in their forecasts because in 2002, elections were rigged as confessed by a former Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) official, General Ihtisham Zamir, who admitted that he did rigging on the instructions of Musharraf in favor of some of the religious parties.

Hassan Abbas said it became clear that in 2002 the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) benefited from the intelligence community’s help apart from drawing support from the anti-American sentiment at that time.

He pointed out that the MMA’s poor performance during the last five years also contributed to the ANP’s success. He said the ANP, which is an old secular party, had contended that they would stand for the Pushtoon nationalism and they had become victims of the Pakistani military operation, the jihadi elements and across the border from the coalition forces’ operations.

Commenting on the future of the PPP-PML-N coalition, Hassan Abbas sounded optimistic and commented that both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari had matured as politicians and cooperated with each other very intelligently in the past few years. “This potential coalition of PPP, PML-N and ANP will actually work,” he said. However, he also warned that in the coming six months intrigues will begin either by some intelligence agency or the political opponents to tear down the government.

Referring to the rigging, Hassan Abbas gave credit to the new army chief General Kiyani and told the gathering that there was a rigging plan in place. He said it was General Kiyani who took a very serious stand and in an unprecedented way invited some of the journalists to the General Headquarters and told them off the record, knowing those journalists would go out and talk to the people, that the army would not be responsible for any rigging and it would try its best to ensure the elections were free and fair. “That was a jolt for Musharraf. I think the pro-Musharraf party that had some plans for rigging was not expecting it,” he added.

Analyzing the success of the Musharraf’s PML-Q in Balochistan province, Hassan Abbas said there were some serious problems because a party that was defeated all over the country and was responsible for a lot of chaos in Balochistan emerged as the winner there.

He linked it to the Pakistani establishment’s thinking to hold control and save Balochistan. He said the establishment was feeling that due to numerous factors including important assets in that province, Gwadar port, proximity to Afghanistan, remnants of Taliban, etc., a conspiracy might be hatched in the western capitals that Balochistan should go autonomous. “So I think some manipulation did happen in Balochistan,” he concluded.

Forecasting the future of war on terrorism under the new government, Hassan Abbas opined that it would not create any complication. He said the new political leadership would not define the policy on war on terrorism rather it would be decided by the Pakistan army and General Kiyani. He added that it should not be a source of concern because the US intelligence agencies and General Kiyani had a solid relationship to achieve the goals.

Hassan Abbas commented that the elections were more credible that the previous four and this exercised proved that whenever the Pakistan army wanted to do something they delivered. On an optimistic note about the stability in the future, he urged the international community as well as the US not to focus on dictators only because the elections results showed the people were for secular forces and they should be nurtured and groomed.

Hassan Askari Rizvi termed these elections as a major success for the democratic forces in the conflict between authoritarianism and aspirations for democratic as well as participatory political system. “And this time the balance has been tilted in favor of the democratic forces but the confrontation between authoritarianism and aspirations for democracy continues,” he commented.

He said the outcome of the elections proved two things: one, a system built around one person has crumbled; two, the county returned to normalcy as far as the Islamic religious parties’ vote bank was concerned.

Prof Hassan Askari explained that the religious parties used to play their role as pressure groups except in Zia as well as Musharraf regime. He pointed out that the elections had provided an opportunity to create a viable and coherent political order. However, he warned that it was too early to predict whether the political leaders would succeed given their past record.

“At the moment these political leader appear very confident, at times over confident.
Then you also have political forces and societal groups that are impatient. They want things to be done overnight,” he said and added that those people wanted things like changes in the Constitution, restoration of the judiciary, etc., but this haste could portend danger of overlooking the ground political realities that existed in Pakistan.

Highlighting the immediate political realities in Pakistan, the professor pointed out that the first and the foremost challenge for the political leaders would be to contend with the political beneficiaries of the Musharraf political system in their efforts to realize the objectives they laid out in the run up to the election.

He said another challenge would come from the political forces and societal groups because they would like issues such as the removal of judges, provincial autonomy, etc., to be settled. “Therefore the question is whether they can create a minimum consensus on the operational norms of the system they want to pursue,” he added.

Prof Hassan Askari explicated that the new political leadership’s capacity to address those issues would depend to a great extent on Musharraf’s future. “My own feeling is that Musharraf and new leadership will not be able to work for a long period of time,” he commented and predicted that a clash between the two would be unavoidable in just a couple of months which could result either in Musharraf’s removal or the collapse of the system.

Analyzing Musharraf’s style of governance, Prof Hassan Askari said it would be difficult for Musharraf to work with the new government. “He had managed the country for the last eight, nine years single-handedly and reduced the political leadership of the past to non-entity. All the three prime ministers were political nonentities,” he commented.

He said the new political leaders would not accept that kind of role to work with him because their own political future would at stake. “The ideal situation would be that Musharraf resigns voluntarily. That would enable the government to deal with the issue of restoration of the judges, amendments to the Constitution,” he explained and added “if that does not happen then you’ve a very serious situation in Pakistan.”

Prof Hassan Askari Rizvi also remarked that the US should encourage Musharraf to quit because his continuation would also create problems for the efforts in the direction of counterterrorism. He said Musharraf had managed counterterrorism as an administrative and bureaucratic affair with no or little involvement of the people.

He advised the US that the new leadership’s moderation would let them initiate a dialogue with the extremists and we should not get up set about that because they would use a different kind of combination of political means and if those means do not work the then the focus could shift to the military means.

Obama's stance on Pakisan questioned again

During a crucial debate between the Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Obama said his position on strikes against Pakistan implied if there was actionable intelligence against Osama bin Laden and Pakistan can't strike, the US should.

He was challenged by Hillary Clinton that his stance on Pakistan meant bombing the country which was not a smart approach.

Pakistan Targets TV Critics

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan's elections were supposed to usher in democracy after eight years of military rule, but for Talat Hussain life doesn't look much different. Every time his TV station tries to air shows critical of President Pervez Musharraf, the screen goes black.(The Washington Post)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pakistan Taliban Warn New Government to Keep Clear

By REUTERS ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan militants linked to al-Qaeda warned any incoming civilian government on Sunday they would strike even more viciously if President Pervez Musharraf's U.S-backed war on terror continued in tribal areas. (The New York Times)

Pakistan Militants Call for Dialogue

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Taliban-style militants battling government forces in northwest Pakistan said Sunday they wanted dialogue with the winners of parliamentary elections and urged the new leadership to abandon President Pervez Musharraf's war on terror.(The Washington Post)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pakistans Ousted Rulers to Cooperate

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan's outgoing ruling party promised Saturday to support the victors in combating Islamic extremism, while the winners discussed ways to curb President Pervez Musharraf's powers -- especially his right to dismiss parliament. (The New York Times)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pakistan Shift Could Curtail Drone Strikes

By ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER Changes in Pakistan’s government have the White House worried that new security operations could be curtailed. (The New York Times)

Bhutto Party Ponders Pakistan PM Choices

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A veteran politician with a reputation as a consensus builder emerged Friday as the favorite to become Pakistan's next prime minister under an agreement by the two biggest opposition parties to form a new government together.(The Washington Post)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Milestone on the Road to Democracy

President Pervez Musharraf's Op-Ed column in The Washington Post published on Friday (February 22, 2008; Page A23)

After months of turmoil, including the death of an important national figure, Benazir Bhutto, and the civil unrest that followed, Pakistan has successfully carried out a critical election -- balloting that was a milestone in our nation's 60-year history.

Pakistan's transition to democracy is essential to achieving reconciliation among our people. The government worked tirelessly to ensure that Monday's vote would be free, fair, transparent and peaceful. A broad range of new procedures were put in place -- such as the public counting of ballots at each polling station -- to make certain that this would be the fairest election ever held in Pakistan.

The historical significance of this election makes this the right moment for an honest discussion of the challenges and opportunities confronting both Pakistan and the United States, whose interest in a stable, democratic government in Islamabad is matched by that of the Pakistani people.

Our nation faces three main tasks: defeating terrorism and extremism; building a stable and effective democratic government; and creating a solid foundation for sustained economic growth. Because these goals are shared by the vast majority of Pakistanis, I am certain we can and will accomplish them, and I stand ready to work with the newly elected Parliament to achieve these objectives.

Do we still face challenges? Of course. Do great opportunities lie ahead? The answer is an emphatic yes. Our economy is strong -- and growing stronger. Our armed forces are dedicated, professional and committed to maintaining both public order and the integrity of our political system. Most important, the overwhelming majority of our 160 million people are firmly committed to a moderate view of Islam and to the national prosperity that only modernization can bring.

On terrorism, let me be perfectly clear: Pakistan faces and fights this menace with full dedication. How could we not? Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have declared war on the civilized world, and the moderate government and people of Pakistan are prime targets. Some have questioned our commitment to the fight against extremism. In fact, more than 1,000 Pakistani troops have lost their lives fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban forces over the past four years, and 112,000 troops are fully engaged in the regions along our border with Afghanistan. We will continue to work closely with our longtime American allies in our common struggle to rid Pakistan and the world of militant extremism.

But as the U.S. experience in Iraq has shown, military force alone is not sufficient. A successful counterinsurgency requires a multi-pronged approach -- military, political and economic. Our political strategy emphasizes separating terrorists from those citizens living in the regions bordering Afghanistan. Our economic strategy is bringing education, economic opportunity and the benefits of development to those same areas. As history has clearly taught us, when people see improvement in their daily lives and the lives of their children, they turn away from violence and toward peace and reconciliation.

But our success will require the continued support of the United States. I would ask Americans to remember that building democracy is difficult in the best of conditions; doing so in a complex country such as Pakistan -- with its uneasy political history, with its centuries-old regional and feudal cleavages, and with violent extremists dedicated to the defeat of democracy -- is even more challenging. As history has shown, a peaceful transition to democracy requires the leadership of government and the willingness of the population to embrace democratic ideals. The people of Pakistan on Monday demonstrated that willingness; now it is time for government leaders to work together and do our part.

The writer is president of Pakistan.

Pakistani Victors Say They Agree on Coalition

By GRAHAM BOWLEY The leaders of the two main opposition parties announced Thursday that they would form a government, but they were unclear on the future of Pervez Musharraf. (The New York Times)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Caution Over a Defining Cause in Pakistan

By Candace Rondeaux
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 20 -- The head of Pakistan's new leading party said Wednesday that it is the job of the newly elected Parliament to decide whether to reinstate the country's embattled judiciary.(The Washington Post)

Payments to Pakistan Face New Scrutiny

By Robin Wright
Once a month, Pakistan's Defense Ministry delivers 15 to 20 pages of spreadsheets to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. They list costs for feeding, clothing, billeting and maintaining 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistani troops in the volatile tribal area along the Afghan border, in support of U.S....(The Washington Post)

Editorial: Twilight of the Dictators: A Chance for Pakistan -- and the U.S.

President Bush must reach out to Pakistan’s newly elected leaders, many of whom resent the U.S. for its uncritical support of the former general, Pervez Musharraf. (The New York Times)

Pakistan's Victory

VOTERS IN Pakistan on Monday delivered an overwhelming message of rejection to Pervez Musharraf, the ex-general who the Bush administration has been insisting is "indispensable" to U.S. policy. By giving a large majority in parliament to moderate parties that strenuously opposed Mr. Musharraf dur...(The Washington Post Editorial)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pakistan Victors Want Dialogue With Militants

By CARLOTTA GALL and JANE PERLEZ The winners of the parliamentary elections said that they would take a new approach to fighting Islamic militants. (The New York Times)

Pakistan Remakes Its Political Landscape

By Pamela Constable
LAHORE, Pakistan, Feb. 19 -- A new political era dawned in Pakistan on Tuesday as partial results from Monday's parliamentary elections showed the opposition scoring a landslide win, the party allied with President Pervez Musharraf conceded defeat, and secular candidates ousted religious parties in...(The Washington Post)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Great political stalwarts crumble down

ISLAMABAD: Elections 2008 came with myriads of changes in its lap with great images in the national politics crashed to the ground, as Pakistan Muslim League Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein and the former federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed were defeated in their respective strongholds.According to the details, former federal minister and former PPP Secretary General Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar defeated the former ruling PM-Q Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein with a wide margin of at least 13293 votes.Two other candidates Alhaaj Mirza Saeed Baig and Chaudhry Gul Nawaz were also contesting from the same constituency, but they could not pocket any vote.Another personality charisma was defeated in Rawalpindi, where Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) defeated Sheikh Rashid.Former National Assembly speaker, Chaudhry Amir Hussain face defeat against Dr. Firdaus Awan while Dr. Sher Afgan Niazi and Khursheed Mehmodd Kasoori also missed the majority in their respective constituencies.

The polling result of NA-105 surprised all when Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians’ candidate and former federal minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar inflicted defeat on President PML-Q, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain with a considerable margin of 13293 votes.Two candidates Al-Haaj Mirza Saeed Baig and Chaudhry Gul Nawaz were also running for NA-105 slot but received no votes.Similarly, Shaikh Rashid Ahmed also faced defeat in his stronghold Rawalpindi by PML-N candidate Hanif Abbasi.Maulana Fazlur Rehman also returned unsuccessful in his constituency. Other big political names who had to face failure on a fateful day of Feb 18 include Rao Sikander and Chaudhry Shahbaz. (The News)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Vote Is Expected to Further Weaken Musharraf

By CARLOTTA GALL and JANE PERLEZ Pakistanis vote in parliamentary elections on Monday amid anxiety over further political turmoil and violence.(The New York Times)

Desiring a Fair Vote, Doubting It Will Be

By Pamela Constable and Candace Rondeaux
SIALKOT, Pakistan, Feb. 17 -- Many people in this gritty rural district of wheat fields and cinder-block factories believe one of the country's two main opposition parties deserves to win Monday's crucial voting for parliament. Yet they also believe the government will do everything it can to steal...(The Washington Post)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Doubts on Fairness and Security for Pakistan Vote

By JANE PERLEZ Pakistan’s parliamentary elections on Monday have included charges of armed intimidation and bribes, and the suspicion of rigging hangs thick in the air. (The New York Times)

Friday, February 15, 2008

U.S. Scrambling To Find Observers For Pakistani Vote

By Robin Wright
With Pakistan's critical parliamentary election fast approaching, Bush administration officials began scrambling late last month to find a U.S. monitoring group willing to travel to Pakistan and observe the Feb. 18 vote.(The Washington Post)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pakistan's Attorney General Aware of ‘Massive’ Election-Rigging Plans: HRW

Audio Recording Calls Into Question Government’s Commitment to Fair Elections

(New York, February 15, 2008) – In an audio recording obtained by Human Rights Watch (, Pakistan’s Attorney General Malik Qayyum stated that upcoming parliamentary elections will be “massively rigged,” Human Rights Watch said today.

In the recording, Qayyum appears to be advising an unidentified person on what political party the person should approach to become a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary election, now scheduled for February 18, 2008.

Human Rights Watch said that the recording was made during a phone interview with a member of the media on November 21, 2007. Qayyum, while still on the phone interview, took a call on another telephone and his side of that conversation was recorded. The recording was made the day after Pakistan’s Election Commission announced the schedule for polls. The election was originally planned for January 8 but was postponed after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, returned to Pakistan on November 25. An English translation of the recording, which is in Urdu and Punjabi, follows:

“Leave Nawaz Sharif (PAUSE).... I think Nawaz Sharif will not take part in the election (PAUSE).... If he does take part, he will be in trouble. If Benazir takes part she too will be in trouble (PAUSE).... They will massively rig to get their own people to win. If you can get a ticket from these guys, take it (PAUSE).... If Nawaz Sharif does not return himself, then Nawaz Sharif has some advantage. If he comes himself, even if after the elections rather than before (PAUSE)…. Yes….”

Repeated attempts by Human Rights Watch to contact Qayyum by phone were unsuccessful.

Fears of rigging have been a major issue in the current election campaign. Human Rights Watch said that since the official election period commenced in November 2007, there have been numerous allegations of irregularities, including arrests and harassment of opposition candidates and party members. There are also allegations that state resources, administration and state machinery are being used to the advantage of candidates backed by President Pervez Musharraf. Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the Election Commission, which is monitoring the polls, was not acting impartially


Malik Qayyum is a former judge who resigned from the bench in 2001 amid charges of misconduct. On April 15, 1999, a two-judge panel of the Lahore High Court headed by Qayyum convicted Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari in a corruption case. They were sentenced to five years in prison, fined US$8.6 million dollars each, disqualified as members of parliament for five years, and forced to forfeit their property. The impending verdict led Bhutto to go into exile in March 1999.

In February 2001, the Sunday Times, a British newspaper, published a report based on transcripts of 32 audio tapes, which revealed that Qayyum convicted Bhutto and Zardari for political reasons. The transcripts of the recordings reproduced by the newspaper showed that Qayyum asked then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s anti-corruption chief, Saifur Rehman, for advice on the sentence: “Now you tell me how much punishment do you want me to give her?”

In April 2001, on the basis of this evidence, a seven-member bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld an appeal by the couple, overturning the conviction. In its ruling, the Supreme Court contended that Qayyum had been politically motivated in handing down the sentence. Faced with a trial for professional misconduct before Pakistan’s Supreme Judicial Council, the constitutional body authorized to impeach senior judges, Qayyum opted to resign his post in June 2001.

A close associate of Musharraf, Qayyum was appointed as the lead counsel on behalf of Pakistan’s federal government in the presidential reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, instituted after Chaudhry was first illegally deposed by Musharraf on March 9, 2007. A full bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court reinstated Chief Justice Chaudhry on July 20, 2007.

Qayyum was appointed attorney general of Pakistan by Musharraf in August 2007.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sharif: Pakistan Vote Could Cause Chaos

KAHUTA, Pakistan -- A leading opposition politician on Wednesday accused President Pervez Musharraf of planning to rig next week's elections, describing it as a move that could trigger uncontrollable unrest and tear Pakistan apart.(The Washington Post)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pakistan Faces Violence if Democracy Blocked: Zardari

By REUTERS LAHORE (Reuters) - Pakistan faces violence if political leaders fail to heed the people's demand for change, the widower of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto said on Tuesday.(The New York Times)

Pakistan Launches Search For Missing Envoy to Kabul

By Candace Rondeaux and Pamela Constable
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 12 -- Security forces have launched a wide-ranging search for the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, Pakistani government officials said Tuesday, a day after the envoy disappeared in a tribal area that has recently been the scene of intense Taliban activity.(The Washington Post)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pakistan Lawyers Boycotting Courts

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani lawyers began a nationwide boycott of the courts Monday to pressure the president to reinstate senior judges he sacked under a state of emergency more than three months ago. (The New York Times)

Official: Top Taliban Commander Captured in Pakistan

By Candace Rondeaux
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 11 -- A top Taliban commander in Afghanistan who claimed close ties to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was captured Monday in southwestern Pakistan, according to a Pakistani military official.(The Washington Post)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Joint Chiefs Chairman and Musharraf Discuss Terror Threat

By JANE PERLEZ A recent string of visits of senior American officials in Pakistan suggests increasing frustration in Washington with the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan. (The New York Times)

Bhutto sympathy vote seen key to Pakistan election

By Robert Birsel
MULTAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - The strength of a sympathy vote for assassinated Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in the country's biggest province is likely to determine the result of a general election on February 18. (The Washington Post)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bin Laden, Omar Not Operating In Pakistan: Islamabad

By REUTERS ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan rejected on Saturday a U.S. official's assertion that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar are operating from Pakistani territory. (The New York Times)

Learning to Fight a War

By David Ignatius
The debate over troop numbers may be missing the point.(The Washington Post)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bhutto's Party Disputes Scotland Yard's Findings

By CARLOTTA GALL The party of Benazir Bhutto insisted Friday that she had been killed by gunfire and continued to demand a United Nations investigation. (The New York Times)

Pakistani Militants Teaming Up, Officials Say

By Joby Warrick and Robin Wright
Pakistan faces a growing threat from a new generation of radicalized, battle-hardened militants who embrace jihad and have become allied with local and international terrorists intent on toppling the pro-Western government, a senior U.S. intelligence official told reporters yesterday.(The Washington Post)

Off the track: Polaroid Technology Fades Out

By Frank Ahrens
When Polaroid users pulled a picture out of their cameras, an image would slowly appear before their eyes. Now, like the process in reverse, the image of the Polaroid instant camera -- dimming for years -- has finally gone black.(The Washington Post)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Injury From Blast Killed Bhutto, Report Says

By ERIC SCHMITT and SALMAN MASOOD A Scotland Yard investigation supports the Pakistani government’s explanation of the death of Benazir Bhutto. (The New York Times)

Worries Wrack Pakistan as Election Nears

By Griffe Witte
Washington Post reporter Griff Witte discusses the mood in Pakistan leading up to the Feb. 18 election, including worries among the public and candidates about fraud, riots and assassinations.(The Washington Post)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Look at Pakistans Restive Tribal Area

Key facts about Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, which have become a haven for al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants. (The New York Times)

Worries Surround Pakistani Elections

By Pamela Constable
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 6 -- Despite the candidates' colorful posters papering road signs and storefronts, the political atmosphere two weeks before Pakistan's parliamentary elections is as bleak and foreboding as the gray winter sky shrouding much of the country.(The Washington Post)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pakistan Is Threatened, Intelligence Chief Says

By Walter Pincus
Radical elements are now a threat to the survival of Pakistan, prompting Pakistani military leaders to recognize that more aggressive efforts are needed to get the elements under control, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said yesterday in testimony before the Senate Select Committee...(The Washington Post)

Monday, February 4, 2008

China Threatens Afghanistan's Burqa Market

The bright blue veil of the burqa is one of the most iconic and widely worn pieces of women’s clothing in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban, fewer women wear the burqa in Kabul, but elsewhere, in the provinces, the burqa is as ubiquitous as ever.
While they evoke a reaction of horror and disdain from many Western women, the burqa in

Afghanistan is a complex cultural signifier. Young married women wear light blue burqas; older women and widows wear a darker blue. White burqas signify new brides, or women from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif. The particular pattern of flowers around the cap and face cover showcase the work of different designers, allowing women to be told apart.

The Zamarai family, shown in the video, have been tailors and burqa-makers for three generations. But recently there’s a new player in the Kabul burqa market: China, which mass-produces a style of burqa that many women here find more fashionable than the Zamarais’ traditional hand-assembled garments.

The Chinese-made burqas’ tightly-crimped folds and machine-produced embroidery have become something of a fashion craze in the last few months in Kabul. As one burqa seller named Hassan explained to me in a crowded Kabul market, “Women love the new, modern style of the Chinese burqas.”

Hassan said he was selling more burqas than ever in recent years, as the trickle down of reconstruction money from foreign aid organizations empowers women to buy several veils, in different styles. “More and more women are choosing to veil,” said Hassan. Of course, he clearly has a vested interest in projecting a good image for burqas. To my mind, the slowly escalating war and the resurrection of the Taliban probably have more to do with increased burqa consumption.

But although it’s a good time to be a burqa retailer – or a Chinese burqa manufacturer – the Afghan tailors who produce the veils are facing a tighter market. As you will see in this video, burqa production is very much a cottage industry in Afghanistan. Whole families are dedicated to stitching flowers on caps, or crimping the folds in the long flowing cloak, for which they are paid only a few dollars per piece. The Zamarai family, featured in this video, sews together the various different parts of the burqa. The finished piece sells in Hassan’s market for US$20, of which the Zamarais make about 20 cents.

Winter is traditionally a difficult time for manual workers in Afghanistan: little gets done, meaning that workers have to borrow heavily from those who control the markets. Relatively few burqas are sold in Kabul, as women from the outlying district find it difficult to travel into the snow-bound city. Ali Ahmad, the 48-year-old Zamarai patriarch, has already had to borrow 25,000 Afghanis from Hassan, the burqa seller. That’s $500 dollars, or almost half of what he can expect to make during the summer season, when the family will produce 50 burqas a day for a daily profit of about US$10.

Heavily debt-laden, the family recently had to move out of their house in a nice Kabul suburb to rent in a cheap neighborhood. Ali Ahmad, a skilled tailor who had to give up his shop because of poor eyesight, will probably have to take day laboring jobs to pay the rent.

Since China’s entrance into the burqa market, Ali Ahmad speculates that 300 families have lost their jobs. “The Chinese have special machines that produce the entire burqa in a few minutes,” said Ali Ahmad, “We can’t compete with that.” The sewing machines his family uses are all hand-operated, although they’re cheap to buy at $100 dollars per machine. The Chinese sewing machines cost $4000. “No one can afford to buy that sort of machine in Afghanistan,” said Ali Ahmad. “Soon all our burqas will be made in China,” he says. (Newsweek/The Washington Post)

Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think

The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center forMuslim-Christian Understanding of Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at the Georgetown University issued a preview of a book (WHO SPEAKS FOR ISLAM? What a Billion Muslims Really Think) by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed on Monday. Following is the text of the preview:

"In these fraught days of heightened tension and increasing hostility, few books could be more timely."
—Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Years after 9/11, are we any closer to understanding what makes a radical?
Gallup's largest study of Muslim populations worldwide challenges conventional wisdom and the inevitability of a global conflict as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. Despite widespread media coverage of global terrorism from America and Europe to the Middle East and Asia, little is known about what majorities of the world's Muslims really think and feel. What do Muslims say about violence and terrorist attacks? What do they say about democracy, women, and relations with the West? What are their values, goals, and religious beliefs?

Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed (Gallup Press; March 2008; hardcover) sheds new light into the "increasing hostility" that Archbishop Tutu characterizes.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, U.S. public officials seemed to have no idea whether or not many Muslims supported the bombings. This troubled Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton, who felt that "no one in Washington had any idea what 1.3 billion Muslims were thinking, and yet we were working on intricate strategies that were going to change the world for all time." Clifton commissioned his company to undertake the enormous job.

The result is Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations. Representing more than 90% of the world's Muslim community, it makes this poll the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind.

What the data reveal and the authors illuminate may surprise you:
· Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.
· Large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution AND they say religious leaders should have no direct role in drafting that constitution.
· Muslims around the world say that what they LEAST admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same answers that Americans themselves give when asked this question.
· When asked about their dreams for the future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.
· Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims and respect Islam.
The research suggests that conflict between Muslims and the West is NOT inevitable and, in fact, is more about policy than principles. "However," caution Esposito and Mogahed, "until and unless decision makers listen directly to the people and gain an accurate understanding of this conflict, extremists on all sides will continue to gain ground."

Who Speaks for Islam? is an important book that challenges conventional wisdom and sheds greater light on what motivates Muslims worldwide. It is a must-read for anyone committed to creating peace and security in our lifetime.
Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think
Authors: John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed
Publication date: March 8, 2008
Hardcover, $22.95
ISBN: 978-1-59562-017-0

About the Authors
John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed

John L. Esposito, Ph.D., is a leading expert on the Muslim world. He is University Professor and a professor of religion and international affairs and of Islamic studies at Georgetown University and the founding director of Georgetown's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service. He is also the past president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies and a consultant to governments and multinational corporations. Esposito is editor in chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World and Oxford Islamic Studies Online. His more than 35 books include What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. He currently resides in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Jeanette P. Esposito, Ph.D.

Dalia Mogahed is a senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. She leads the analysis of Gallup's unprecedented study of more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide. Mogahed also directs the Muslim-West Facts Initiative (, through which Gallup, in collaboration with The Coexist Foundation, is disseminating the findings of the Gallup World Poll to key opinion leaders in the Muslim World and the West. She travels the globe engaging audiences on what Muslims around the world really think. Her analysis has appeared in a number of leading publications, including The Economist, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy magazine, Harvard International Review, Middle East Policy, and many other academic and popular journals. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Mohamed, and two sons, Tariq and Jibreel.

Counterintuitive Discoveries in Who Speaks for Islam?

Who Speaks for the West?
Muslims around the world do not see the West as monolithic. They criticize or celebrate countries based on their politics, not based on their culture or religion.

Dream Jobs
When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don't mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job.

Radical Rejection
Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustified.

Religious Moderates
Those who condone acts of terrorism are a minority and are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population.

Admiration of the West
What Muslims around the world say they most admire about the West is its technology and its democracy — the same two top responses given by Americans when asked the same question.

Critique of the West
What Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same responses given by Americans when posed the same question.

Gender Justice
Muslim women want equal rights and religion in their societies.

Muslims around the world say that the one thing the West can do to improve relations with their societies is to moderate their views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

Clerics and Constitutions
The majority of those surveyed want religious leaders to have no direct role in crafting a constitution, yet favor religious law as a source of legislation.

Adapted from Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed; Copyright © 2007 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.

PML-Q shows little interest in defending Nov 3 action

By Asim Yasin
ISLAMABAD: Opposition in the Senate on Monday unanimously vowed that the next parliament would not endorse November 3 “unconstitutional act” of emergency as well as Provisional Constitution Order (PCO). (The News, Pakistan)

OFF THE TRACK: In Democratic Families, Politics Makes for Estranged Bedfellows

By JODI KANTOR Political dynasties and ordinary people alike have found their houses divided between support for Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. (The New York Times)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Osama son wanted to kill me: Benazir

By Asif Mehmood
LONDON: In an autobiography being published after her assassination, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto says she was warned that four suicide bomber squads would try to kill her, one led by Osama bin Laden’s 16-year-old son, according to a British newspaper.

Benazir - who was killed in Rawalpindi in December while campaigning for elections - wrote that President Pervez Musharraf and a ‘foreign Muslim government’ had informed her these squads were planning her murder, according to excerpts of the book published in The Sunday Times. The naming of Osama’s teenage son, Hamza, could bolster intelligence claims that he is being groomed as a future leader of Al-Qaeda.

He featured in a joint Taliban and Al-Qaeda video shot in 2001 of a militant attack on an army camp in South Waziristan.

In September, he was described in reports as a senior Al-Qaeda leader who had been waging a jihad, or holy war, in the lawless tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. “I was told by both the Musharraf regime and the foreign Muslim government that four suicide bomber squads would attempt to kill me,” Bhutto reportedly says in the book, ‘Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy & the West’, which is to be published on February 12.

“These included, the reports said, the squads sent by the Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud; Hamza bin Laden, a son of Osama bin Laden; Red Mosque militants; and a Karachi-based militant group,” she says in the book.

The book also says the suicide bomb attack on her motorcade in Karachi when she returned home in October may have been carried out by a would-be assassin who lined the clothes of a toddler with plastic explosives to turn the child into a bomb, according to the paper. She says a man gestured her to hold the child, before trying to hand it to police in a nearby van, which exploded soon afterward, the paper says.

She said: “I wrote a letter to Musharraf. I wrote that if I was assassinated by the militants it would be due to their sympathisers in the regime, whom I suspected wanted to eliminate me and remove the threat I posed to their grip on power”. She knew that the same elements of Pakistani society that had colluded to destroy her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and end democracy in Pakistan in 1977 were now arrayed against me for the same purpose exactly 30 years later.
Courtesy: The Nation, Pakistan

Saturday, February 2, 2008

US Strike Exposes Entrenched Militants

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- The U.S. missile strike that killed a top al-Qaida commander just over a mile from a Pakistani military base shows how entrenched Islamic militants are in the lawless tribal regions, where extremists have launched increasingly bold attacks. (The New York Times)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Pakistan Strike Ends Lean Time In Al Qaeda Hunt

By REUTERS ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A missile strike that killed senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al-Libi in Pakistan this week marked the first big success the United States has notched in the region against Osama bin Laden's group for over two years. (The New York Times)