Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pakistani Taliban Talks, Karachi Operation and Syrian Chem Weapons

There are more questions than answers after the All Parties Conference (APC) in Pakistan resolved to begin talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Karachi operation has run into resistance from MQM, the city's biggest political party. The United States and Russia have reached an agreement to account for, remove and destroy Syria's entire stockpile of chemical weapons.

All Parties Conference on Taliban Talks:

All Parties Conference (APC) held in Islamabad passed a resolution to begin talks with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) without pre-conditions. There is no requirement for the TTP to stop killing innocent Pakistanis as a condition of talks. Soon after, the TTP welcomed the offer and then proceeded to kill a top general along with two other soldiers in Upper Dir district of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) province.

Is this the beginning of yet another surrender similar to the one that occurred after the 2009 APC on Swat when the federal and provincial governments ceded power to the TTP in Swat? Will this attempt also fail just like the 2009  ANP-led peace deal with the Taliban?

Karachi Operation:

Another APC led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to launch an operation in Karachi to stop rising rates of murder, kidnappings, extortion and other crimes in which criminals belonging to the political parties are involved. It started out well but soon turned into a mass protest by the MQM when one of its leaders was arrested on murder charges.

History shows that the MQM, the city's most powerful political party, will continue to be a problem until it is made part of the solution. Karachi has seen relative peace only when MQM has been allowed to run Karachi's local government as it did in Musharraf years. From 2000-2008, average annual murder rate declined to about 100 or less , a remarkably low figure for a megacity of at least 15 million residents.

Syrian Chemical Weapons:

The United States and Russia have reached an agreement to account for, remove and destroy Syria's entire stockpile of chemical weapons. Syrian President Basahar Al-Assad has accepted it and also offered to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. This deal has stopped the planned US strikes against the Assad regime at least for the moment. But for how long? Is it realistic that Assad and Russia would be able to live up to the deal to Obama's satisfaction? Will Obama act against Syria? Is Assad on his last legs? Would US then have to deal with the Al Qaeda affiliated rebels in Syria?

For those who doubt American resolve, it is important to remember the following: In spite of its great technological advances, the US still retains many vestiges of its Wild West. With its powerful gun-rights advocates in many western, mid-western and southern states, the US is still a gun-slinging frontier society in many ways which makes it jealously guard its exceptional status in the world. The US seeks to avoid the fate of other great empires of the past which were brought down by barbarians and desert tribesmen over the centuries.

US intelligence analyst and author George Friedman in his book "The Next 100 Years" describes the United States as "young and barbaric" with the barbarian instincts to fight off most threats, including those from the rag-tag bands of  tribesmen and barbarians who have toppled great empires of the past like the Roman empire, the Byzantine empire, the Persian empires, the Umayyid empire, the Abbasid empire and the Soviet empire.

Here's a video discussion on the above subjects:

APC and talks with Taliban; Karachi operation; Syria from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Putin Challenges US Exceptionalism 

Divide and Conquer Pakistani Taliban

Gangs of Karachi

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Taliban Terror in Inaugural Speech

Taliban vs. Pakistan

Yet Another Peace Deal and Shia Blockade

Taliban Insurgency in Swat

Musharraf's Treason Trial

General Kayani's Speech on Terror War Ownership

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions 

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube 

Syrian Situation; Taliban Talks; Zardari's Exit


Shams said...

You are right on APC.

You are wrong on Karachi killings. The numbers are higher when MQM is not in power because the others like Punjabi Nawaz take that as a window of opportunity. The high numbers in the first half of 1990s is due to f----- Punjabi Nawaz's operation re. Jinnahpur, with massive target killings by Punjabi ISI.

You are somewhat right on Syria, with some caveats. I believe the US is playing proxy for Israel while it is also in the process of re-colonizing Muslim coutnes, oil or no oil. You are wrong re. Assad lying about chem weapons. Assad never accepted nor denied their existence. It is stupid for him to give up the weapons that he could use when attacked. Once the weapons are gone, he will be left holding his dick.

You are also wrong in saying that Assad is like other Arab dictators. This man is an ophtalmologist by education and Syria is 100 times more democratic than f----- Saudia or f----- UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, etc.

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: "You are also wrong in saying that Assad is like other Arab dictators"

When people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.

Riaz Haq said...

Here’s some of what Nyhan found, according to Salon:

People who thought WMDs were found in Iraq believed that misinformation even more strongly when they were shown a news story correcting it.

People who thought George W. Bush banned all stem cell research kept thinking he did that even after they were shown an article saying that only some federally funded stem cell work was stopped.

People who said the economy was the most important issue to them, and who disapproved of Obama’s economic record, were shown a graph of nonfarm employment over the prior year – a rising line, adding about a million jobs. They were asked whether the number of people with jobs had gone up, down or stayed about the same. Many, looking straight at the graph, said down.
But if, before they were shown the graph, they were asked to write a few sentences about an experience that made them feel good about themselves, a significant number of them changed their minds about the economy. If you spend a few minutes affirming your self-worth, you’re more likely to say that the number of jobs increased.

In Kahan’s experiment, some people were asked to interpret a table of numbers about whether a skin cream reduced rashes, and some people were asked to interpret a different table – containing the same numbers – about whether a law banning private citizens from carrying concealed handguns reduced crime. Kahan found that when the numbers in the table conflicted with people’s positions on gun control, they couldn’t do the math right, though they could when the subject was skin cream. The bleakest finding was that the more advanced that people’s math skills were, the more likely it was that their political views, whether liberal or conservative, made them less able to solve the math problem.

I hate what this implies – not only about gun control, but also about other contentious issues, like climate change. I’m not completely ready to give up on the idea that disputes over facts can be resolved by evidence, but you have to admit that things aren’t looking so good for a reason. I keep hoping that one more photo of an iceberg the size of Manhattan calving off of Greenland, one more stretch of record-breaking heat and drought and fires, one more graph of how atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen in the past century, will do the trick. But what these studies of how our minds work suggest is that the political judgments we’ve already made are impervious to facts that contradict us.

Maybe climate change denial isn’t the right term; it implies a psychological disorder. Denial is business-as-usual for our brains. More and better facts don’t turn low-information voters into well-equipped citizens. It just makes them more committed to their misperceptions. In the entire history of the universe, no Fox News viewers ever changed their minds because some new data upended their thinking. When there’s a conflict between partisan beliefs and plain evidence, it’s the beliefs that win. The power of emotion over reason isn’t a bug in our human operating systems, it’s a feature.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' story on murder of Karachi gangster Zafar Baloch:

Days before he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Karachi, one of Pakistan's most feared men said he would rather see the city in ruin than give up control over his turf in the country's volatile commercial capital.

Zafar Baloch, a notorious figure wielding enormous power in Karachi, was killed by a group of gunmen on motorbikes overnight in an attack that sent shock waves through the sprawling port city generating a quarter of Pakistan's economy.

In a rare interview on September 5, Baloch, 46, spoke extensively about the psychology of gangland violence, offering a rare glimpse into the dark world of turf wars and extortion in Pakistan's troubled and ethnically diverse second city.

Speaking to Reuters in Lyari, one of Karachi's most dangerous neighborhoods, he said he would not leave his turf despite continuous raids by police and attacks by rival gangs.

"I once had 13 police raids in one day. I have bullet and grenade wounds in my leg," he said. "Thieves run away. I'll never run away from Lyari."

A city of 18 million people, Karachi is home to Pakistan's main port, stock exchange and central bank. And yet it is one of the most violent places in the South Asian nation, torn apart by ethnic, political and sectarian tensions and gangland rivalries.

Explosions and killings occur daily as political and militant groups battle for control with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the city's dominant political party.

Karachi generates 25 percent of Pakistan's economy and presents a major challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as he tries to bring law and order to the chaotic financial hub.


In Lyari, a dense network of slums housing over a million people, criminal gangs operate freely, exerting total control over businesses and residents. Police almost never enter the neighborhood without permission from Baloch's men.

Streets are busy, teeming with people and cars. Buildings and lampposts are adorned with posters of Baloch and his allies.

Speaking to Reuters at a local football club, Baloch compared Karachi to a cake which attracted too many takers.

"Right now we are sitting across the table watching the MQM eat the whole cake," Baloch said. "If this goes on, we will either ruin the cake for everyone or get our slice."

A large and burly man, Baloch narrowly survived a grenade attack in 2011 and still had a cast on one leg when Reuters saw him. He walked with a walking cane until the day he was killed.

Lyari's economically strategic location - enclosed on one side by the port and on the other by the city's biggest industrial area - has made it the hub of extortion, violent crime and drug barons.

As many as 1,726 people were killed in Karachi in the first six months of this year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Mainstream political parties are accused of running armed groups that have carved up the city along ethnic lines into spheres of influence - a charge politicians deny.

Baloch saw the MQM, backed by Karachi's Urdu-speaking community that returned after partition from India, as his main rival.

"The problem is that the MQM thinks it has the biggest stake in Karachi," Baloch told Reuters. "Until the MQM learns to share, there will always be chaos."

And yet he spoke passionately about Karachi, a city where had earned both fear and respect.

"Karachi was born out of Lyari. It comes from right here. The people of Lyari gave birth to this city. How can we let it die?" he said. "Lyari is just a good town with a bad reputation. But its people will never let Karachi die."

Anonymous said...

Is the tide turning against Assad in Syria? "Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," he said. "This zero balance of forces will not change for a while." (Syrian Deputy PM) Mr Jamil insisted that he was speaking for the government.

Riaz Haq said...

Coming from a Syrian deputy prime minister, it was an unusual statement. The country’s crisis, he (Qadri Jameel) said, began in part with a “popular movement” of peaceful protesters angry over economic disparities, and descended into war in part because officials were slow to make changes and failed to realize that the “repression of the popular movement” would lead to disaster....Mr. Assad told the German magazine Der Spiegel, in an interview to be published on Monday, that he could not claim that the insurgents “did everything and we did nothing.” Reality, he said, has “shades of gray.”

Riaz Haq said...

Terror group #ISIS & #Egypt's Sisi flipsides of same coin?Religious vs Secular autocracy in #Arab World? #Iraq #Syria …

Here's a Tom Friedman Op Ed on ISIS vs Sisi models of governance in the Arab world:

The past month has presented the world with what the Israeli analyst Orit Perlov describes as the two dominant Arab governing models: ISIL and SISI.

ISIL, of course, is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the bloodthirsty Sunni militia that has gouged out a new state from Sunni areas in Syria and Iraq. SISI, of course, is Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the new strongman/president of Egypt, whose regime debuted this week by shamefully sentencing three Al-Jazeera journalists to prison

ISIL and SISI, argues Perlov, a researcher on Middle East social networks at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, are just flip sides of the same coin: one elevates "God" as the arbiter of all political life and the other "the national state."

Both have failed and will continue to fail - and require coercion to stay in power - because they cannot deliver for young Arabs and Muslims what they need most: the education, freedom and jobs to realize their full poten ..

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's #Swat region alive, thriving again as peace returns after successful military op against #TTP #Taliban

Here in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, known for gorgeous sunsets and the calming sound of cresting river rapids, there has been plenty of misery over the past decade.

First, Pakistani Taliban militants swept into this conservative part of northwestern Pakistan, killing more than 2,000 people. Then Pakistan’s army showed up to battle the Taliban, forcing 1.5 million residents to flee their homes. And even after soldiers regained control and residents returned, the 2012 shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was a reminder that life here remained cruel and unpredictable.

But now, with security finally improving, residents are releasing years of stress by flocking to new shopping and entertainment outlets that would have been unthinkable when the Taliban was executing men for shaving or women for dancing.

“Before, we were very scared of them. Our education system was totally down, because when you would go to school, every morning there would be a man lying with his head cut, thrown by the Taliban on the road,” said Arsalan Khan, 25, a resident of this medium-size city. “Now, we can just focus on how to live normally.”

Though Swat’s residents have long been more educated and wealthier than those in many other rural areas of Pakistan, the changing lifestyles here offer a glimpse into how quickly an area can start modernizing when fears of Islamist militants fade.

Even before the Taliban gained effective control over this area in 2007, the mountains that tower over this agricultural region served as a barrier to technology and social changes. But residents say that isolation is quickly being replaced with demand for new haircuts, music, movies and fashion styles.

“We now want to dress like the people of Punjab,” said Abid Ibrahim, 19, referring to the eastern province that includes Lahore, often referred to as Pakistan’s most progressive city. “We want to make ourselves look like models, and with the hairstyles from magazines like developed people.”

Ibrahim was at an amusement and gaming center called Motion Rider, which opened in Mingora in February. Life-size posters of a soldier in U.S. military combat gear and European soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo hang on the walls, and customers play Xbox games on big-screen televisions.

The main attraction is a 3-D movie theater where seats move in sync with the action on the screen. On a recent visit, patrons were watching “Into the Forest” — a psychedelic ride in which viewers dodge neon trees, bees, butterflies and giant mushrooms.

“Everyone had been very depressed, but now people just want to have fun,” said Syad Imad, 36, who owns Motion Rider.

Several new Pakistani clothing chains from major cities have also opened in the past year. One store sells women’s jeans, even though most women in Swat still wear a burqa or cover their faces with a headscarf when they appear in public.

Still, residents say the mere presence of women out shopping, unescorted by male relatives, is a sign of progress.

“I am very optimistic about the future of Swat,” said Iffat Nasir, an activist and school principal, who added female enrollment in school is steadily increasing. “I see Swat becoming a very modern place.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Iran recruits #Pakistan #Shia for combat in #Syria. via @Reuters

Iran's recruitment of the Pakistani fighters adds yet another international dimension to Syria's 4-year-old civil war, which has deepened sectarian divisions across the Muslim world and drawn in most regional and global powers.

The Pakistani Shi'ites are helping to defend the government of Tehran's ally, President Bashar al-Assad, who is also supported by Russian air strikes and fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, against an array of Sunni rebels backed by Turkey and Arab states. The United States, Turkey, Arab and European powers are also participating in a coalition bombing Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim militant group.

A Facebook page bearing the name of the Zeinabiyoun showed pictures of what was described as a funeral in Iran in late November, with members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard standing next to men in shalwar kameez, the traditional long tunic and trousers worn in Pakistan.

"The Zeinabiyoun are a Pakistani Shi’ite outfit that’s run by the IRGC,” said Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland and adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has done extensive research on Shi’ite groups fighting in Syria, using an acronym to refer to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“They’ve put together their own imagery, their own recruitment type material. They really became more of a marketable element toward the end of the summer of 2015. That’s when they became more of a centered group.”