A new approach bij the U.S. toward Pakistan is needed and possible

President Obama moet een fundamenteel ander beleid voeren t.a.v. Pakistan dan zijn voorganger Bush, anders vervalt dat land in chaos – met desastreuze gevolgen ook voor Obama’s ‘Af-Pak’-strategie. En verschuilt het leiderschap van Al Qaida zich wel in Pakistan? Uit welke groeperingen bestaat de Taliban?

By road, the bucolic valley of Swat is just two hours from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. But the rules governing everyday life in these two places are centuries apart. In Swat, over the last several years, the Taliban have been waging a barbaric campaign of terror, displacing nearly half the population. Their goal? Forcing the government to establish Sharia law. The government recently capitulated. President Asi Ali Zardari signed into law a decree in mid-April enforcing a medieval Sharia court system in the district of Swat. Taliban judges now control the judiciary in the entire valley and several adjoining areas.

By contrast, Islamabad and the much of the rest of the country have seen two years of sustained mass protests led by lawyers to restore the Supreme Court’s independent judges, who were sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf for refusing to toe his line. This broad-based movement in support of an independent judiciary forced President Zadari to reappoint a chief justice in late March.

Pakistan now confronts a bewildering judicial divide: While a Taliban court flogs a girl for having an affair, the Supreme Court chief justice asks the government to explain such barbaric punishments.

In this battle of the courts there is a palpable opportunity for the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to take a new approach toward Pakistan and depart from the disastrous path cut by President George W. Bush and his predecessors, who chose to prop up military rule and reactionary forces in the region. But unless President Obama listens to the people of Pakistan and recognizes the currents of change in this traumatized country, the administration’s strategy of linking Pakistan and Afghan policy—the so-called Af-Pak plan—could spark a spiraling conflict with devastating, far-reaching repercussions…

Whither Af-Pak? (By Najum Mushtaq in Right Web)

Pakistan has not received any credible intelligence report about the presence of Al Qaeda leadership inside its borders, Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Abdul Basit said on Thursday.

“We have not come across any authentic intelligence which would indicate that Al Qaeda leadership is in Pakistan, and we do not attach importance to speculations,” Basit said in a weekly briefing.

He said the United States drone attacks might have achieved certain tactical gains but they were largely counterproductive and in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. “We cannot condone these attacks,” he said.

Basit said the next Pak-Afghan-US meeting would be held in Washington in May and Pakistan would raise the issue of drone attacks again.

Approach: The FO spokesman said Islamabad had differences with Washington over certain issues, including the drone attacks, but the two sides agreed on a holistic and comprehensive approach to address regional problems…

No credible evidence of Al Qaeda presence in Pakistan, says Pakistan’s Foreign Office (By Sajjad Malik in Daily Times)

Even as US President Barack Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy puts Pakistan at its centre, differences of perspective remain, the Economist magazine has pointed out.

During their visit to Islamabad this week, Admiral Mike Mullen, the US chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and US special envoy Richard Holbrooke told journalists at a dinner that America was not winning in Afghanistan. They seemed at odds, however, over whether it was actually losing.

American prophecies for Pakistan, too, are not optimistic. David Kilcullen, an adviser to the Bush administration, has said Pakistan might face “internal collapse” within six months and Obama has dubbed the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier the world’s most dangerous place.

Pakistani officials accuse America of keeping its relationship with Pakistan “transactional” and demand that it shift towards a strategic alliance. Despite American offers of $1.5 billion in aid for each of the next five years and nearly $3 billion in counterinsurgency military aid, distrust prevails…

Pakistan-US distrust continues (Daily Times Monitor)

Briefing: Who are the Taliban? (by Anand Gopal, Yahoo.com)

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