August 15, 2011
If true, this is a huge intelligence coup for China. Our stealth technology is far ahead of other nations – especially China – and for Pakistan to allow a potential enemy to study an advanced technological innovation is a monstrous betrayal.
Pakistan gave China access to the previously unknown U.S. “stealth” helicopter that crashed during the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May despite explicit requests from the CIA not to, the Financial Times reported Sunday.
The disclosure, if confirmed, is likely to further shake the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, which has been improving slightly of late after hitting its lowest point in decades following the bin Laden killing in a Pakistani garrison city.
“The U.S. now has information that Pakistan, particularly the ISI, gave access to the Chinese military to the downed helicopter in Abbottabad,” the paper quoted a person “in intelligence circles” as saying on its Web site.
The ISI, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, is Pakistan’s top spy agency.
The report said Pakistan, which enjoys a close relationship with China, allowed Chinese intelligence officials to take pictures of the crashed aircraft as well as samples of its special “skin,” which allowed the helicopter to evade Pakistani radar.
The ISI denies the charge, but it very well might have given the Chinese military a glimpse of the copter due to their anger over the bin Laden raid.
We won’t be sure until we determine whether China has developed countermeasures that could shoot down the stealth copter. No doubt such a system would be a hot item on the international arms market.
July 9, 2011
Even for a basket case like Pakistan, this is worrisome:
For the first time since violence started on Tuesday, paramilitary troops and police commandos are patrolling the city’s western neighbourhoods.
On Friday police were ordered to shoot-on-sight anyone involved in violence.
Ambulances and armoured vehicles have been evacuating families trapped inside their homes for days.
The surge in violence in Pakistan’s economic capital is widely blamed on armed gangs linked to rival political and ethnic groups.
Day of mourning
Residents said they were taking advantage of the lull in shootings to move to safer areas as they had little faith in the government’s ability to put an end to the lawlessness.
On Friday, the city was totally shut down after its main political party, the MQM – which recently resigned from the government to join the opposition ranks – called for a day of mourning.
The shutdown, however, did not prevent more deaths.
The violence spilled over in other parts of Karachi and more than a dozen people were killed in shootings, hand grenade and rocket attacks.
While there is a political element to the violence, the core reason for it is related to ethnic and economic tensions between Urdu speaking Mohajirs and Pasto speaking Pashtuns who are members of different political parties – the MQM and ANP parties respectively. The violence broke out in some of the worst slums of South Asia and given the weakness of the Pakistani economy, residents feel even more hopeless about their prospects than before.
Pakistan: A nuclear-armed powder keg.
May 23, 2011
Taliban attacks Karachi naval air base
Pakistan’s version of the Taliban attacked a naval air base in force, killing 11 and wounding dozens.
If you play with fire, you are bound to get burned. The BBC:
The troops are now said to be “mopping up” after the raid, which has left 10 soldiers and at least three attackers dead.Reports hostages including foreigners were taken were denied, and foreigners at the base are said to be safe.
The Pakistan Taliban says the raid was to avenge Osama Bin Laden’s killing by US special forces on 2 May.
“It was the revenge of martyrdom of Osama Bin Laden. It was the proof that we are still united and powerful,” Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters news agency.
They have carried out several attacks since then.Interior Minister Rehman Malik said 10 soldiers had died and 15 were wounded in the attack.
Two attackers were also killed and a third blew himself up. Another is believed to be buried under debris and two more are thought to have escaped.
An unexploded suicide jacket and live grenades were found, the minister added.
The Taliban in Pakistan is getting stronger, bolder, and more organized. While they sometimes target civilians, the Taliban has been attacking police and army facilities lately, demonstrating a willingness to engage. Would continued attacks on the military provoke a coup? You have to wonder if that isn’t their main goal since it would turn the population against the government and make them a viable alternative for many Pakistanis.
May 08, 2011
Massive intel haul from OBL compound largest ever
The amount of intelligence gleaned from OBL’s hideout is the size of “a small college library” according to one account.
This is both good and bad. The good is, of course, the more we know about AQ’s plans and operations, the better we can counter them. But the bad news is that organizing and filing all of this information is going to take some time. In fact, it is unlikely that we’ll know exactly what we have until we’ve gone through a considerable part of the haul.
“The size is quite notable. It’s the largest cache of intelligence information from a senior terrorist that we know of,” he said.Though he would not say whether it’s yielded any hard leads, Donilon and others said the evidence challenges the notion that bin Laden was a mere figurehead before he was killed last week.
“Usama bin Laden was not just a symbolic leader of Al Qaeda. In fact, he had operational and strategic roles that he was playing,” he said.
The information suggests bin Laden played a strong role in planning and directing attacks by Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Yemen and Somalia. And he was apparently determined to strike the United States again.
“This collection represents the most significant amount of intelligence ever collected from a senior terrorist,” another senior intelligence official said. “The materials reviewed over the past several days clearly show that bin Laden remained an active leader in Al Qaeda, providing strategic, operational and tactical instructions to the group. Though separated from many Al Qaeda members who are located in more remote areas of the region, he was far from a figurehead. He was an active player making the recent operation even more essential for our nation’s security.”
The official said the records show he directed tactical details and encouraged plotting from the compound.
Operational intel will be the most valuable and it appears we may have hit the jackpot. Two questions present themselves immediately; how did Osama communicate with his far flung organization, and which plots are the closest to fruition.
If we can penetrate his communications network with any degree of coverage, it will set AQ back many months as they are forced to develop new networks. And penetrating actual terrorist plots and arresting operatives is the holy grail.
We probably won’t hear much about our counterterrorism efforts as we act upon this intel. But any way you look at it, the intel coup carried out by the SEALs is going to keep our intelligence agencies busy for many months.
May 08, 2011
Clarice’s Pieces: About AbbottabadIt’s me, the official White House fly on the wall. It’s been a big week around here. I learned that 47% of the citizens of Detroit are functionally illiterate; national testing establishes that three out of four U.S. students “lack a basic understanding of how the political system works and what it means to be a citizen of this country”; that sharp media tack Andrea Mitchell thinks Osama could have been captured and killed in Tora Bora (in 2001) if only President Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq (in 2003); and that this White House must be counting on the ignorance of the voters and the press to get Obama re-elected, because the rest of us cannot believe how manifestly incompetent an executive he is.It should have been a great week for the White House. Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden. In a daring operation (across the street from the police station and yards from the military academy) they flew in helicopters, rappelled into a walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed the bizarre monster who had long eluded us.I can’t tell you with what amusement I watched the left pirouette on so many issues with which they had assailed Obama’s predecessor, a man too dignified to respond in kind. My favorite documenter of the spinning was the estimable Iowahawk:Yes, it’s true that some pre-January 2009 antiwar activists have remained morally and logically consistent in their opposition to America’s military presence in the Mideast; but, thank God, it appears now they were only a tiny, insignificant minority. Recent events have happily made clear that the antiwar movement of 2001-8 was overwhelmingly dominated by a vast silent hypocritical majority of craven political opportunists awaiting a Democratic administration to gleefully celebrate the covert execution of a man whom, until 28 months ago, they would have described as a “tragic civilian casualty.” Who is to credit for this rebirth in American national unity? First and foremost, we must cite the leadership of President Obama. Like many Americans – and the Nobel Peace Prize committee – I naively feared he was actually serious when he initially proposed shutting down Guantanamo, trying detainees in American civilian courts, and prior consultation with the international community. Little did I know that this untested young Commander-in-Chief would muster the courage to read his weekly Gallup numbers and, in one daring unilateral extra-judicial targeted hit job, toss aside every single idiotic foreign policy principle of his election campaign. Perhaps most satisfyingly, it was a mission made possible thanks to information extracted by methods he previously banned as “illegal torture.” But this triumphant new era in situationally-unified American bloodlust does not belong to the President alone; we must also cite Congress’s born-again waterboarders like Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and their newfound enthusiasm for what (at least until 9pm Sunday) they would have once considered illegal military murder squads. Neither can we forget the watchdogs of America’s press, who have shown unprecedented ethical flexibility in shedding their long-held Ghandi moralism and embracing their inner Rambo. Thanks to leaders like these, American pride is temporarily back out of the closet. And I for one take great personal satisfaction in knowing that when I’m high-fiving a random fellow American and robotically chanting “USA! USA!” at the news that Bin Laden is finally shark chum, there’s a pretty good chance that the guy was, only a few years ago, denying his love for unauthorized secret CIA-planned assassinations. Welcome to the pride parade everybody!But Iowahawk was a bit in error. Obama and his closest advisors obviously gave in to the demands of CIA head Panetta when the operation was in motion, but they did it so half-heartedly. Obama had to be dragged in from the golf course to the situation room to pose for a picture in which, looking like someone who’d been brought into a bring your son to work day, he and the others pretended to watch the operation which Panetta later informed us they could not have done because there was nothing transmitted during it to the White House or anywhere else. The assembled saw the helicopters over the compound and then neither heard nor saw a single thing until they got the communication “Geronimo” which signaled the success of the mission. (The photo shot also showed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looking visibly anguished, but shortly after Panetta’s disclosure, this ham actress claimed that wasn’t a picture of anguish, she just was having problems with her allergies.) Some folks at Free Republic quickly captured what the real situation in the White House situation room was:The operation was a success, thanks to the military and some long, hard slogging for years by our intelligence people in places and using techniques Obama the candidate had repudiated. Nevertheless, Obama quickly tried to grab all the credit for it, but the administration message was so garbled, contradictory and self-promoting that no one paying attention could keep track of the many versions of events. It did appear that the President had no choice in the matter because Wikileaks had already exposed Osama’s likely location and delay was likely to allow him to escape our clutches. Tom Maguire:As Obama enjoys his victory lap following the death of Osama bin Laden, his unrelenting critics can find grist for their mill in this AP tick-tock of the hunt and eventual raid. By mid-February, the officials were convinced a “high-value target” was hiding in the compound. President Barack Obama wanted to take action.“They were confident and their confidence was growing: ‘This is different. This intelligence case is different. What we see in this compound is different than anything we’ve ever seen before,'” John Brennan, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser, said Monday. “I was confident that we had the basis to take action.”Options were limited. The compound was in a residential neighborhood in a sovereign country. If Obama ordered an airstrike and bin Laden was not in the compound, it would be a huge diplomatic problem. Even if Obama was right, obliterating the compound might make it nearly impossible to confirm bin Laden’s death.Said Brennan: “The president had to evaluate the strength of that information, and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”Obama tapped two dozen members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six to carry out a raid with surgical accuracy.As they explain, bombing an upscale suburb of Islamabad was not a live diplomatic option. That means the choices were a manned raid, or continued dithering while waiting for more intel.But dithering may not have been an option either – it was just last week that Wikileaks dumped some info that can be pieced together to lead back to the compound in Abbottabad:Buried in a document from 2008 released by WikiLeaks last week are notes from the interrogation of a Libyan, Abu al-Libi, who had apparently been with Bin Laden in Afghanistan.According to the document, Libi fled to Peshawar in Pakistan and was living there in 2003 when he was asked to become one of Bin Laden’s messengers. The document says: “In July 2003, detainee received a letter from [Bin Laden's] designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee take on the responsibility of collecting donations, organising travel and distributing funds for families in Pakistan. [Bin Laden] stated detainee would be the official messenger between [Bin Laden] and others in Pakistan. In mid-2003, detainee moved his family to Abbottabad (Pakistan) and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.”Hmm – one would have presumed that Osama et al had thought through the implications of the al-Libbi capture. Would they really have first learned from WikiLeaks that al-Libbi might have been cooperating with his interrogators? Then again, maybe they had persuaded themselves that the trail back to Osma had gone cold. Still, seeing Osama’s home base cited in a CIA memo might have re-opened an old debate at Osama’s headquarters and reinforced a faction arguing that it was time to move on.Tricky. I can imagine that advisors in the White House were very worried that these leaks would prompt the departure of whatever HVT was within the compound. And if it were subsequently leaked that Obama lost an HVT to WikiLeaks while waiting for more intel… one can only imagine the pressures on the man with the loneliest job in the world.The missteps by the White House were so pronounced that even Time’s Mark Halperin, certainly not known as an Obama critic, commented on five of them.My friend jmh observed:It’s interesting that four of the five errors Halperin points out have to do with losing control — over the story, the photo debate, the Afghanistan debate & the Pakistan debate. I keep going back to Matt Yglesias accidental prescience in identifying Obama’s accidental foreign policy at the get-go.It’s ironic that Halperin points out a missed opportunity to bring the country together by being more generous in his praise of GWB, in light of Obama’s ex post facto coming-together drum beat — which Halperin ignores. Back to error #1:The administration deserves mountains of credit for its painstaking, conspicuous effort to brief the world on the mission, knowing a lot of information would have to be held back to protect sources, operatives, methods, and sensitive data. Which makes the carelessness of the errors somewhat surprising.Halperin doesn’t make the obvious leap: Obama lost control of the timing too. Thomas Lifson points out multiple factors which strongly suggests that is, in fact, the case. I doubt that Obama could/would have risked waiting till October to green light the mission — although it would be hard to think of a more effective October surprise — but he must have had an unhappy 16 hours. Put it all together, and you’ve got an Administration which has lost both substantive control of policy and political control of the narrative.There was a sea of other serious risks here, though, and I do think Obama deserves some credit for making the right call, despite what will surely be plenty of ham-handed attempts to exploit the success politically ex post facto.I think I know to some degree why the administration’s explanations of what happened have been so contradictory and unpersuasive.In the first place, like his Attorney General and the folks who voted him into power, he shared the Archbishop of Canterbury’s cuckoo notions about “international Law” and was concerned that the operation not be considered illegal — remember at this moment Attorney General Holder is prosecuting Seals for rough treatment of someone they had captured.In this case, the notion is utterly preposterous, and that he should be tied in knots like this on a basic issue of national defense is as good as argument as I can find for never again voting into the office of the president a lawyer.Still, if it is legal concerns, not sheer incompetence behind the song and dance of Carney-Brennan-Obama-Panetta and Clinton, perhaps he should have read Harold Koh , the Depart of State’s legal Advisor, on leave from his professorship at Yale:PROF. KENNETH ANDERSON: Suppose John Brennan Had Simply Repeated Harold Koh? “The NGOs and advocates and academics have an instinctive sense for exploitable weakness and go after it. Brennan (as well as later spokespeople, including Holder) was not direct in stating that of course it was legal to target OBL, legal to target with lethal force, legal to target without warning or invitation to surrender, and that has always been the US legal position. I don’t understand how this entirely obvious question wasn’t briefed and anticipated, with an answer directly from Harold Koh’s 2010 American Society of International Law address on exactly this point.‘Some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defence is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force ….The principles of distinction and proportionality that the US applies are … implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law ….Some have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the longstanding domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems – consistent with the applicable laws of war – for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defence or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination’.It’s also true that pressure will be brought by Congress to substantially cut aid and other programs that assisted Pakistan. Programs that gained them billions in recent years under the premise that they were cooperating with us on bringing Osama and other Islamic terrorists to justice. For a man who in his previous life barely dared to do more than vote “present” such a momentous decision must fill him with dread.There can be no doubt that Pakistan — or at least elements of her military, governmental and intelligence forces — were well-aware of Osama’s presence in Abbottabad. I’m no expert on the Pakistan hill towns , but I consider Christopher Hitchens to be one and he is quite positive that the occupant of this complex had to be known to Pakistan government apparatchiks. Having said that, he concludes Obama will be forced to cut off arms and financing to themThe martyr of Abbottabad is no more, and the competing Führer-complexes of his surviving underlings will perhaps now enjoy an exciting free rein. Yet the uniformed and anonymous patrons of that sheltered Abbottabad compound are still very much with us, and Obama’s speech will be entirely worthless if he expects us to go on arming and financing the very people who made this trackdown into such a needlessly long, arduous and costly one.There are few English language papers in Pakistan. One of the leading ones is Dawn which reports the defense of the Pakistan authorities on the question of their knowledge.Asked why they had not checked out a building so close a major military facility the ISI said that the compound had actually been raided when the house was under construction in 2003 when the authorities believed an Al Qaeda operative Abu Faraj Al Libbi was there. On that occasion he escaped.So, there you have it: They raided the House in 2003 and found out a major Al Qaeda operative was there, an operative who — oh my — miraculously escaped their reach so a few years later when another mysterious, well-guarded stranger moved in, very near the Pakistan equivalent of West Point, they never bothered to check him out.The buzz around here was that that was even lamer than the White House explanation of what happened.
May 08, 2011
Pakistan outs CIA chief in Islamabad
In retaliation for…something…Pakistan’s government friendly press has obligingly printed the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad.
Times of India:
In a sign of how bad ties are between the two countries, Pakistani media on Saturday once again publicly named the CIA station chief in Islamabad, a breach of both protocol and trust, that is bound to enrage Washington.A Pakistani TV channel and a newspaper considered mouthpieces of the country’s military said the ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha had met CIA station chief Mark Carlton to protest US incursion into Abbottabad to kill al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. CIA station chiefs remain anonymous and unnamed in public although the host government is told.
Earlier, the Obama administration had asked Pakistan to disclose names of its top intelligence operatives to determine whether they had contact with Osama or his agents.
The latest breach indicates that a section of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment is determined to run the CIA out of the country fearing that the ISI’s links with terror groups and its sheltering of terrorist leaders will be exposed.
While one must consider the source – the Times of India is not very reliable when disseminating any news about Pakistan – that last part about a rogue section of the ISI wanting the CIA out of the country rings true.
They’ve been exposed. And the reason we want those names is because we have numerous telephone numbers picked up at OBL’s mansion (two numbers were actually sewn into his clothes) that would no doubt find their match in the ranks of the ISI and probably high levels of the Pakistani military. They are caught dead to rights and their only escape is to carry out a pogrom against the CIA.
Zardari is caught between elements of the military not under his control while being held responsible by the US for harboring OBL:
Zardari has been waiting to come to US practically every week for several months now, with Hussain Haqqani, his ambassador in Washington, doing the spadework for the visit. The visit was first slated for March and then pushed to May as ties headed south after the Raymond Davis episode.Obama meanwhile had promised to visit Pakistan when the White House announced his India trip, in part to assuage Islamabad’s wounded pride at being left out. No dates were announced but it was expected sometime later this year. But Pakistans furious reaction to the wide-spread belief that it sheltered Osama has for now wrecked both trips. There is also growing realization in Washington that the military junta fully controls Pakistan and it rather pointless to publicly engage a weak civilian government that cannot deliver on promises.
A blow up is inevitable, but when? We have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan dependent on the Pakistiani supply line to continue fighting and building. We don’t have the airlift capability to supply the military in Afghanistan even a quarter of what it needs on a daily basis. That chow line is vital to the war effort and Pakistan has shown in the past that it can cut it off at any time.
For the moment, we have to grit our teeth and soldier on. But I imagine that eventually, Pakistan will rue the day it harbored OBL either through much closer US-India relations (taking their side in the Kashmir dispute for instance) or a total cut off of all aid.
Despite the US having some friends in the ISI and military, the bulk of the armed forces are against us as they have proved once again in sheltering OBL for what appears now to be 7 1/2 years.
April 05, 2011
Teenage Would-Be Suicide Bomber Promises to Strike Again
Another deadly attack carried out at a Sufi shrine in central Pakistan killed 42 worshipers and injured a hundred others this past Sunday. Fida Hussain, a 14-year old, was arrested at the site when his vest full of explosives failed to detonate.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. One of the largest and most well-organized militant groups in the country considers worship at shrines as “a deviation from Islam,” and is known for recruiting children as young as 8 in suicide attacks.
Young boys, often with little or no education, are often used by the Taliban as suicide bombers. As well as being less suspicious, terrorism analysts say their handlers find it easier to persuade them to carry out suicide missions.
A video “Children of the Taliban” released on YouTube weeks ago gives a chilling glimpse into the indoctrination methods used by the Islamic terrorists. As the teenage Hussain was being led away by the police on Sunday he demonstrated how brainwashed these children truly are:
Let me go, I want to be a martyr. I want to send all you policemen to hell…You all are accomplices of the enemies of Islam who are bent upon eliminating Islam and Muslims…If I get a chance, I will again strike as a suicide bomber.
Radical Islamic murderers turn children into killing machines all under the guise of religious law. Yet, General Petraeus and officials from NATO recently condemned the burning of a Koran in Florida, and kowtowed to the Taliban in Afghanistan who issued the statement “we cannot accept this un-Islamic act.”
President Obama also weighed in saying that the burning of the Koran was “an extreme act of violence and bigotry.” When will these world leaders grow a backbone and stop walking on eggshells around rampaging Islamic terrorists who use children as suicide bombers? Since when is burning a book “violence and bigotry” when compared to 8-year olds being primed to kill innocents and blow themselves up at the same time?
Read more M.Catharine Evans at www.potterwilliamsreport.com
Militants gunned down the only Christian in Pakistan’s government outside his widowed mother’s home Wednesday, the second assassination in two months of a high-profile opponent of laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.
Shahbaz Bhatti was aware of the danger he faced, saying in a videotaped message that he had received death threats from al-Qaida and the Taliban. In it, the 42-year-old said he was “ready to die” for the country’s often persecuted Christian and other non-Muslim minorities.
The slaying in Islamabad followed the killing of Salman Taseer, a liberal politician who was gunned down in the capital by one of his guards. Both men had campaigned to change blasphemy laws in Pakistan that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam and have been loudly defended by Islamist political parties.
The Taseer slaying triggered fears the country was buckling under the weight of extremism, especially since the government, fearful of militants and the political parties that champion their causes, did not loudly condemn the killing or those who publicly celebrated it.
Wednesday’s slaying will only reinforce those concerns and further undermine confidence in the government, which appears paralyzed by political rivalries and unable to fix a stagnant economy or provide basic services for the country’s 180 million mostly poor people.
The turmoil comes despite attempts by the Obama administration to support Pakistan, which it sees as key to ending the war in neighboring Afghanistan and defeating al-Qaida, whose leadership is believed to reside in the mountainous northwestern regions.
Pakistani government ministers usually travel with police escorts, but Bhatti was without such protection when he was killed as he and a driver left his mother’s home. Bhatti, who was minister for religious minorities, had been given police and paramilitary guards but had asked them not to accompany him while he stayed with his mother, said Wajid Durrani, a senior police official.
A friend of the politician, Wasif Ali Khan, said Bhatti was nervous about using guards after the Taseer killing and had requested a bulletproof car, but had not received one.
Bhatti had just pulled out of the driveway when three men opened fire, said Gulam Rahim, a witness. Two opened the door of the car and tried to pull Bhatti out, Rahim said, while a third fired a Kalashnikov rifle repeatedly into the dark-colored Toyota, shattering the windows.
The gunmen then sped away in a white car, said Rahim, who took shelter behind a tree.
Bhatti was hit with at least eight bullets and was dead on arrival at hospital.
In leaflets left at the scene, al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban Movement in Punjab province claimed responsibility. They blamed the government for putting Bhatti, an “infidel Christian,” in charge of an unspecified committee, apparently in reference to his support for changing the blasphemy laws.
“With the blessing of Allah, the mujahedeen will send each of you to hell,” said the note, which did not name any other targets.
Government officials and political party workers condemned the killing, but made no reference to the blasphemy law controversy. Muslim clerics contacted by The Associated Press or interviewed on Pakistani TV either offered a tepid condemnation or claimed the assassination was part of an American-led conspiracy to drive a wedge between Muslims and Christians.
Bhatti, a soft-spoken minister who rose to prominence defending a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, often spoke of the threats against him from extremists. Very few Pakistani politicians were willing to talk about changing the blasphemy law because of the danger.
“They (the Taliban) want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan. And whoever stands against their radical philosophy, they threaten them,” he said in the video message, which was posted on the website of the First Step Forum, a Finland-based group that promotes religious harmony, rule of law and democracy.
“These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles. I’m living for my community and suffering people,” said Bhatti, who was an adviser to the group and had asked that his message be released in the event of his death.
The slaying robbed Pakistani Christians of their most prominent advocate.
“We have been orphaned today!” wailed Rehman Masih, a Christian resident of Islamabad. “Now who will fight for our rights? Who will raise a voice for us? Who will help us?”
Christians are the largest religious minority in Pakistan, whose population is 95 percent Muslim. They have very little political power and tend to work in lower-level jobs, such as street sweeping.
As Christians took to the streets Wednesday to protest in several cities, relatives and friends went to Bhatti’s home to pay their respects. “Tell the mullahs that the man who was the voice of the Christians is silent. Where are they now?” Samuel David, one of the visitors, shouted to a television crew.
The assassination drew condemnation from Christian and government leaders.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, called the slaying a “new episode of violence of terrible gravity,” saying it “demonstrates just how justified are the insistent statements by the pope regarding violence against Christians and religious freedom.”
Lombardi noted that Pope Benedict XVI had met with Bhatti in September.
President Barack Obama condemned the slaying, saying Bhatti “fought for and sacrificed his life for the universal values that Pakistanis, Americans and people around the world hold dear” — including rights to free speech and religious freedom.
In Britain, leaders of the Anglican Church expressed shock and sorrow and urged Pakistan’s government to do more to protect Christians.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the attack was “not only on one man but on the values of tolerance and respect of all faiths and backgrounds.”
The blasphemy laws were originally framed by the Asian subcontinent’s British colonial rulers but were toughened in the 1980s during the military rule of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, who pushed a politicized, austere brand of Islam.
Human rights groups have long warned that the laws are vaguely worded and open to abuse because people often use them to settle rivalries or persecute religious minorities.
Right-wing Islamist parties, looking for an issue to rally their supporters, have campaigned against any change to the laws, accusing those who seek to amend them of blasphemy — and creating an environment that led to the latest killings.
“Bhatti’s murder is the bitter fruit of appeasement of extremist and militant groups both prior to and after the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer,” said Human Right Watch. “An urgent and meaningful policy shift on the appeasement of extremists that is supported by the military, the judiciary and the political class needs to replace the political cowardice and institutional myopia that encourages such continued appeasement despite its unrelenting bloody consequences.”
Another prominent opponent of the blasphemy laws, ruling party member Sherry Rehman, recently dropped her bid to get them changed. Rehman, who has said she had to abide by party leaders’ decisions, faces death threats and has been living with heavy security.
– Prophecy News Watch
Businesses shut down and buses stayed off the streets in many parts of Pakistan on Friday as thousands rallied against changing the country’s controversial laws against blasphemy. In one major city, police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators who pelted them with stones.
Pakistan’s long-standing law against blasphemy gained new attention this year when a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death in November for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
She’s believed to be the first woman condemned to die under the statute, and her plight has caused outrage among human rights activists and Christian organizations who say the blasphemy laws are too often abused.
Pakistani religious groups called for the strikes and rallies Friday despite assurances by the embattled ruling Pakistan People’s Party that it would not pursue any changes to the law.
Except for the big cities, Pakistanis often observe Friday as a day off instead of the official Sunday weekly holiday.
But even in the major cities, many stores were closed and public transportation was visibly less available than usual. And after Friday prayers, groups gathered and marched from many mosques, chanting and carrying signs.
“Blasphemy deserves death, just death,” read a banner in one of the rallies.
“Our rulers shall not oblige the minority at the cost of the majority,” said Zahir Shah, a garment shop owner in Peshawar, the main city in the northwest.
Sahibzada Fazal Karim, a leader of the religious alliance behind the rallies, warned the government against making the changes to the law. “This strike is a referendum,” he said.
The rallies were largely peaceful except for one in Karachi, where police were pelted with stones and fired tear gas shells. No one was wounded, police officer Naseer Tanoli said.
Even as some Pakistanis rallied in support of changing the law, government ministers disavowed efforts by a party lawmaker, Sherry Rehman, to introduce a bill to amend it.
Rehman said she would pursue the bill despite Friday’s strikes, echoing long-standing concerns by human rights activists that the law is used to target religious minorities or as part of vendettas.
“The law is misused to settle personal scores,” she said. “No demonstration of premeditation is required to victimize an alleged blasphemer.” Dozens of Pakistanis are sentenced to death each year under the blasphemy law, but most cases are thrown out by higher courts and no executions have been carried out.
Still, some who are accused end up being killed by extremists.
A Pakistani court sentenced the 45-year-old Bibi to death on Nov. 8, triggering protests from rights groups.
Her family says the mother of five is innocent and the victim of a personal feud. The presidency has hinted at a pardon for her, but says it is waiting on a court to rule on her appeal.
– Prophecy News Watch
NUCLEAR POWER AND GLOBAL REGULATION
We live in a nuclear world. China is helping Pakistan build plants for nuclear energy. Russia and India are involved in a joint effort to set up nuclear power plants in India. Many who want to avoid nuclear war care whether or not the countries involved in these cooperative efforts are members of the Nuclear Supplier Group, a global body seeking to reduce nuclear proliferation by controlling who exports radioactive materials to whom. Others who want to avoid nuclear war are concerned about the focus on – often toothless – global bodies to attempt to regulate the world.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pakistan over the weekend, and the two nations have agreed to cooperate on civil nuclear energy along with other energy-related areas.
“The energy cooperation mechanism will be established to push forward bilateral cooperation in conventional energy, renewable energy and civil nuclear energy,” a joint statement issued late Sunday said. The “cooperation mechanism” is still unknown.
What is known is that the Nuclear Supplier Group, of which China is a member, has rules against providing nuclear power and technology to countries – like Pakistan – that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. China is like most humans, it seems, and feels the rules don’t apply to it. Along with the two power plants almost completed in Chashma, Pakistan owes China a debt of gratitude for the two additional plants China is planning to set up. Hydro and thermal energy plants are also in the works, and Pakistan will be making itself especially friendly to Chinese businessmen who want to invest in the country.
China is not alone in its nuclear benevolence and cooperation. Russia seems to want to help everybody build nuclear plants. The Bushehr plant in Iran is well known, because it is the first such plant to go live in the Persian country. India is another of Russia’s proteges. The two countries are preparing to launch the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in southern India. Russia wants to help India join the Nuclear Suppliers Group and plans to build a total of 18 nuclear reactors in India.
Russia knows well enough what happens when a nuclear power plant melts down, and the ramifications of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 are still felt in the Kiev province of the Ukraine 24 years later. Besides the melt-down potential, one of the biggest problems with nuclear plants is the difficulty of where to dispose the waste. Waste can be (and has been) spilled, stolen, inappropriately dumped, and is basically a massive mess to deal with. Deep geological storage of waste is an option, but while down there, the materials actually decompose to grades more readily available as weapons-grade fuel, ready and able to be mined for that purpose one day.
Ultimately, the concerns involved with nuclear power have given international groups like the NSG and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) more power to keep tabs on everybody – if a country is willing to be ‘tabbed’. The international push for more global policing and the resistance of certain nations to being policed is a dynamic of constant interest. The international push for more global government as a whole, and the constant weakness of such global governance, keep our attention as we anticipate the events of Revelation 13 in, perhaps, the not-so-distant future.
• Pakistan, China to Step Up Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation – iStockAnalyst
• Russia, India Ready to Develop Nuclear Cooperation – RiaNovosti
• Russia welcomes India’s Decision to Set Up Global Centre for Nuclear Energy – Sify News