Flicking through the latest issue of Azan, the English-language recruitment tool of the Taliban in Khurasan, and my attention is grabbed by this homage to the humble Honda 125. Apparently this motorbike is responsible for (and I’m roughly paraphrasing here) sending the Crusaders packing.
All praise is due to Allah Who has made the Crusaders flee with a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Mujahideen who have so little resources compared to them. We, the Mujahidin, have won the with HONDA 125s valued at around $700.
Anyway, the helpful guide suggests wrapping your RPGs in a blanket
Up to 6 RPG-7 rounds can be placed. Below is a clear view of the rounds placed in the blanket. The woolen blanket is placed under the rider to give him a more comfortable ride, this comes in handy during long journeys.
Even suicide attackers need something comfortable to sit on.
So it looks like Malala hasn’t won the Nobel Peace Prize. As I have blogged elsewhere, I have mixed feelings. And according to speculation from Norwegian news sites it seems as though the committee also had reservations about her tender age.
The channel speculated that the five-strong Committee was concerned that awarding the prize to Malala risked encouraging another assassination attempt from Islamic extremists, and that, at just 16 years’ old, she might be too young to cope with the weight of the prize.
Three things to say about this:
- The first reason smacks of appeasement. The Pakistan Taliban has already tried to kill her and will try again. Malala will continue to put herself in danger, Nobel prize or not. Extremists’ threats should not be a factor in the decision
- I happen to agree that the prize would bring a huge burden on such young shoulders. Give her a chance to complete her schooling – and she will continue as a powerful campaigner, whatever happens. She will win another year
- And I hope the eventual winner is a worthy recipient, whose award will highlight a noble cause. If it is Denis Mukwege, the Congolese doctor helping victims of rape, then who can argue? He is doing important work in a forgotten war. If as is being reported it goes to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, then it will be another risky political decision by the Nobel committee, sending a message on Syria
I have to rather admire Liam Fox, former foreign secretary, for writing this sort of nonsense:
I don’t have any personal animosity towards Pakistan or its people and enjoyed both my visits there and the people I was fortunate enough to meet. On balance, however, I think it is probably the most dangerous country in the world.
He’s been there twice, probably stayed at the High Commissioner’s rather pleasant residence, quite liked the people… but “on balance” has a book to sell.
Perhaps I’m just jealous. Maybe if I’d done this with my Darfur book – I’ve been there quite a bit, liked the people but “on balance” these Arabs are going to kill you, oh, and I’ve included a chapter on how air is going to kill us all – it might have sold rather better.
(For those of you who think Pakistan is indeed the biggest risk to global security, and I agree that there is a case that can be made in that regard, I think Dr Fox underestimates the resilience of the Pakistani state.)
Posted in pakistan
Tagged Liam Fox
The clever money is on Aseefa Bhutto Zardari emerging as the political heir to Benazir rather than her brother Bilawal. According to those that know, she is the more politically fiery of the two. And she certainly has the campaigning gene, wearing her PPP party cap while doshing out food to people fleeing this year’s floods in Pakistan….
I’d always been a bit sceptical about the Kalash people’s claim to be descended from the invading armies of Alexander the Great. The famous Macedonian leader passed through what is now northern Pakistan more than 2000 years ago. Nice idea, that some of his soldiers, had left behind their DNA giving rise to a tribe of blonde haired, blue eyed mountain people. But could it be true?
I know this is hardly conclusive proof, but during a visit two weeks ago, I found myself sitting on a balcony with a glass of a rather powerful mulberry spirit and a plate of almonds, picked from trees dotted around the neat village of Karkal. For a moment I could almost have been in northern Greece, rather than northern Pakistan. Until that is, my host explained that the Taliban were no more than a 10-hour walk away.
Northern Pakistan is a land of rugged mountains, of tough, warring tribes, and where women are never seen – except from time to time as ghostly, blue shadows hidden beneath their billowing burkas.
So I couldn’t help but stare at the creature making a beeline for me….
You can hear my World Report for RTE here
Pakistan’s troubles with extremism start not with the Islamic constitution adopted in the 1970s and the banning of alcohol by a government that needed the hardliners to shore up its feeble position; nor do they stem from the growing Islamisation under General Zia, when hardliners took over the military and its intelligence agency, channeling cash and arms to their favourite Islamist Mujahideen; nor when the government fostered the Taliban in Afghanistan during the 1990s; nor by a succession of governments unwilling to offer an alternative narrative to that offered by conservative clerics that foreign powers are to blame for Pakistan’s ills; nor by a moribund economy where state industries are propped up in order to provide jobs to relatives and no-one except the stupid and the poor pay taxes. No. Pakistan’s problems are caused by the International Monetary Fund, at least according to an op-ed piece in today’s Dawn:
In the past, post-colonial theorists have proffered the idea that Islamic fundamentalism is an oppositional discourse to imperialism and hence neo-imperialism. That is a limited thesis; a historical analysis that connects global pressures to reconstitute the state and to cut back on its welfare functions (as the IMF and the World Bank have often demanded of poor countries) goes further.
It reveals fundamentalism and, in Pakistan’s particular case, the rise of fundamentalisms, as inextricably connected to the pressures faced internationally.
There was a time, as an old-fashioned lefty, when I would have believed this kind of guff. Then I lived in the developing world. If countries like Kenya and Pakistan have problems it is not – after 50 or 70 years of independence – because of some colonial hangover. It is not the result of globalisation. And it is not the result of neo-liberal economic policies – whatever they are. It is the result of years and years of corruption and poor government.
To suggest otherwise is just patronising. Pakistan is a big enough boy to have built itself an atomic bomb. It has all the talent, ingenuity and resources to prosper and to become a world power. That it is not is not the result of IMF austerity measures. Pakistan didn’t even comply with the conditions of the last deal.
Blaming outside powers for your ills is easy. But it won’t change anything.
Here’s the text of a letter signed by 17 international news organisations, including The Daily Telegraph, and sent to Pakistan’s minister of information in protest at the expulsion of Declan Walsh.
We are writing to protest the Pakistani government’s recent move to expel Declan Walsh, the Islamabad bureau chief for The New York Times, without clearly specifying the allegations against him or allowing him an opportunity to respond to them.
The Pakistani government has repeatedly said that it respects press freedom. The manner in which it expelled Mr. Walsh runs counter to this stated commitment and threatens the entire journalism community in the country.
In the early morning hours of May 9, police officers delivered a two-sentence letter to Mr. Walsh’s home in Islamabad informing him that his visa was canceled because of unspecified “undesirable activities” and ordering him to leave the country within 72 hours.
Mr. Walsh received no further explanation of his alleged wrongdoing despite repeated requests. He was eventually escorted by security forces to the airport in Lahore and forced to fly out of the country on May 12.
Mr. Walsh is a respected journalist of high standing who has lived and worked in Pakistan for nine years for both The Guardian and The New York Times newspapers.
We fully recognize the Pakistani government’s legal right to control who enters the country and to accredit foreign journalists. But we do not agree with the use of this power to stifle freedom of the press.
We therefore ask the government to reinstate Mr. Walsh’s visa and allow him to return to the country in line with the nation’s stated commitment to press freedom.
Spotted these fine products in an Islamabad supermarket yesterday. Oddly, no Irn Bru. However, they are a reminder of my soft drinks index of failed states and I see that AG Barr is in the news today.
So President Obama has made his drones speech (full text of speech here) and the analysis and reaction has begun. Much of it is pretty predictable and makes some of the usual mistakes.
First up, UAVs may be pretty new but the questions they raise are not. Our focus should not be on the technology but the way in which it is being used. My concern would be the same if it were a piloted F-16 launching missiles to kill unknown, suspected militants outside a war zone and in secret.
I always love how critics of drone strikes suggest George W Bush launched them with a swagger while Obama anguishes over every decision. The statistics suggest Obama doesn’t anguish for long.
And, at least in Pakistan, the number of civilians killed is pretty small. It’s difficult to know for certain, but people who tell you that hundreds of civilians are dying are rather exaggerating.
I’m no fan of drones, and I’m not sure Obama’s speech reassures me much, but I think the opponents are making some of the wrong arguments.
Here are some of the pieces I’ve been reading this morning:
Obama’s Speech on Drones and Guantanamo: A Challenge to an Endless War : The New Yorker
A young Yemeni writer on the impact and morality of drone-bombing his country | Glenn Greenwald
Finally, Obama Breaks His Silence on Drones | Brookings Institution
Drones: Myths And Reality In Pakistan – International Crisis Group
China Has Drones. Now What? | Foreign Affairs