Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sorry Pakistan, but we have no apology policy.

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1. US Hunt for Al-Zawahiri

On the basis of information that al-Zawahiri and his body-guards were going to spend the night of January 12, 2005, in the Mamond village of Damadola in the house of a local smuggler of gems and precious stones, US aircraft, believed to be Predators of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), made two strikes with missiles at 3 AM and 3-30 AM on the morning of January 13, 2005, at a cluster of houses belonging to this smuggler in which his family members were staying.

Eighteen persons were killed, of whom 14 have been identified as members of the smuggler's family. The smuggler himself was reportedly away in Saudi Arabia for Haj. The identities of the remaining four are yet to be established. The local villagers have been insisting that they too were local residents and not foreigners, but have not been able to give their identities.

This is the fourth such instance of US operations against Al Qaeda in Pakistani territory in recent months.

2. The drone, the CIA and a botched attempt to kill bin Laden's deputy

'This is a big lie... Only our family members died in the attack,' said Shah Zaman, a jeweller who lost two sons and a daughter in the attack. 'They dropped bombs from planes and we were in no position to stop them... or to tell them we are innocent. I don't know [al-Zawahiri]. He was not at my home. No foreigner was at my home when the planes came and dropped bombs.' Haroon Rashid, a member of parliament who lives in a village near Damadola, told The Observer that he had seen a drone surveying the area hours before the attack.

'A drone has been flying over the area for the last three, four days, and I had a feeling that something nasty was going to happen,' he said in a phone interview. 'There was no foreigner there - we never saw a single foreigner here. They were all local people, jewellers and shop-keepers, who used to commute between Bajaur and their village. We knew them.'

The dead were reported to include four children, aged between five and ten, and at least two women. According to Islamic tradition, they were buried almost immediately. One Pakistani official, speaking anonymously, told The Observer that hours before the strike some unidentified guests had arrived at one home and that some bodies had been removed quickly after the attack. This was denied by villagers.

3. Anatomy of the airstrike in Pakistan

U.S. counterterrorism officials claim that shortly after the attack, the bodies of five dead were quickly removed.

Senior U.S. officials say that shortly after 9/11, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf agreed the U.S. could launch airstrikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and only needed to inform the Pakistani government, not seek its permission.

4. Huge rally asks Pakistani prime minister to cancel US visit

The rally was organized by the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) as part of the countrywide protest against the early Friday attack on three houses in Bajur tribal region. The government coalition partner, Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), had supported the MMA protest, and the support attracted a crowd of some ten thousand people in Karachi, correspondents said. "We want the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to cancel his upcoming visit to the United States as a protest," deputy chief of the hard line Jamaat-e-Islami, Senator Prof. Ghafoor told the rally.

5. Aziz To Go Ahead With US Visit Despite Anti-America Protests

Aziz told reporters here that his scheduled visit to the United States was on despite anti-American rallies organised by Islamist alliance Muthahida Majlis Amal (MMA) over the Jan 13 missile attack on Damodala village in the tribal belt close to Afghan border in which 18 civilians, many of them women and children were killed.

6. Missile deaths unite Pakistan anti-US groups in outrage

General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's pro-US military ruler, faces nationwide eruptions of anger towards the US after at least 18 people were killed by missiles reportedly fired by a CIA-operated drone near the Afghan border.

Yesterday, at least 10,000 protesters from liberal and Islamic political groups, in a rare gesture of solidarity, joined an anti-US protest in Karachi, the southern port city, while smaller protests were reported across Pakistan, fuelling fears of a new wave of anti-US sentiment in the south Asian country.

Gen Musharraf did not criticise the US directly for the attack during a speech on Saturday, leaving it to the foreign ministry to protest, but warned that aiding militants was dangerous. "If we harbour foreign terrorists, those who carry out bomb blasts throughout the world, then remember that our future is not good," he said.

7. ‘No guarantee US won’t do it again’

“We apologize, but I can’t tell you that we wouldn’t do the same thing again,” [US Senator John] McCain said.

8. Foreign hand in Balochistan?

There is little doubt that arms are flowing into Pakistan's Balochistan both through Iran and Afghanistan. That, however, in no way means that the states of Iran or Afghanistan are directly involved. Surely, the entire region has long been flooded with Kalashnikovs, heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, landmines and mortars. Every kind of killing machine is available to anyone who is willing to pay the price, and then Pakistan's border with Afghanistan is a rugged 2,430 kilometres long, the one with Iran is 909 kilometres (even America has failed to block the supply of arms to Iraqi 'insurgents'). "We don't face any external threat," said General Musharraf. ... The very structure of the state of Pakistan is such that authority is extremely centralised, and the needs of large segments of Pakistani population outside the power structure are not responded to until they go violent. When Balochistan goes violent, gunship helicopters with automatic cannons are sent in. There is no military solution to deprivation, discrimination and poverty.

9. Balochistan leader slams Musharraf

Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the powerful tribal chieftain whose followers have been engaged for several weeks in full-blown warfare with Pakistani troops in the province of Balochistan, on Wednesday slammed President Pervez Musharraf's claims that India was providing support to the rebellion.

"President Musharraf is using his favourite weapon - lies," Nawab Bugti said in a satellite-phone interview to The Hindu , his first to an Indian publication. "His objective is to defame the legitimate demands of the people of Balochistan." He spoke from the traditional seat of the Bugti tribe, Dera Bugti, which has been besieged by Pakistani troops for several days.

In a recent interview to the television channel CNN-IBN, Gen. Musharraf claimed there was proof that India was providing support to the Baloch nationalist forces, whom he described as "anti-government and anti-me." Indian involvement in Balochistan included "financial support" and "support in kind."

Nawab Bugti, however, denied that Baloch fighters had received any assistance from India. "What is the need for us to take anything from anyone," he asked. "The weapons we are now using flowed into this region when the United States financed the jihad in Afghanistan. It was the Inter-Services Intelligence which distributed them to Afghanistan, Iran, Jammu and Kashmir - and to us in Balochistan."

10. Benazir blames Musharraf for unrest in Pakistan

On the US support to Pakistan, she said: ''Gen Musharraf does what Washington wants him to do and President George W Bush is happy with him.'' It is a pity that Gen Musharraf pays no attention to what the people of Pakistan were saying.'' ''Gen Musharraf has failed to protect the people from unemployment. He may be applauded in Washington for his support and understanding of the needs of President Bush, but he does not understand the needs of the people of Pakistan,'' Ms Bhutto added.

''The press in Pakistan was ''not free'' as it was only free to write against politicians, not against Gen Musharraf or any of the generals otherwise 'your car will get burnt or you will be beaten and end up in exile in Washington','' she said.

11. Of Western Media Hype and Iran

So, why did those “senior sources speaking on condition of anonymity”, let’s call them the SSSCA for short, chose June as the invasion date? The only answer is that they wanted to demonstrate their sense of humor. On the calendar of Iran, June is the month of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the revolution. It was in June 1963 that he organized his first uprising against the Shah. And it was also in the June of 1989 that he died. ...

My guess is that the SSSCA either do not exist or, if they do, are using some gullible journalists dreaming of a Pulitzer-securing scoop, to exert psychological pressure on the Iranian leadership.

But what if the SSSCA do exist and the New Yorker and other media that frequently publish their “leaks” know something that we don’t? What if the invasion starts on March 19 ? Would we not end up with egg on our face? Well, we will have to wait and see.