Mumbai Attacks: “These Weren’t Just Terrorists”

by matttbastard

ForaTV:

Counterterrorism expert Bruce Hoffman describes the November, 2008 attacks on downtown Mumbai, India as “more like a military operation than a terrorist attack,” and examines what implications the incident may have for the ongoing fight against global terrorism.

Complete video here

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Quote of the Day: The Gap

by matttbastard

If you were watching television you may not have heard that ordinary people too died in Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal cold-bloodedness. The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that breached the glittering barricades of India Shining and spread its stench in the marbled lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish centre.

We’re told one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That’s absolutely true. It’s an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day. On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically one was called Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company I think) said “Hungry, kya?” (Hungry eh?). It then, with the best of intentions I’m sure, informed its readers that on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia. But of course this isn’t that war. That one’s still being fought in the Dalit bastis of our villages, on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh in West Bengal and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.

That war isn’t on TV. Yet. So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that is.

– Arundhati Roy, The monster in the mirror

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PSA: Accountability for Musharraf and a Restoration of the November 2nd Judiciary

by matttbastard

Via Teeth Maestro:

People’s Resistance
Press Release – 18 August 2008

People’s Resistance attributes the resignation of retired General Pervez Musharraf as President of Pakistan to the long and untiring struggle of the Lawyers, students, civil society organizations and political groups. The civil society and media’s struggle against the arbitrary rule of General Musharraf forced the ruling democratic coalition to start the process of impeachment that eventually led to his resignation.

Though we celebrate his resignation, we call for the fair trial of General Musharraf for the long list of crimes against the people of Pakistan including removal of judiciary, abrogating the constitution, forced disappearances, torture and deaths in custody of citizens especially from Baluchistan, and for killing people in Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

In this vein the People’s Resistance demands the immediate restoration of the judiciary to its November 02 composition, as it was before the promulgation of the PCOs suspending the constitution.

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Musharraf Resigns

by matttbastard

Was never a matter of ‘if’, but, rather, when:

Speaking on television from his presidential office here at 1 p.m., Mr. Musharraf, dressed in a gray suit and tie, said that after consulting with his aides, “I have decided to resign today.” He said he was putting national interest above “personal bravado.”

“Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose,” he said, adding that he was not prepared to put the office of the presidency through the impeachment process.

Mr. Musharraf said the governing coalition, which has pushed for impeachment, had tried to “turn lies into truths.”

“They don’t realize they can succeed against me but the country will undergo irreparable damage.”

In an emotional ending to a speech lasting more than an hour, Mr. Musharraf raised his clenched fists to chest height, and said, “Long live Pakistan!”

Good riddance.

So what happens next? As Kamran Rehmat notes, the resignation likely signals the end of the uneasy ruling coaltion between Asif Zardari’s PPP and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N:

The dominant view is that the desire to remove the former president was the glue – and part of an understanding – that held them together following a spectacular showing at the February 18 national elections, which saw Musharraf allies drubbed.

For starters, the PPP will be under tremendous pressure to restore the judges Musharraf deposed.

Pakistanis are not likely to quickly forget that the PPP has twice failed to restore them despite public assurances.

The PPP fears the deposed judiciary will revoke the indemnity granted to Asif Zardari, its leader, under a so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance.

Musharraf had decreed the ordinance last year, removing decade-old corruption cases against Zardari and his wife Benazir Bhutto, the slain former premier.

However, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who pushed Zardari into making a pitch for Musharraf’s ouster early this month, will unlikely settle for anything less than the reinstatement of judges and a consensus president.

In that, the end of Musharraf’s rule may signal the beginning of real political drama.

Stay tuned, true believers.

Related: Arif Rafiq of Pakistan Policy Blog provides a minute-by-minute breakdown of Musharraf’s rambling resignation speech (h/t Abu Muqawama); BBC News has extensive coverage, including ‘key excerpts’ from the speech, a look back at Musharraf’s ‘mixed legacy’ and the impact his resignation will have on the ‘war on terror’; Pakinstani blogger Teeth Maestro calls for Pakistanis to “hold strong” and  “rebuild Pakistan” and  expresses concerns about the likelihood of a Zardari presidency (“Run for the hills!”)

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“Top Al Qaeda Commander” Reportedly Bites The Dust. Again. Yawn.

by matttbastard

the-redshirt-curse.jpg

Number three with a bullet for (at least) the seventh time. Sheesh–being promoted to Al Qaeda’s 3rd in command is like wearing a red shirt on the original Star Trek. But, in an interesting plot twist, the usual unnamed Western officials seem to have since revised Al-Libi’s stature to “”not far below the importance of the top two al Qaeda leaders” — Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri” (CNN) and “”in the top half dozen figures in Al Qaeda”” (The LA Times)–which means that the real 3rd-from-the-top may still be on the lam.

[Insert snarky ‘dead or alive’ one-liner here]

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PSA: ITUC Report On Core Labour Standards In Pakistan

by matttbastard

ITUC Press Release:

Brussels, 16 January 2008: The ITUC released a new report today showing that all core labour standards, even if ratified, are violated massively and flagrantly in Pakistan. This report coincides with the country’s trade policy review at the WTO on 16 and 18 January and highlights important shortcomings in the application and enforcement of core labour standards in the country.

The report shows that the rights enshrined in both conventions protecting trade union rights are not respected. The right of freedom of association is violated systematically and there is insufficient protection against anti-union discrimination. The right to strike cannot be exercised and workers in the country’s three export processing zones do not enjoy the right to form a trade union, bargain collectively or strike.

Hazardous forms of child labour include street vending, surgical instrument manufacturing, deep sea fishing, leather manufacturing, brick making, production of soccer balls, and carpet weaving. The report denounces the fact while Pakistan has ratified both conventions combating forced labour, this practice, including by children, is widespread in the country. Bonded labour is a major issue despite legislation that should outlawed the practice. The report equally recalls that Pakistan is a source, transit and destination country for trafficked people and that currently, women and children are those most vulnerable to such practices.

Women suffer from discrimination in the workplace. While harassment is a serious problem, there is no law in force to combat it yet.

The report ends with a summary of recommendations and conclusions addressed to the government of Pakistan in an attempt to redress its non compliance with the ILO core labour standards.

To read the full report: please click here


The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 156 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates.For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018

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Pakistan Update: “This Grotesque Feudal Charade”

by matttbastard

The Election Commission has postponed general elections, originally scheduled for January the 8th. Elections are now scheduled to be held on February the 18th, much to the chagrin of opposition leaders:

“It is risky,” said one Western diplomat, who would speak only anonymously, following diplomatic protocols. “Anything could happen because any straw or incident could ignite more violence or reaction against the government.”Condemning the violence and expressing his sorrow at the death of Ms. Bhutto, President Pervez Musharraf went on national television to explain the election delay and to dampen public anger. He acknowledged there was confusion over the way she died and said he had requested the assistance of a British team from Scotland Yard to help with a new and more thorough investigation.

“I myself want to go into its depths and want to tell the nation,” he said. “It is extremely important to bring the nation out of confusion. I am sure this investigation with the help of Scotland Yard will remove all doubts and suspicions.”

The postponement was the right decision, the president said, and he promised free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections, emphasizing the word peaceful.

The decision to delay the elections was immediately denounced by Ms. Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, now the co-chairman of her Pakistan Peoples Party, who had demanded that the voting proceed on time partly to capitalize on the expected sympathy vote. The other main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, called this week for President Musharraf to resign and for a neutral interim government to be appointed.

An alliance of smaller opposition parties, which is already boycotting elections, announced that it would start planning protests across the country, suspecting that President Musharraf would keep postponing the voting indefinitely.

As noted by the Times, Musharraf also announced that he was bowing to international pressure, requesting outside assistance from Scotland Yard in the investigation of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination:

The 30-minute speech was Mr Musharraf’s first major public address since Ms Bhutto’s death.

Mr Musharraf referred to “the pain and anger” of Ms Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), especially in her home province of Sindh.

He paid tribute to his political opponent, saying: “I also feel the same sadness and anger – I respect the sentiments of the nation.”

He repeated official allegations that al-Qaeda was behind Ms Bhutto’s killing, and urged the media to “expose” pro-Taleban militant leaders who, he said, were orchestrating suicide attacks in Pakistan.

He said new evidence was coming to light but that expert advice was needed, and he thanked the British prime minister for accepting his request for assistance.

“This is a very significant investigation. All the confusion that has been created in the nation must be resolved,” Mr Musharraf said.

Of course, one wonders what investigators will have to work with, considering the fact that most forensic evidence has been (literally) washed down the drain.

Analyst Arif Rafiq is also skeptical:

Clearly, Musharraf is most moved by the deterioration of law and order, which he sees ultimately as an attack on his power. The murder of a two-time prime minister near the seat of the army, in his view, is now a peripheral matter. If it was truly primary, he would announce an independent commission, formed in concert with the opposition, to supervise the investigation.

Moreover, if he truly believes that Baitullah Mehsud is responsible for the murder of a former Pakistani prime minister, shouldn’t he have announced that the army would make a renewed, aggressive attempt to apprehend Mehsud, try him before a court of law, and–if convicted–execute him? Is not the murder of a former prime minister, in effect, an act of treason?

My brain seems to be stranded somewhere in 2007. So, for now, I’ll simply encourage everyone to check out this scathing op-ed by Tariq Ali on how the PPP is contributing to the suppression of democracy in Pakistan, and Dave’s subsequent commentary, also on deadly point. Hopefully I will soon be able to also contribute something with similar substance.

Update: via Spackerman, Barnett Rubin effing nails it:

Many, probably most or nearly all, Pakistanis don’t see the “War on Terror” as struggle of “moderates” against “extremists.” They see it as a slogan to legitimate the military’s authoritarian control. Through the classic psychological mechanism of reducing cognitive dissonance, it is only a short jump from believing that the threat of al-Qaida is being manipulated to strengthen authoritarian rule, to believing that the threat of al-Qaida is a hoax perpetrated to strengthen authoritarian rule. A similar mechanism of reducing cognitive dissonance has led many Americans to accept propaganda that the “anti-American” Saddam Hussein and the “anti-American” Islamic Republic of Iran” must be allied with the “anti-American” al-Qaida.

[…]

The Bush administration’s terrible simplification has not only harmed U.S. security interests; it has also done perhaps irreparable damage to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some readers protest when I lead with the implications of such events for U.S. foreign policy, as if I didn’t think it worthwhile to mention the effects on those directly concerned. Believe me, I understand that Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all those other countries out there have purposes other than playing a role in scripts drafted in Washington.

But I am an American writing for a primarily American audience. I don’t think that Pakistanis are looking to me to explain their country to them. I am trying to use my experience and expertise, such as it is, to convince my compatriots, our allies, and the international organizations to which we belong, to change their relationships with other countries. Sometimes I appear on the media here (the US) or speak to non-specialist audiences. They always ask me to explain the implications for them.

There is a connection, however, between the foreign policy interests of the U.S. and the direct effect on, in this case, Pakistan. That is because the script writers in Washington impose their own terrible simplifications on the people whose behavior they are trying to affect, without understanding who those people are and what they want, often with disastrous consequences.

The current situation in Pakistan is a case in point. The Bush administration has decided that in the “Muslim world” a battle is going on between pro-American “moderates” and anti-American “extremists.” According to them, the “Muslim world” has a two-party system organized around how Muslims feel about America. In Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf is a “pro-American moderate.” Benazir Bhutto is a “pro-American moderate.” Therefore it is only logical (and in U.S. interests!) for the U.S. to realign Pakistan politics so that the “moderates” work together against the “extremists.”

This ignores a few problems. It is not just a random problem that the “pro-American moderate” institution headed by General Musharraf executed Benazir’s father and held her for years in solitary confinement. Despite Musharraf’s propagation of the PR slogan, “enlightened moderation,” the institution that he headed, and which put him in power, supported the Taliban unstintingly for many years and failed to deliver any results against al-Qaida when it would really have counted. This is the same institution that massacred hundreds of thousands of its own countrymen in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

[…]

The leaders of the Pakistan military, of which Musharraf is a typical example, do not see themselves primarily as “pro-American moderates” battling with “anti-American extremists.” They see themselves as responsible for building a powerful militarized state in Pakistan representing the heritage of Islamic empires in South and Central Asia against the threat from India and the selfish maneuvers of politicians (not necessarily in that order). In the course of doing so, they have enriched themselves and gained control of much of the economy and civilian administration. The military has always aspired to control the judiciary as well, and Musharraf has now restored to that institution the supine illegitimacy that it possessed under General Zia. This means of course that the use of institutional power for private gain by the military is legal (as the judiciary has no power over the military), while similar use of institutional power by civilians is “corruption.”

The military allies with the U.S. because that is the only way to get the weapons and money for their national security project and to prevent the U.S. from aligning with India. It has nothing to do with “moderation.” The “pro-American moderate” Pakistan military has used the “anti-American extremist” jihadis for its national security project.

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