April 20, 2013

Ballot or the bullet?


From the Newspaper | Tariq Khosa | 15th April, 2013 9
 

THE Baloch 'sub-nation' finds itself caught between two crucial options at present: intensify the insurgency and disrupt the coming elections through the bullet or cast votes and have their voice heard through the ballot.

According to Dr Allah Nazar who commands the separatist Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), the elections would be "nothing but a tool deployed by the central government in Islamabad to suppress the voices and demands of the Baloch people".

Akhtar Mengal, the leader of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), resisting pressure from radical nationalists, has chosen the path of a democratic struggle. He, along with other prominent Baloch politicians like Mir Hasil Bizenjo, Dr Abdul Malik, and Talal Bugti, has decided to contest the coming elections. Democracy is their preferred option in place of insurgency.

But for Nazar, "If Akhtar Mengal takes part in this sham of an election, he will have compromised with the very same security establishment that has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of Baloch". Akhtar Mengal, sensitive to Baloch resentment, tried to address their concerns in an open letter to the Supreme Court before his arrival last month to participate in the elections with strong reservations.

Mengal counted "60 mutilated bodies, 70 targeted killings and 100 missing persons" since his court appearance in September 2012. "The heirs of missing persons are suffering an agony which only they can relate to, and are losing hope in the justice system," read the letter. He had called his four-day tour in September a "last stand" and added that "elections will become selections" if they are held in "the war-zone that has become Balochistan".

It is keeping this inner struggle of the Baloch in mind that the state and society should try and understand the mindset and trials that are pulling the nationalists in two opposite directions — a lawful struggle through constitutional means or a separatist and violence-driven campaign against the federation.

Allah Nazar is the prominent face of the Baloch insurgency. Apart from the BLF, three other key Baloch militant organisations that advocate the secession of Balochistan include the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and the Baloch Liberation United Front. Analysts believe that Nazar has successfully spread the insurgency beyond the traditional strongholds of the rebels to the non-tribal western parts of the province, where insurgent attacks on security forces have arisen.

Believed to be the most influential figure among the radical Baloch youth, Nazar represents a tragic case study of an educated young man abandoning a professional career for an armed uprising from the mountains of western Balochistan. He belongs to a middle-class family from Mashkay, a town in Awaran district.

Born in 1968, he chose to become a doctor by initially getting admitted in Ata Shad University of Turbat in 1986. As a result of his hard work and determination, he not only secured a medical seat in Bolan Medical College Quetta but was also awarded a gold medal in gynaecology in 1999.

Like most Baloch activists, he was actively associated with the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO), the student wing of the Balochistan National Movement (BNM) which is now called the National Party. After parting ways with the BNM in 2002, Nazar founded the Azad faction of the BSO, which is pro-independence and supportive of the armed resistance.

In March 2005, he was picked up by unknown gunmen from a flat in Karachi and remained missing for around a year. He resurfaced in August 2006, and was jailed in Quetta for several months. After his release on bail, he went into hiding again and this time he took refuge in the mountains near Turbat to lead the insurgency against the state.

Security officials estimate that overall there are about 1,000 militants of which the core are around 250. The BLF has 300-400 fighters. However, in his interview with a Quetta-based journalist, Nazar claimed that there are more than 6,000 fighters in their ranks and the number is growing.

The Nazar-led armed insurgency may not be very large but it has given rise to a new phenomenon: the educated, non-tribal insurgent from a middle-class background. This new insurgent profile is quite unlike the customary insurgent base that usually has consisted of uneducated tribal fighters and, indeed, he is the first non-tribal head of a militant group in Balochistan.

The main challenge in the forthcoming elections would be a joint strategy of all major militant organisations to sabotage the democratic process in an extremely fragile caretaker governance framework. The intentions are clear as on March 12, the Hyarbyar Marri-led BLA targeted and killed Mohammad Ziaullah Qasmi, the district election commissioner in Quetta. "We will not let Pakistan hold elections in Balochistan," said the BLA's spokesperson. The Brahmdagh Bugti-led BRA is likely to soon close ranks with the other separatist factions.

Against this grim scenario and internal struggle between radical nationalists promoting insurgency and the Baloch political parties treading the democratic path, the recent gestures of the Election Commission of Pakistan that has promised to address the concerns of the parties in providing a level playing field, and the visit of the army chief to Quetta and his urging all political parties in the province to participate in the coming elections, are certainly positive and will strengthen the cause of democracy.

This is a defining and critical moment in our history and all the stakeholders of state security must back up and support the Baloch who are grudgingly but knowingly becoming part of a democratic process to seek redress of the grievances that had forced their activists to choose militancy over democracy. It is time to heal their wounds and reach out to them with affection. The Baloch can break but won't bend. Let this strength in their character be the force harnessed carefully for a strong and prosperous Pakistan.

The writer is former IG Police Balochistan.

April 19, 2013

Mossad wants you

Mossad

Creative, like travel? Mossad wants you
BY:SHEERA FRENKEL From: The Times April 20, 2013 12:00AM
 

DO you see yourself as a "creative person" living an "irregular" lifestyle? Fancy living in Israel but taking "brief and numerous trips overseas"?


If your answer to these questions is yes, then Mossad may have just the job for you. Israel's spy agency has just launched an aggressive online recruitment campaign to try to target a new generation of potential agents.

Rather than rely on word-of-mouth whisperings and elite military units, which have traditionally formed the base of Mossad's recruitment efforts, the agency has decided to reach out to Israeli youth directly with pithy online advertisements and videos.

In one video, which has gone viral, a woman texts her husband: "How was your day at work?" Her husband (clearly a Mossad agent) texts back: "Don't ask." At the end, a tagline reads: "Mossad is open. Not to everyone. Not to many. Maybe to you." On the website www.mossad.gov.il a banner advertisement flashes: "With enemies like these, we need friends."


According to the job ads on the site, you are more likely to get in if you were conscripted through the various Israeli military intelligence units and have fluency in Arabic and Farsi.

So why the new outreach program? According to Israeli officials, dwindling interest in public service has left Mossad with fewer applicants than in decades past.

The agency's recent blunders may also have served to put people off what was once considered a glamorous career.

Most infamous was the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas military chief, at a hotel in Dubai in January 2010. Several of what were believed to be Mossad agents, disguised unconvincingly as tennis players, were caught on CCTV in the hotel corridor. Later, it was alleged the agents used fake British, French, German, Irish and Australian passports. Mossad has refused to comment on the case.

According to author Yossi Melman, another factor hampering Mossad recruitment is that Israel is becoming a less ideological society the older it gets.

"It's less glamorous to work for Mossad than it used to be 20, 30 years ago, but that is because Israel is changing and the notions of idealism, collectivism and state interest are not as attractive as they used to be."

Former agents who remember the days when recruitment often happened through close-knit groups of friends or family said that they were worried the new methods would bring "untested, unreliable" candidates.

"They need a large pool of applicants because, let's be honest, of every 100 men who think they may be the next James Bond, only one will actually have the necessary skill set," said one agent, who retired last year after serving for more than 30 years. "The candidates who walk in with the most bravado and arrogance are often the first to be ruled out."

He said that, years ago, a candidate like Ben Zygier would never have been recruited. The story of Zygier, also known as "Prisoner X", was made public earlier this year when it was revealed an unnamed prisoner who hanged himself in one of Israel's highest security prisons was a Mossad agent with dual Israeli-Australian citizenship.

Zygier is widely suspected of being behind an intelligence leak that endangered operations in Lebanon. Friends say he enlisted by filling in the form online.

The Times

The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, known universally as the Mossad, acquired a reputation for ruthlessness and ingenuity after its creation in 1948. High-risk clandestine operations have involved the use of cloned identities, sophisticated disguises and cutting-edge technology

But the Mossad has also attracted attention for bungled operations, including the attempted assassination of Khaled Meshaal, when agents squirted poison into the Hamas leader's ear in Amman, Jordan, in 1997. Israel was forced by King Hussein to hand over an antidote.

The case of Ben Zygier, an Australian-born Mossad operative known as Prisoner X, drew worldwide scrutiny earlier this year when it emerged that the agent had hanged himself while imprisoned in Israel under conditions of extreme secrecy.

According to the Mossad's website, the agency has positions available in special assignments, intelligence, resources and logistics and security. It advises that applicants will undergo security, medical and psychological screening and that "security related positions will be filled by appropriate persons only".



BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING: QUESTIONS SANS ANSWERS

B.RAMAN

 

Two Chechen brothers living in the US since 2002—Dzhokhar ( 19) and TamerlanTsarnaev ( 26),  are suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon on April 15,2013, in which three persons were killed and over 150 injured.

2.The team led by the FBI, which has been investigating the blast, has been able to identify them reportedly through CCTV images of their placing bags, which probably contained the improvised explosive devices (IED), fabricated with a pressure cooker and a metal container, at two places near the finishing line where the explosions occurred.

3. Even though the FBI-led team haS not said so, tip-off from persons knowing the brothers also possibly contributed to the needle of suspicion pointing at the two brothers.

4.Tamerlandied following a shootout with the  police on Thursday ( April 18) night. His  younger brother, Dzhokhar, is still on the run in Boston.However, latest reports indicate that the police are "in engagement" with a person suspected to be Dzhokhar in the Watertown area.

5. From the accounts of the police search for him received so far,Dzhokhar has been making  frantic efforts to evade capture by the police, who must be anxious to catch him alive to question him on what and who motivated him and Tamerlan to commit the bombing, if it is proved that they did it.

5.According to the profile of the Tsarnaev family carried by the BBC and the CNN, they were Chechens who had migrated toKyrgyzstan and from there to Dagestan. They migrated to the US from Dagestan with Kyrgyz passports in 2002. The father,AnzorTsarnaev, is since reported to have gone back to Dagestan.

6. According to the BBC, the brothers lived in the Massachusetts town of Cambridge, home of the prestigious Harvard University.  Tamerlan  studied engineering at Bunker Hill Community College just outside Boston but had taken the year off to train as a boxer.Dzhokhar  is enrolled at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth to study medicine.

7.Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported that "extremist material" was on the YouTube account belonging to Tamerlan. "Several albums were posted, one of them titled 'terrorist'," the agency said. However, the BBC says it has been  unable to confirm the presence of extremist material on Tamerlan's YouTube page.

8. Their mother, ZubeidatTsarnaeva, told Russia's RT television network on April 19:"My youngest was raised from 8 years in America, my oldest he was really properly raised in our house," she said. "Nobody talked about terrorism. Tamerlan got involved in religion five years ago. (He) started following his own religion, never told me he could be on side of jihad."

9. According to some reports, the FBI had interviewed the father sometime ago to enquire why the two sons had started attending a local mosque for prayers. This would show that the two brothers were under watch by the FBI for some time before they carried out the bombing.

10.Details of their life in Boston available so far do not indicate any travels by them either within the US or outside.If they had developed any radical influences, it must have been through the Internet or during their visits to the local mosque for namaz. Particulars of the mosque to which they started going for namaz are not available. Who was the cleric in charge of it? Did he have any radical background? Why was the FBI worried about their going for namaz?

11. Dzhokharwas very proud of his Chechen ethnicity.It has been reported that whenever his friends referred to him as a Russian, he would correct them and say he is a Chechen.

12.If it is established that the two brothers carried out the Marathon bombing, what could have been their motive? They had no reasons to be angry against the US and its civil society. Their anger should have been against Russia.

13.Were they self-motivated to carry out the bombing or was their an external motivation due to US policies towards the Islamic world? It is not anger over the state of affairs in Chechnya and Dagestan, but anger over matters relating to Islam that seem to have motivated them.

14. Was there an Al Qaeda inspiration behind their action? Chechens had always formed an important component of Al Qaeda. Chechen instructors were employed in Al Qaeda's training camps in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.

15. Under Ayman al-Zawahiri, the present chief of Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda has turned the focus of its operations from the Af-Pak region to Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Mali, Somalia, Libya and Algeria.Did Al Qaeda propaganda against the US policies in Libya and Syria influence the brothers in their actions?

16. There are many questions without answers. To find the answers, it is important for the US authorities to catch Dzhokhar alive. (20-4-13)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75)

  

April 17, 2013

The Afghan puzzle

Chintamani Mahapatra, April 15, 2013, DHNS:

The Afghan war has cost the US more than half a trillion dollars national debt, budget deficit and, of course, thousands of American lives.

The Obama Administration has made it amply clear that the US forces will leave Afghanistan by end of 2014. However, deadly war has not ceased in Afghanistan. Will Afghans be able to manage their affairs after foreign forces leave?

The end-game is softly unfolding, even as behind-the-scene negotiations are inaudibly taking place. How will India handle the situation in coming months and years? India already seems to be in an election mode. Amidst corruption exposes, economic downturn, and off-and-on turmoil in UPA coalition, New Delhi these days has not as much of focus on foreign affairs. Domestic politics will largely consume attention of Indian leadership well until the elections due in 2014.

Pakistan may be in a better position, since national elections in that country will take place this year. There will be less political uncertainty in Islamabad during Afghan transition. China is luckier, as ten-year political transition in Beijing was over last year. Nor is Russia going to witness any political uncertainty in coming few years. 

The big question is how and how many American forces will leave Afghanistan in 2014 and in what condition. Slow recovery of US economy and resilience of the Taliban make it abundantly obvious that Washington would not risk carrying on the war in that country.

Afghan war has cost the US more than half a trillion dollars, a huge national debt, a large budget deficit and, of course, thousands of American lives. Yet victory to the United States is not in sight. 

The Taliban leadership has shown no great eagerness for dialogue with the US. In fact, the Taliban are patiently waiting, so that Nato forces leave their country with war-weariness. In a stalemate, the insurgents generally hesitate to make compromises. The Taliban thus are not in a hurry to end the war and trying to push foreign "occupying forces" to the corner.

What are the future scenarios of Afghanistan? It is hardest to predict anything in Afghanistan. The US Administration does not seem to be united on withdrawal time-table and the modalities. Taliban seem to have been embroiled in internal differences among the moderates and the hardliners. Pakistan no longer enjoys the comfort of dealing with a Taliban it created and put about a hundred Taliban behind the bars for attempting to negotiate with President Karzai or the Americans. 

Nonetheless, among the multiple scenarios, the first one is Afghanistan becomes the second Vietnam for the Americans. They just cannot carry on a losing war and; instead of dealing with head-strong Taliban leadership; they make a deal with Pakistan and get out of the country. In that case, Pakistan-backed Taliban are back to power in Kabul! The second scenario is the US successfully strikes a deal with a faction of the Taliban that are not under the influence of Islamabad and puts in place a coalition government that would allow Washington to station about ten thousand trainers in Afghanistan and end the major military operations. 

The third scenario suggests that the US successfully persuades Pakistan to rope in the like-minded Taliban factions for dialogue and for creation of a broad coalition government consisting of pro-US Afghan factions and pro-Pakistan Taliban factions.

Common factor

All three scenarios have one common factor—the Taliban will be an important segment of any future government in Kabul! In the first scenario, the implications of old Taliban returning to power in Kabul can be disastrous for regional peace and stability. The Kabul regime may return to its old ways, claiming victory over the mighty US-led Nato forces, and executing Jihad with ever more zeal and ruthlessness. 

The outcome of the second scenario will make Pakistan isolated and irrelevant. The US-backed Taliban government would receive political, military and economic assistance from Washington and its allies. Elements of Pakistani establishment will unquestionably resort to policy of destabilization towards Afghanistan, while political leadership in Pakistan may seek to stabilize domestic socio-political conditions. A new kind of proxy war may actually begin between the US-backed Kabul regime and Pakistan-supported dissident Taliban. 

But the million-dollar question is whether the Obama administration will be able to carry the Congress with such a plan. Section of the American political elite is dead opposed to any nation-building efforts in Afghanistan. However, one cannot rule out this scenario. The reason is very simple. American people and property will continue to be vulnerable to attacks by extremists and jihadists. To prevent that continued US engagement with a new Kabul regime is essential. Significantly, many Americans realise that Afghanistan became a safe haven for Al Qaeda partly as a consequence of American abandonment of that country after the Soviet troop withdrawal in 1989.

The third option seems to be less hazardous than the other two. The Taliban, Pakistan, present Afghan government and the US together may arrive at a broadly acceptable solution. However, this is not going to be unproblematic. First, the Taliban will demand a larger share in government formation. Secondly, the present Afghan political elite will be unwilling to surrender power completely. Thirdly, the US will most likely ask for a democratic solution that may not be acceptable to all Afghan factions. 

In other words, the Afghan puzzle is too convoluted to solve. In whatever form the Americans leave Afghanistan, peace is unlikely to return. Regional stakeholders worry that the situation may actually get worse in post-American Afghanistan. The right kind of solution lies in involving all stake holders in the dialogue process. But Afghanistan's neighbours seem to be out of the loop in the quiet diplomacy currently undertaken by the US. Unless India, China, Russia and Central Asian Republics are involved in the peace process, an appropriate solution cannot be devised.  

(The writer is with the School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi)

US seeks to divide Pakistan through drones, Afghan war: Analyst



An American political analyst says Washington is seeking to divide Pakistan through its use of assassination drones and continued military presence in the neighboring Afghanistan, Press TV reports.

In an interview with Press TV, author and historian Webster Tarpley said the use of US-led assassination drones in Pakistan and the ongoing war in Afghanistan, are both part of Washington's policy to eventually break up states "big enough to defend themselves." 

The comments come days after former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf admitted to having allowed the US to carry out drone strikes in his country. 

Tarpley said the drones are a major factor dividing the people in Pakistan because those "in the areas that are hit by the drones feel that the central government in Pakistan has betrayed them by allowing these things to go on, which of course is what they have done." 

"So, part of the strategy [of assassination drones] has nothing to do with the alleged killing of terrorists, but it has to do with trying to break up Pakistan, which was the main purpose of the US presence in Afghanistan from the very beginning," he added.

The analyst further stated that US officials have tried to export the civil war in Afghanistan into Pakistan and divide Pashtuns, Baluchis, Punjabis, Shins, and "other groups like [those in] the Waziristan and [other] tribal areas." 

As a result, Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to accuse each other of supporting militants and contributing to the violence in the region. 

"Sudan is divided into two parts and Iraq ... has been divided into three parts, Serbia has been carved and other countries are in the process of being broken. Libya may end up broken at the end of this and Syria may end up broken. So, the ultimate US policy is the destruction of the nations' state." 

Washington uses its assassination drones in a number of countries, claiming to target terrorists. However, the attacks have mostly led to massive civilian casualties. 

 

BOSTON MARATHON EXPLOSIONS

B.RAMAN

 

THE FACTS: As reported by the BBC and the CNN:

•     Three persons, including an 8-year-old child, were killed in two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the afternoon of April 15,2013.

•     Hospitals reported at least 144 people are being treated for injuries, with at least 17 of them in critical condition and 25 in serious condition. At least eight of them  are children. At least 10 people injured had limbs amputated. Several of the patients treated at Massachusetts General Hospital suffered injuries to lower limbs.

•     The two blasts were about 50 to 100 yards apart with a few minutes one after the other. A federal law enforcement official told CNN that both bombs were small, and initial tests showed no C-4 or other high-grade explosive material, suggesting that the packages used in the attack were crude explosive devices.

•     Authorities in Boston found at least one other explosive device ,Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said.Rep. Bill Keating of Massachusetts said two more were found. One unexploded device was found at a hotel on Boylston Street near the bomb site and another unexploded device was found at an undisclosed location.

·       There were no credible threats before the Marathon, a state government official said.There is no suspect in custody, but many people are being questioned, Davis said.Investigators warned police to be on the lookout for a "darker-skinned or black male" with a possible foreign accent in connection with the attack, according to a law enforcement advisory obtained by CNN. The man was seen with a black backpack and sweatshirt and was trying to get into a restricted area about five minutes before the first explosion, the lookout notice states.Also, a Saudi national with a leg wound was under guard at a Boston hospital in connection with the bombings, but investigators cannot say he is involved at this time and he is not in custody, a law enforcement official said.

·       In addition to scrutinizing images of surveillance cameras in the area, the FBI likely was issuing subpoenas for records from cell towers in the area to isolate and trace calls from around Copley Square at the time of the blasts, according to a former federal law enforcement official who now works in the intelligence community.

·       Mayor (Thomas) Menino said: "Our focus is on making sure that the area around Copley Square is safe and secured. I am asking everyone to stay away from Copley Square and let the first responders do their jobs."

·       The Federal Aviation Administration placed a flight restriction over the site of the blasts.Other cities, including New York and Washington, tightened security as a result. Following standard protocol, the White House cleared out an area in front of the West Wing.

·       Troops from the Massachusetts National Guard, already at the site as part of the marathon's security and crowd-management plan, were assisting police as well.

·       The FBI has taken over co-ordination of what it described as a "potential terrorist inquiry".Although President Obama, in his initial statement, did not use the word "terrorism", a White House official later said: "Any event with multiple explosive devices - as this appears to be - is clearly an act of terror and will be approached as an act of terror."

·       Officials in Washington said no group or individual had so far said they carried out the attack.

2. Since the 9/11 acts of catastrophic terrorism in the US Homeland carried out by Al Qaeda,using hijacked aircraft, there have been two attempted acts of catastrophic terrorism by Al Qaeda by causing explosions on US passenger aircraft flying from Europe to the US.

3.On 22 December 2001, Richard Reid, a British citizen, boarded American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, wearing shoes packed with explosives, which he unsuccessfully tried to detonate. Passengers overpowered him on the plane, which quickly landed at Logan International Airport in Boston, , the closest US airport. He was  arrested and indicted. He was reported to have been motivated by Al Qaeda elements in Pakistan.

4. On December 26,2009,Abdul Mutallab, 23, a Nigerian, tried to detonate an explosive device, apparently a mix of powder and liquid,  on a North-West Airlines flight, coming from Nigeria via Amsterdam, and approaching Detroit. An alert passenger noticed him and he was overpowered. He was believed to have been motivated by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

5. The Boston Marathon blasts have coincided with a fast reportedly undertaken since March 19,2013, by 24 of the Al Qaeda suspects still held in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre to protest against the alleged inhuman conditions in the Centre.Activists of a Muslim group called Witness Against Torture (WAT) began a hunger strike  in solidarity with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.The group said in its web site:"We will gather for action in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities domestically and internationally  to denounce the barbaric practice of torture and indefinite detention and to demand justice for the men at Guantanamo."The solidarity fast by WAT was scheduled to last till March 30. A handful of activists plan to continue fasting every Friday until the prison is closed.

6. There is so far no evidence to indicate that the Boston blasts might have been linked with the fast. No claim of responsibility for the blasts has been made so far and there is till now no evidence to show whether the blasts were carried out by individual rogue elements with personal grievances or ideologically motivated organisations.

7. While the US Homeland had previously seen acts of catastrophic terrorism and attempts to commit such acts through aircraft, this is the first time a conventional act of terrorism using improvised explosive devices has been committed, if the involvement of rogue individual elements is ruled out.

8. The perpetrators, whether rogue individuals or members of ideologically motivated organisations, have succeeded in evading physical security for the Boston Marathon in procuring explosive material, detonators and timers and planting the IEDs without being noticed by the extensive CCTV camera network along the Marathon route.

9. The local security authorities and the FBI do not appear to have received any advance inkling of a possible terrorist strike either through electronic chatter or from human sources.

10. The explosions show that despite the strengthening of homeland security in the US after 9/11, terrorists have managed to find intelligence and physical security gaps in the security network and exploited them. The Boston blasts also illustrate the difficulties in preventing conventional style attacks as against sophisticated catastrophic attacks. (16-4-2013)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )