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Pakistani govenor slain

The New York Times is reporting that Salman Taseer, Punjab governor and ally of President Asif Ali Zardari, was killed by his police guard.  Pakistan seems to grow ever more calamitous, where the military competes with politicians for leadership and where taking stances against religious extremism invites reprisals.

Mr. Taseer’s death will serve as a chilling warning to any politician who speaks out against the religious parties and their fundamentalist agenda and will certainly end immediate attempts to amend the blasphemy laws, politicians said. “It is a loss to progressive forces — he stood up for what he believed in,” one of his party colleagues, legislator Sherry Rehman, said.


Hit & Run Job

I came across this op-ed in the Guardian today (for those not familiar – it’s a liberal British newspaper). The columnist, Simon Tisdall, argues:

Pakistan was already under the American hammer before the WikiLeaks crisis blew. But leaked US diplomatic cables published by the Guardian show the extraordinary extent to which Pakistan is in danger of becoming a mere satrapy of imperial Washington.

I tend to disagree with his analysis. I don’t believe Pakistan is a mere puppet of America’s. On the contrary, I feel that a good amount of Americans are frustrated precisely because Pakistan won’t position itself under the American thumb, so to speak. Americans haven’t been successful in convincing the Pakistani military to pursue the Haqqani network of terrorists more vigorously and to date I believe the CIA hasn’t been granted permission to operate drones in and around the city of Quetta, the supposed base of operations of the Taliban Shura and Mullah Omar. Other exmaples come to mind too. In all of this I’m not advocating that Pakistan merely fall in line with whatever the United States deems expedient. I just feel the author does a kind of hit and run job on American foreign policy that’s superficial at best and dishonest at worst.

Communication Problems with Pakistan

This New York Times video segment is a few months old, but it’s worth watching for how relevant it is today. It details how the U.S. has demonstrated a total inability to effectively communicate with the Pakistani public. The opinion there of U.S. foreign policy is at rock-bottom, conspiracy theories are rife and militant Glenn Beck-esque figures are widely hailed as rock stars. Senior U.S. figures like Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke have not helped matters via P.R. blunders and a kind of naivety about Pakistani society that translates into suspicion and distrust. In the face of all of this, I don’t understand why public diplomacy efforts aren’t rocketed up as a strategic priority in the area. Pakistanis consume American brands and technologies with hardly a blink of the eye – if the U.S. has this kind of marketing prowess in the private sector why can’t we apply it to the public one?

Wikileaks Reveals Strains in US-Pakistan Relations

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal concerns over Pakistan’s role as U.S. ally in NATO’s nation-building efforts in Afghanistan. Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, warned U.S. – based officials of the weakness of Pakistan’s civilian government and the double-game played by it’s military and intelligence institutions. The cables also depict an alarming lack of security over bomb-grade uranium – a finding that’s sure to raise concerns over fissile material falling into the wrong hands. All in all, the article that provides the details of the cables makes for a frustrating, depressing read.

More military aid to Pakistan

The United States has announced a $2,000,000,000 military aid package to Pakistan over the next five years, to complement an already existing $7,500,000,000 package for civilian aid over the same time frame.  This BBC article provides details and explanations.