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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

: Pakistan's Taliban funds Resources.

Pakistanis see US as biggest threat

A survey commissioned by Al Jazeera in Pakistan has revealed a widespread disenchantment with the United States for interfering with what most people consider internal Pakistani affairs.

The polling was conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of the Gallup International polling group, and more than 2,600 people took part.

Interviews were conducted across the political spectrum in all four of the country's provinces, and represented men and women of every economic and ethnic background.

When respondents were asked what they consider to be the biggest threat to the nation of Pakistan, 11 per cent of the population identified the Taliban fighters, who have been blamed for scores of deadly bomb attacks across the country in recent years.

Another 18 per cent said that they believe that the greatest threat came from neighbouring India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since partition in 1947.

But an overwhelming number, 59 per cent of respondents, said the greatest threat to Pakistan right now is, in fact, the US, a donor of considerable amounts of military and development aid.

Tackling the Taliban

The resentment was made clearer when residents were asked about the Pakistan's military efforts to tackle the Taliban.

Keeping with recent trends a growing number of people, now 41 per cent, supported the campaign.

About 24 per cent of people remained opposed, while another 22 per cent of Pakistanis remained neutral on the question.

A recent offensive against Taliban fighters in the Swat, Lower Dir and Buner districts of North West Frontier Province killed at least 1,400 fighters, according to the military, but also devastated the area and forced two million to leave their homes.

The military has declared the operation a success, however, some analysts have suggested that many Taliban fighters simply slipped away to other areas, surviving to fight another day.

When people were asked if they would support government-sanctioned dialogue with Taliban fighters if it were a viable option the numbers change significantly.

Although the same 41 per cent said they would still support the military offensive, the number of those supporting dialogue leaps up to 43 per cent.

So clearly, Pakistanis are, right now, fairly evenly split on how to deal with the Taliban threat.

Drone anger

However, when asked if they support or oppose the US military's drone attacks against what Washington claims are Taliban and al-Qaeda targets, only nine per cent of respondents reacted favourably.

A massive 67 per cent say they oppose US military operations on Pakistani soil.

Forty-one per cent of Pakistanis say they support the offensive against the Taliban

"This is a fact that the hatred against the US is growing very quickly, mainly because of these drone attacks," Makhdoom Babar, the editor-in-chief of Pakistan's The Daily Mail newspaper, said.

"Maybe the intelligence channels, the military channels consider it productive, but for the general public it is controversial ... the drone attacks are causing collateral damage," he told Al Jazeera.

A senior US official told Al Jazeera he was not surprised by the poll's findings.

The US has a considerable amount of work to do to make itself better understood to the Muslim world, he said.

And it would take not only educational and economic work to win over the Pakistani people but also a concerted effort to help the Pakistani government deal with "extremist elements" that are trying to disrupt security within Pakistan, he added.

Nearly 500 people, mostly suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, are believed to have been killed in about 50 US drone attacks since August last year, according to intelligence agents, local government officials and witnesses.

Washington refuses to confirm the raids, but the US military in neighbouring Afghanistan and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are the only forces operating in the area that are known to have the technology.

The government in Islamabad formally opposes the attacks saying that they violate Pakistani sovereignty and cause civilian casualties which turn public opinion against efforts to battle the Taliban.

Lieutenant-General Hamid Nawaz Khan, a former caretaker interior minister of Pakistan, told Al Jazeera that US pressure on Pakistan to take on the Taliban was one reason for the backlash.

"Americans have forced us to fight this 'war on terror'... whatever Americans wanted they have been able to get because this government was too weak to resist any of the American vultures and they have been actually committing themselves on the side of America much more than what even [former president] Pervez Musharraf did," he said.

Pakistani leadership

The consensus of opinion in opposition to US military involvement in Pakistan is notable given the fact that on a raft of internal issues there is a clear level of disagreement, something which would be expected in a country of this size.

When asked for their opinions on Asif Ali Zardari, the current Pakistani president, 42 per cent of respondents said they believed he was doing a bad job. Around 11 per cent approved of his leadership, and another 34 per cent had no strong opinion either way.

That pattern was reflected in a question about Zardari's Pakistan People's party (PPP).

Respondents were asked if they thought the PPP was good or bad for the country.

About 38 per cent said the PPP was bad for the country, 20 per cent believed it was good for the country and another 30 per cent said they had no strong opinion.

Respondents were even more fractured when asked for their views on how the country should be led.

By far, the largest percentage would opt for Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party, as leader. At least 38 per cent backed him to run Pakistan.

Last month, the Pakistani supreme court quashed Sharif's conviction on charges of hijacking, opening the way for him to run for political office again.

Zardari 'unpopular'

Zardari, the widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, received only nine per cent support, while Reza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, had the backing of 13 per cent.

The survey suggests Sharif is Pakistan's most popular politician by some distance [AFP]
But from there, opinions vary greatly. Eight per cent of the population would support a military government, 11 per cent back a political coalition of the PPP and the PML-N party.

Another six per cent would throw their support behind religious parties and the remaining 15 per cent would either back smaller groups or simply do not have an opinion.

Babar told Al Jazeera that Zardari's unpopularity was understandable given the challenges that the country had faced since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

"Any president in Pakistan would be having the same popularity that President Zardari is having, because under this situation the president of Pakistan has to take a lot of unpopular decisions," he said.

"He is in no position to not take unpopular decisions that are actually in the wider interests of the country, but for common people these are very unpopular decisions."

China should break up India into 20-30 states: Chinese strategist

In an article likely to raise Indian hackles, a Chinese strategist contends that Beijing should break up India into 20-30 independent states with the help of 'friendly countries' like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
The publication of the article nearly coincided with the 13th round of India-China border talks that ended in New Delhi Saturday on a positive note, with Beijing emphasizing the need to build strategic trust and elevate strategic partnership to a new level to include coordination on global issues.

Written in Chinese, the article, "If China takes a little action, the so-called Great Indian Federation can be broken up," is published in the new edition of the website of the China International Institute for Strategic Studies (CIISS), an influential think tank that advises Beijing on global and strategic issues.

According to D.S. Rajan, director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai, Zhan Lue, the author of the article, argues that the "so-called" Indian nation cannot be considered as one having existed in history as it relies primarily on Hindu religion for unity.

The article says that India could only be termed a "Hindu religious state" that is based on caste exploitation and which is coming in the way of modernisation.

The writer goes on to argue that with these caste cleavages in mind, China in its own interest and the progress of whole of Asia should join forces with "different nationalities" like Assamese, Tamils and Kashmiris and support them in establishing independent nation states of their own.

In particular, the article asks Beijing to support the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a militant separatist group in the Indian northeast, to it achieve independence for Assam from India.

Furthermore, the article suggests that China can give political support to Bangladesh to encourage ethnic Bengalis in India get rid of "Indian control" and unite with Bangladesh as one Bengali nation.

If this is not possible, the creation of at least another free Bengali nation state as a friendly neighbour of Bangladesh would be desirable for the purpose of weakening India's expansion and threat aimed at forming a "unified South Asia", the article argues.

The article recommends India's break up into 20-30 nation-states like in Europe and contends that if the consciousness of "nationalities" in India could be aroused, social reforms in South Asia can be achieved, the caste system can be eradicated and the region can march towards prosperity.

The Chinese strategist suggests that to split India, China can seek support of friendly countries including Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan.

China should encourage Bangladesh to give a push to the independence of West Bengal and recover the 90,000 sq km territory in Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls Southern Tibet, says Rajan who has analysed the article for the Chennai-based think tank.

"The write-up could not have been published without the permission of the Chinese authorities, but it is sure that Beijing will wash its hands out of this if the matter is taken up by New Delhi," says Rajan.

"It has generally been seen that China is speaking in two voices - its diplomatic interlocutors have always shown understanding in their dealings with their Indian counterparts, but its media is pouring venom on India," says Rajan.

Which one to believe is a question confronting the public opinion and even policy makers in India, Rajan says, adding that ignoring such an article will "prove to be costly" for India.

Indian designers using Pakistani moles to promote them

Pakistan`s fashion design industry has seen increasing success and has grown in all spheres. The cauldron had been bubbling for some time and the Indian lobbyists were bound to feel the pressure and retaliate at some point.
When jewellery designer Sara Taseer Shoaib (STS) started making waves internationally and servicing a host of Indian clientele, things boiled over.

Sara has been written about in a host of International magazines and had shows in the Four Seasons and Harvey Nichols. As a result, a stream of attacks and poisonous gossip was released as an attempt to undermine her success.

Famous relatives: Farah Khan, an Indian designer who promotes her jewellery through her famous relatives, began to lose Pakistani and Indian clients to STS. Therefore, paid Pakistani moles were chosen to promote Indian designers at the expense of Pakistanis. As a result, a rogue website was paid to malign Pakistani artist STS.

Maligned: A local English daily gave the Indian designer half page coverage and maligned their homegrown artist, Sara.

Indian media is a promotion machine for India. It has successfully created an image of a moderate and creative India via promotion of Bollywood and pageants like Miss World. Indian stars and even mediocre designers are launched to promote India as an upcoming nation comparable to China. The Indians have tried to disassociate themselves with Pakistan.

Indians under threat: With the boom of the media industry in Pakistan the Indians are under threat. The Pakistani market is huge and untapped. The Indians are feeling insecure and want to crush it before it can grow into a formidable force. To do this they have paid magazines, websites and newspapers to slander upcoming artists.

This is shameful. Pakistani fashion journalists should be playing a positive role and use all their forces to back up its creative industry. Instead, local dailies are carrying planted articles maligning the one jewellery designer who is making waves in New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Dubai market: Sara is exploring the Dubai market where high profile Indians and Pakistanis are becoming her clients. This is a direct threat to Indian businessmen. Sara`s success should be promoted in a positive light, instead of people maliciously putting her down.

A photographer by the fictitious name of Aly Mason has spearheaded this campaign.

Hacking Facebook: After hacking Sara`s Facebook page which is an easy target where anyone can upload an image, he started a hate campaign against the designer who happens to be from a prominent political family. A local daily used damaging words in red ink like heist. Heist refers to a theft. There was no evidence or photograph of any plagiarism.

Sketch: There was only a sketch made by Aly Mason with Miss Taseer`s signature lifted from her logo. There is a stamp of Farah Khan present on the sketch. Anyone with Photoshop experience can do that. There is no proof of STS` plagiarism.

Sara has a website and no familiar designs are on it.

Issue ignored: Furthermore, hundreds of Indian and Pakistani jewellery shops are full of designs similar to large houses like Cartier and Chopard. Nobody has picked up on this as an issue. These design houses are massive. Indian jewellery designers are not anywhere on the International scene. Because Sara is prominent both in her work and her aggressive marketing and promotion strategies, she has been targeted and wrongly accused. *

Pakistan plans to 4 Il-78 as air-to-air refuellers

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman has said that the Pakistan Air Force plans to complete the induction of up to four Ilyushin Il-78 aircraft fitted with a mid-air refueling capability, extending the capacity of its fighter aircraft to patrol areas over the border region by 2010.

Pakistan plans to 4 Il-78 as air-to-air refuellers

Pakistan plans to 4 Il-78 as air-to-air refuellers
In an exclusive interview, Rao Qamar said, the refueling capability is an “extremely significant” development. “This is an absolutely new capability we are getting, which we are inducting. We never had this capability in the Pakistan Air Force,” he said.

Answering to a question, he said, US-supplied F-16 multirole fighter aircraft can stay for up to four, five, six hours in Pakistan’s northern areas, ranging from the northern Swat valley and its surrounding region.

“During this time, if there is any militant attack anywhere in the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], these aircraft can go there immediately, within minutes, and they can bomb the militants. It will create the right kind of deterrence against the militants”, he said.

He said the PAF’s operations in the north have brought significant pressure to bear on Taliban militants, who were on the advance until the recent military campaign in Swat began reversing the tide.

“They [Taliban militants] never see us on the ground. The only time they find out that an aircraft has struck is when the bomb explodes on them. It creates a great psychological impact”, he said.

Replying to a question, Rao Qamar went on to say, the PAF was focused on enemy air forces. We remained focused on enemy land forces and enemy air forces and, therefore, we were preparing ourselves to fight against organized modern air forces and against modern armies.

“We never thought we would be required to fight against militants or be involved in counter-insurgency operations. When we started this [counter-insurgency], we had to learn while on the job. We had to re-orient our thinking, we had to refine our … existing SOPs [standard operating procedures] and we had to develop new SOPs for this kind of warfare. However, we did that very quickly”, he said.

The recent operation has led the PAF to identify new areas for development, such as acquiring more precision-guided bombs, enhanced night precision attack capabilities and the capability to monitor communications and track the movement of militants, he said.

The PAF’s other, already established, requirements include the development of the JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, co-produced with China, he said.

The PAF plans to eventually induct up to 250 JF-17 fighters, making the aircraft the backbone of its inventory, he said, adding that, the first ’fully made in Pakistan’ JF-17 is expected to be produced by the end of this year at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra, north of Islamabad. However, there is still a requirement for a more advanced fighter aircraft, as the PAF prepares to counter the future edge that may be acquired by the IAF once it completes the planned purchase of 126 multirole combat aircraft (MRCAs), he said.

“We knew about this requirement of the Indian Air Force for 126 latest-generation fighter aircraft. Yes, it is an alarming development because when they get 126 such capable aircraft, then we also need to have something matching to counter that threat,” ACM Qamar said.

Replying to a question, he said, the PAF has finalized the technical proposal for the FC-20 and informed the Chinese of its requirements.

“[The technical proposal] is more or less finalized now. There are some changes that are required, which [the Chinese] are making,” he said.

The next stage of the contract will involve financial negotiations between China and Pakistan, he said. Air Chief Marshall Qamar believes that, following the signing of a contract, it will take two to two-and-a-half years before the first FC-20 aircraft is received.

Rao Qamar Suleman answering to a question said the PAF has also signed a contract for the purchase of four Chinese airborne early warning and control aircraft. The first of these is due to arrive in 2011 and the remaining three will be delivered in 2012.