Karzai poised to become Afghanistan's first elected president
Tuesday October 26, 1:59 AM AFP
Hamid Karzai was set to become Afghanistan's first elected president after winning historic October 9 polls by a landslide, but a fraud inquiry and a slow final count delayed a formal announcement.
Karzai, 46, has won 4,352,188 or 55.5 percent of votes, according to preliminary results published on the election commission website Monday, with 97.2 percent of votes counted.
The charismatic Pashtun tribal chief who has led Afghanistan's interim administration since the Taliban was ousted in late 2001, has had the simple majority needed to avoid a second-round runoff for more than 24 hours.
But Karzai, who will serve a five-year term, has been silent on his victory, choosing to wait until the election commission formally announces the results sometime this week.
His aides said they were holding off celebrations.
"Everything has been done. Now we only need one official announcement," campaign spokesman Hamid Elmi told AFP.
"We don't want to celebrate before that. We respect the (electoral) institutions and its decision and we want to give them enough time to do their job properly."
Karzai's chief rival, Yunus Qanooni, who has 16.2 percent of the vote, has also acknowledged Karzai as "the winner".
But Afghans were in limbo a day after Karzai's silent outright victory.
"They are just waiting, they are confused, they don't know what will happen next, because they don't know what the opposition candidates will do," Kabul resident Freshta, 21, told AFP.
"God knows who is the winner. But I hope it's Mr. Karzai," said high school student Fawad Ahmad.
A formal announcement is not possible until the final 300,000 or so votes have been counted and an international fraud probe has concluded.
The drawn-out count could wrap up late Tuesday, election commission technical adviser Reg Austin told AFP.
Most of the remaining ballots are from remote northeast province Badakshan and Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Austin said.
"They'll also be dealing with released boxes from quarantine, so with any luck we'll be finished Tuesday," Austin told AFP.
The panel investigating alleged fraud has released 77 of 90 quarantined ballot boxes. The remaining 13 will "be permanently quarantined", Austin said.
The panel briefed candidates' representatives at United Nations offices on the probe, but some emerged unsatisfied.
"What is disappointing for us is that the panel is only investigating the election day fraud, and not fraud before and after the election," Bashir Ahmad Bejan, who represents French-speaking Tajik intellectual Abdul Latif Pedram, told AFP.
The 14 opposition candidates, who had threatened to boycott the ballot, plan to hold their own meeting to discuss their response to its findings.
"If the results of the investigation are independent and acceptable, our position is as before: we will accept the results. Otherwise the candidates will ... decide on a new stand," Qanooni's campaign spokesman, Syed Hamid Noori, told AFP.
Among the complaints were the apparent failure of indelible ink that was supposed to stain voters' fingers to prevent multiple votes.
The elections are a crucial step in uniting Afghanistan's disparate ethnic and tribal groups under an elected leader for the first time after decades of occupation, communist rule, civil war, warlords and the Taliban.
Karzai now must battle a rampant opium and heroin trade, warlordism, poverty, illiteracy, and a shattered economy that is propped up by drug money and aid dollars to the tune of two billion dollars each annually.
Afghans earn an average of 300 dollars per year, according to a recent World Bank survey. Around 86 percent of its estimated 28 million people cannot read or write.
Karzai must also expand an undersized army and police force and persuade 40,000 militiamen to give up their weapons in a bid to dilute the power of warlords.
But analysts said Karzai would have an uphill battle trying to end warlords' power and rule without them.
One of his two vice presidents, Karim Khalili, is a warlord from the Hazara minority. The other, Ahmed Zia Masood, is the brother of revered anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Masood.
Karzai faces tough battle to lose warlords: analysts
by Michaela Cancela-Kieffer
KABUL, Oct 25 (AFP) - A fervent desire among Afghans who have just chosen their first president is to end the rule of warlords, but analysts say a future leader would find it difficult to grant his constituents' wish to rule without them.
"A government without the warlords? It is not realistic," said Ahmed Joyenda, president of the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society.
Hamid Karzai, the US-backed incumbent who has secured an outright majority in near-complete counting from the October 9 vote "does not have a political party, he does not have a strong organized movement, and the Afghan national army and police are too weak," Joyenda added.
Afghans in most parts have declared "that they are primarily afraid of the local factional leaders and military commanders -- not the Taliban insurgency" Human Rights Watch stated in its 'The Rule of the Gun' report before the election.
In the 12 months since a nationwide UN-backed drive to disarm tens of thousands of private militiamen was launched, around 21,000 soldiers have been decommissioned.
But Afghanistan still has more than 60,000 unofficial militia fighters, against the embryonic Afghan National Army's troop level of 16,000.
The militiamen take orders from local military chiefs, who are themselves loyal to warlords whose notoriety often reaches beyond Afghanistan's borders: Abdul Rashid Dostam, Ismael Khan, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Mohammad Mohaqeq.
These links allow the warlords to impose their own laws over civilians, outside central government authority and sometimes to the detriment of Afghans.
"I am the acting governor but I have no authority. I can only sign but have no feeling of responsibility. I don't have the power to say 'no'," a provincial governor, who asked not to be named, told a World Bank study.
"It's only in name that we have a system of government. It does not exist in reality."
After the 1992-1996 civil war, warlords were driven out by the fundamentalist Taliban regime.
Five years later they helped the United States oust the so-called religious students, wining prestigious posts in reward -- the defence ministry, the foreign ministry, the planning ministry -- in the heart of the government.
"Some have been allowed to go into illicit (narcotics) activities because it was considered to be politically a stabilising element," a Kabul-based diplomat told AFP.
Karzai has since often promised that he would not include warlords in a future cabinet if he was re-elected.
But in reality his pledges are difficult to achieve.
Karzai dropped Fahim, his defence minister, from his presidential ticket, but replaced him with another warlord as his vice-presidential running mate Mohammad Karim Khalili.
He has also stated that he wants to bring into his administration Ismael Khan, the warlord who governed prosperous western province Herat until Karzai sacked him in September.
"The warlords supported him, they got votes for him and they want to maintain power," said Masooda Jalal, the sole woman to run for president.
"That means a question mark for disarmament, a question mark for transitional government, a question mark for human rights, for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, for having a transparent government."
Some warlords who ran for election won enough votes to claim a mandate from Afghans.
"The president intends to form a government totally based on merit and representing every ethnicity. But he admits that they (warlords) exist and that they have an influence," a government aide told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
"It is still difficult for the president to totally ignore the influence of the warlords. It is not wise to confront them. It is better to wait."
Nevertheless if the power of these strongmen is not swiftly curtailed, they will work for their own interests, fuel corruption and destroy Afghanistan's chances at reconstruction, the analysts said.
Afghan President Must Still Negotiate Political Minefield
10/25/2004 By Gary Thomas VOA
With nearly all of the ballots counted, Afghan Interim President Hamid Karzai appears to have won a landslide victory in the October 9 election. In doing so, Mr. Karzai avoided what could have been a dangerously divisive runoff. But the president still has to carefully weave his way around serious perils in Afghanistan's still-fragile political climate.
Having won his bid to move from interim leader to elected president, Hamid Karzai now faces the task of governing a country that has never been particularly comfortable with a strong, active central government.
The task is all the more daunting, and potentially dangerous, say analysts, because Afghanistan is now a country with a president but no parliament. Legislative elections, which were to have been held along with the presidential vote October 9 were delayed until next year due to logistical problems.
As newly elected president, it is now up to Mr. Karzai to organize those local and legislative polls. As Paula Newberg, a former U.N. advisor and now a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution, says, as the sole elected official, Mr. Karzai has to avoid any appearance of high-handedness in doing so.
"It will be the new president's job both to figure out how to govern in the absence of a parliament," she said. "This is not an easy question. Essentially, he's going to have to govern in a form that we would say is extraconstitutional because there is no parliament. And second, how he can organize those elections in a way that will be able to give voters the largest participation possible in those elections without looking like he has manipulated the results himself."
But longtime Afghan scholar Barnett Rubin, director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, says the intermission between the two elections is exactly what Mr. Karzai's advisors want.
"That's precisely the reason that some of the technocratic ministers around President Karzai very much wanted to separate the presidential and the parliamentary elections," said Mr. Rabin. "They want a period of time during which President Karzai rules as a directly elected president without having to make a compromise or coalition with regional or local leaders who might be implicated in drug trafficking, who are militia commanders and have a different agenda for Afghanistan."
Over the years, rebel commanders who fought the Soviet occupation have evolved into powerful warlords with well-armed private militias. Some deal in drugs. In a country where the per-capita income is $300 a year, the opium and heroin trade brings an estimated $2 billion a year to the ravaged Afghan economy. There is fear that drug money will become the driving force in Afghanistan's new political landscape.
Mr. Rubin says the problem is not so much the large, well-known regional warlords such as Ismail Khan in the west or Abdul Rashid Dostum in the north. It's the petty warlords, he says, who are skeptical about their role in a new, democratic Afghanistan.
"A second category of people, which is in a way much more difficult to deal with than the five or 10 people whose names we've heard of, are the thousands of commanders who have lived from the war for the past 20 years who just do not know if they have a future in a peaceful Afghanistan," said Barnett Rubin. "They don't know any other way of life. They've lived from weapons, they've lived from drug trafficking."
Paula Newberg says Mr. Karzai's strong electoral showing amounts to a mandate to deal with the warlord issue.
"It may give him a little bit of strength, therefore, in the way that he can deal with the warlords, which is to say, the population as whole disavowed the warlord culture," she said. "If you didn't know this before, you now know this by the voting. That having been said, Mr. Karzai has yet to show a huge amount of mettle in this. And it's probably going to be a more difficult task than anyone would like to admit."
Mr. Rubin says there will be a temptation to cut some deals with the warlords, but that risks alienating the electorate even before legislative elections are held.
"He might want to try to compromise with them in some way, although he has ruled out a coalition government," he said. "On the other hand, if that would mean retreating from the kind of reform agenda of bringing some kind of rule of law to Afghanistan, then he would lose some of the support that he gained."
No formal date has been set for the local and legislative elections.
Japan Will Provide Support in Afghanistan
AP via Yahoo! News
TOKYO - Japan extended its naval mission to provide logistical support to the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan by six months on Tuesday and approved a plan to supply fuel for the coalition's helicopters.
Japan launched the navy operation to provide fuel for coalition warships in the region in November 2001 and has extended its half-year mandate six times since.
The dispatch to the Arabian Sea was the first in a series of decisions by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that have tested the limits of the nation's pacifist constitution since he took office in April 2001.
Koizumi's Cabinet formally endorsed another extension through May 1, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said.
The Cabinet also decided to let Japanese forces begin supplying water for Pakistan's military and ferrying fuel for U.S., British, French, German and Pakistani helicopters aboard naval vessels.
"The situation in the Arabian Sea requires that counterterrorism measures continue," Hosoda said at a news conference.
Koizumi also has sent about 1,000 Japanese military personnel to Iraq and surrounding areas for humanitarian projects despite the Japanese public's unease with the mission.
US to build Afghan army installations
KABUL, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- The army of the United States will continue to build installations for the newly emerging Afghan National Army (ANA), commander of the US Army Corps of Engineering in Afghanistan said Monday.
"Our primary focus has been the Central Corps here in Kabul. We used US military bases as the blueprint when designing the ANA installations and to date we have completed three facilities to house 15,000 soldiers," John O' Dowd told reporters here.
To implement the projects, the US army awarded 500 million US dollars worth of work in 2004 to many companies that employ and train local Afghan workers, he added.
"Our Corps in conjunction with the office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan has overseen the construction of more than 302 major structures including 186 barrack buildings, 22 administrative buildings, four dinning facilities and 89 support facilities," said the commander. He, however, did not disclose how much fund would be allocated in the coming year of 2005 for rebuilding the Afghan army.
"We are also building a military entrance processing center and a soldier's hospital besides installing independent power plants and waste water treatment stations at each installation to ensure there will be power and running water," noted the ranking officer.
The US military since its deployment in the post-Taliban Afghanistan nearly three years ago, began rebuilding Afghan army with an idea to form a brand new 70,000 force within three years, of these around 20,000 have already been put on the payroll.
AFGHANISTAN: Interview with UK minister on Afghan opium poppy campaign
LONDON, 25 October (IRIN) - Despite intense international efforts to tackle opium proliferation in Afghanistan, more than 100,000 hectares are now being used for opium cultivation inside the country - higher than the peak figure of 91,000 hectares in 1999, according to UNODC figures.
The UK is feeling the impact of the increase, with 95 percent of heroin available in British cities coming from Afghanistan. In an interview with IRIN, Bill Rammell MP, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said London was aware of the need to reduce demand for the drug at home, as well as tackling production at source in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Given the increase in Afghan opium production over the past two years, can we talk about success in tackling the problem?
ANSWER: We are expecting an increase in poppy cultivation [this year] but that does not mean we have failed. It does mean this will take time. We are two years into the 10-year Afghan strategy. We need a comprehensive approach. I think all the building blocks are in place now. Sizeable seizures are being made - 51 tonnes so far this year - and drug traffickers are being arrested. But Afghanistan becoming more secure and stable, particularly in the regions, is critical to success in tackling opium cultivation.
Q: What is the next step, to reduce or eradicate poppy cultivation?
A: We need a fast-track counter-narcotics element in the judicial and criminal system. We need targeted eradication. There is now a central planning cell in place to direct and verify crop destruction. We need internal projects to deal with drug addiction within Afghanistan and we need alternative livelihoods. All of those elements are now in place. The real test of what we are doing is going to be the next planting season. I think what we are doing can and will succeed.
Q: So the UK strategy is more or less on track?
A: Where we are at the moment is roughly where we expected to be. If you look at those countries that previously successfully tackled poppy cultivation, like Thailand and Pakistan, initially cultivation tends to go up before it comes down because of improved infrastructure, improved water supply, and I think that is where we are at the moment.
Q: Can the UK tackle the huge Afghan drug problem alone?
A: We have taken the lead internationally but certainly we cannot do it on our own. Implementation of the Afghan strategy requires support obviously from the Afghan government - and the Afghans are as determined as we are to eliminate opium - but we need more support from influential groups, the United Nations and other nations. We are making significant financial contributions and we are spending 100 million pounds [about US $180 million] over three years.
Q: Did this year's provincial eradication programmes have any impact?
A: The Afghan government had to rely on the provincial governors to implement eradication this year because they have had no central capability to undertake this. Our assessment is that it was patchy. The Afghan government has got to talk to the governors and address that concern. We now have in place a central eradication poppy force which has started eradication and next year will have a greater capability. The policy of eradication is the responsibility of the Afghan government. They certainly have been determined to develop an compensated eradication scheme and I think that is the right approach that we fully support.
We do hold the view that for eradication to be successful you need to target areas where there is an alternative livelihood in place.
Q: What is your observation on last year's strategy of financing local governors, who are mostly local warlords, with hundreds of thousands of dollars to eradicate poppy fields in their areas?
A: It was the Afghan government pursuing that strategy and they felt right to do that to get the governors to cooperate. As I said earlier, the eradication campaign was patchy. I do think the government has to ask the governors tough and challenging questions as to what the money was spent on and what the impact was. We are monitoring all those projects and that is why we are concerned and hope that [the monitoring] will influence eradication next year.
Q: Afghans want to know what are you doing in terms of demand reduction inside the UK as over 95 percent of the opium in the UK markets comes from Afghanistan.
A: I am very conscious that we can't just tell a country like Afghanistan that we want them to cut out poppy cultivation - even though it is manifestly in their interest. What we have got is a strategy that tackles the problems all the way along the supply-demand chain. I am not suggesting that we have got magic solutions but we are very conscious of the need to reduce the demand in the UK.
Q: How do you think the Afghan anti-drugs campaign can be more successful?
A: There are no short cuts to success, but we and the Afghans are making progress towards a long-term solution. Development projects are underway to provide farmers with a viable alternative livelihood and targeting for next year's poppy crop destruction is in hand. It is not the case that one strand of activity is more important than another. You've got to do the lot: you need forces that will intervene and seize drugs, you need eradication, you need alternative livelihoods, you need arrests, you need greater police capacity. Unless you have got all of these elements you are not going to succeed.
India's irons in the Afghan fire
By Ramtanu Maitra Asia Times
Four days after the Afghan presidential election was held, amid charges of voter fraud and irregularities by 15 of the 18 candidates, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarma called the polls a "historic milestone" in the country's "journey towards peace, stability and prosperity". Using phrases otherwise heard only in Washington, Sarma said: "The people of Afghanistan defied the threat of terrorism and came out in strength to exercise their right to vote."
As a strong proponent of a fair form of democracy, India's statements endorsing a blatantly flawed poll seem a bit out of place. Sarma's statement not only endorses a flawed election, but it also ignores the outright rejection of the poll by some of the Northern Alliance leaders (also friends and beneficiaries of India) who termed the election a fraud. In the final analysis, however, India's position is firmly rooted in its own self-interest and is surprisingly devoid of any ideology.
A friend of India
To begin with, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is destined to be the first president of Afghanistan - his main rival conceded defeat even before election workers began counting the final votes - spent years in India during his student days. As a result, not only does Karzai have many friends in India, but he himself has a strong affinity toward India. Since 2001, when the United States entrusted him with the power of running a highly fractious Afghanistan, formalizing the process through an international consensus called the Bonn Agreement, India has stayed in close touch with Karzai and provided him with some much-needed infrastructural support. Karzai's relationship with India remains vastly more cordial than his relationship with Pakistan.
Indians point out that under the previous Taliban regime Afghanistan had become a breeding ground for terrorists and Islamic jihadis, many of whom found their way to the Indian side of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, intensifying the violent campaign against New Delhi. It was also widely acknowledged that the Taliban government was working closely with Islamabad, creating the potential for Pakistan to exert influence in Central Asia. The Taliban-Pakistan nexus was wholly unacceptable to India, and the US invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban in the winter of 2001 was most cordially welcomed by New Delhi. India also welcomed the United States' efforts to break the Taliban-Pakistan alliance and install a non-fundamentalist Karzai, who belongs to the Pushtun-Afghan community.
Karzai's visit to India in 2003 and his interaction with New Delhi over the last three years are indicators that he trusts India. Recently, a few weeks before the presidential election, Karzai made it a point to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. According to New Delhi, the election of Karzai as the Afghan president would help not only to consolidate growing bilateral ties, but would also provide New Delhi an opportunity to broaden its vista in that part of Asia.
During the last three years, in addition to developing a close personal relationship with Karzai, India had kept a close watch on the changing scenario in Afghanistan. One of the key concerns among the leadership in India has been the security of the region and the threat to India posed by pro-Pakistan, Islamic activism emerging once again in Afghanistan. The tell-tale signs of regrouping by Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants and the forces of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan helped ensure Delhi's support for the flawed election. An orthodox militant mujahideen leader who was supported by the United States and Pakistan in the 1980s against the erstwhile Soviet Union, Hekmatyar is an avowed enemy of Karzai and India and would join hands with anyone who would take up arms against either or both.
This became a focus of New Delhi's concern, particularly after the Taliban, with the help of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, took control of Kabul in 1995. Intelligence reports show that following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, some of the jihadis, many of whom were Arabs and Chechens, shifted to the Pakistan side of Jammu and Kashmir to infiltrate India and commit violence.
Playing the reconstruction card
Despite India's proximity to Afghanistan, and its historical links to the area, India was pretty much out of the scene following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Following the US invasion of Afghanistan in the winter of 2001, India re-energized itself and began to participate in Afghanistan for its own economic and security benefits, and with a view to keeping Pakistan out.
Under the difficult circumstances that prevailed, India has done rather well, moving cautiously and giving no impression that it seeks to interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs. Its predominant focus has been on economic and reconstruction assistance; the supply of Tata buses enabled the reopening of bus services in Afghanistan. India also assisted extensively with technical training facilities for Afghanistan and in areas ranging from law and order to information technology.
According to veteran Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, Indians have built schools for Afghan children and hospitals for Afghan women; Indian buses by the hundreds ply Kabul's streets; and the national airline Ariana is being resurrected thanks to a free gift from India - three airbuses. India is also building roads in western Afghanistan and repairing dams in the eastern part of the country.
By contrast, Pakistan, considered by New Delhi as its major rival in Afghanistan, has conducted no visible reconstruction work. Pakistan has yet to build the promised Torkhum-Jalalabad-Kabul road, which could have enhanced Afghanistan-Pakistan trade.
India's success stems from its development of a highly constructive, imaginative reconstruction strategy for Afghanistan. As Ahmed Rashid points out, this strategy is designed to please every sector of Afghan society, give India a high profile with the Afghan people, gain maximum political advantage with the Afghan government, increase New Delhi's influence with its Northern Alliance friends and turn India's image from that of a country that supported the Soviet invasion and the communist regime in the 1980s to an indispensable ally and friend of the Afghan people in the new century.
The southern trade corridor
India's enlightened policy toward Afghanistan has also positioned New Delhi to benefit from the emergence of Iran as a principal trading partner for Afghanistan. For some time, one of India's foreign economic policy focuses had been the development of a southern trade corridor linking India with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russia. This would also ensure a very powerful Indian presence in those countries, New Delhi opines.
The establishment of a bilateral Trade and Transit Agreement between Tehran and Kabul, which led to the creation of the Chahbahar Free Zone Authority (CFZA) in 2002 was an important benchmark for the southern trade corridor. CFZA allows the import and export of goods to and from Afghanistan at a 90% discount on Iranian customs duties, and it also allows free usage of 20% of the port's warehouse space for goods en route to Afghanistan. The agreement cut down Kabul's dependency on the Pakistani port of Karachi, India noted.
When the Taliban regime was deposed by the US and the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces, political and economic ties between Iran and Afghanistan were at a low. Since then, the relationship has grown, particularly in the area of trade and commerce. Iran's exports to Afghanistan rose from US$52 million in 2001 to a record $212 million in 2003, the Tehran Times reported.
New Delhi has long realized that to become a regional power Central Asia is an area of vital importance. India has historical and cultural links with Central Asia, a region that has become highly vulnerable to Islamic jihadis and drug traffickers. Of equal importance is the goodwill that India enjoys in the region, particularly in light of India's long-standing relationship with Russia and its growing relationship with China.
Soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, India established diplomatic relations with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and worked with these newly independent states to develop frameworks for diplomatic, economic and cultural cooperation. Besides its long-historical connection with this region, India sought good relations with the Central Asian nations north of Afghanistan for several reasons. India wanted to prevent Pakistan from developing an anti-India coalition with the Central Asian states in the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, persuade those states not to provide Pakistan with assistance in its nuclear program, ensure continued contacts with long-standing commercial and military suppliers established when the Soviet Union existed, and provide new opportunities to Indian businesses. In addition, in the 1990s India began to think seriously about establishing a military presence in Central Asia.
There was, however, one major obstacle to India's Central Asian aims: an unstable Afghanistan. During the 1991-95 period, Afghanistan remained highly unstable, with civil war raging all around. Then, when the Taliban took over, Pakistan received virtual control over Afghanistan, and the India- and Russia-backed Northern Alliance was kept at bay, holding only 5% of Afghanistan.
But most disturbing for New Delhi was that the Indian policy vis-a-vis the Pushtun-Afghans had to be put on hold because of the domination of the Pushtuns in the anti-India Taliban movement. Indian links to the Pushtuns had been maintained through the Khalq, the Pushtun faction of the Afghan Communist Party, following the Saur Revolution of 1978 and during the decade of the 1980s when the Soviet-backed Afghan communists managed to stay in power. This relationship atrophied during the Taliban rule.
A presence in Central Asia
Nonetheless, despite the difficulties posed by the Taliban and Pakistan, India had operated a military hospital in Farkhor in Tajikistan during the 1990s. In fact, when two suspected al-Qaeda Arabs holding Belgian passports assassinated Afghan Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud in northern Afghanistan on September 9, 2001, his body was taken to this hospital. Over the years, many Northern Alliance leaders fighting for the ouster of the Taliban regime from Afghanistan have been treated in the Indian-run Farkhor hospital, and New Delhi supplied Northern Alliance troops with arms to fight the Taliban.
Things began to jell for India in the winter of 2001, when the Taliban were ousted. In 2002, India began repair work on an air base at Ayni, about six miles outside of the Tajik capital Dushanbe. At a November 2003 meeting with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmanov, then-Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee denied India had planned to station aircraft at the base, despite the presence of enough indicator to suggest otherwise.
It is likely that India is already thinking of setting up more air bases in the region. As far back as February 1995, security matters were the focus during a visit to India by Kazakhstan's defense minister. India's defense minister at the time, George Fernandes, visited both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Subsequently, joint military exercises have been held with both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and, in November 2003, Fernandes announced plans to enhance anti-terrorism cooperation with both countries.
Kazakhstan's leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has proposed that India go a step farther and join Central Asia's regional security alliance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization - a suggestion welcomed by Russia, but opposed by China. Also in the works: six Ilyushin midair refueler planes on order from Uzbekistan, and a pledge of financial support for a navy to defend Kazakhstan's Caspian Sea oil routes.
In addition to the security focus, India has energy needs and Central Asia has the potential to meet a good part of India's requirements in the future. Indian oil company ONGC Videsh Ltd already has a 15% holding in Kazakhstan's Alibekmola oil fields and a 10% holding in the country's Kurmangazi fields. According to a January 2003 report by Johns Hopkins University's Central Asian-Caucasus Institute (CACI), India is ready to get a minimum 20% stake in Uzbekistan's oil and gas fields as well. In addition, keen to avoid Pakistani territory, India has supported a controversial 890-mile, $2-billion "energy highway" that would run from Russia via Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and on to Kashmir through the India-China Line of Control.
Spanish gov't orders withdrawal of battalion from Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn 2004-10-26 03:52:19
MADRID, Oct. 25 (Xinhuanet) -- The Spanish government confirmed Monday it had ordered the withdrawal of 500 troops from its contingent collaborating with the International Security Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
Joint Chief of Staff, general Felix Sanz Roldan, informed that the return of the paratroopers which since early-September are stationed in Mazar, north Afghanistan, will be completed within 20 days.
The troops were in charge of the security of the electoral process in the Central Asia country.
Sanz Roldan highlighted that during the stay of the Spanish military personnel no problems occurred in the vigilance zone.
He noted, however, that there is a possibility of increasing the number of troops in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, where Spainis in charge of a hospital and the international air bases of the airport.
Tap Gas Pipeline on Track for Steering Committee Meeting
Monday October 25, 4:59 PM Asia Pulse
ISLAMABAD, Oct 25 Asia Pulse - The spadework on the US$3.3 billion 1660 km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline is near finalisation for the coming steering committee meeting in November.
The construction of the pipeline looks positive as big oil and gas companies from the USA, EU, Russia, and a local consortium have shown interest in financing and constructing the pipeline.
The modalities for risk mitigation in security arrangements, demand and supply audits of the gas to be supplied and used, and three model agreements have been prepared and will be submitted to the committee.
The steering committee will examine the techno-economic feasibility study prepared by the Bank. Another study pertaining to risk mitigation will also be examined.
The study speaks of the steps for streamlining gas supply and reducing disturbances. The steering committee has already approved a marketing study.
The steering committee, comprising of oil ministers from the three countries, had written to New Delhi to join the project, which would then be renamed as 'TAPI' (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India).
India set to discuss Iran gas with Pakistan
NEW DELHI (Newindpress) -- External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh has asked Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to start talks with his Pakistani counterpart on the proposed Iran-India natural gas pipeline.
The rider is that a dialogue on an offshore gas pipeline through Pakistan would be contingent on Islamabad agreeing to an oil product pipeline from India to Pakistan.
“We could recommend to Pakistan that we discuss the setting up of the pipeline from Panipat to Pakistan in the context of our discussions on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline since this would conform to the agreement by both sides to look at these issues in the larger context of expanding trade and economic relations between India and Pakistan,” Natwar Singh advised Aiyar last week.
Singh said that in the interim, Islamabad would have to agree to buy diesel from India supplied through tankers. In the MEA's view, the product pipeline between India and Pakistan could be taken up once the quantum of diesel export reaches a substantial volume.
On his part, Aiyar has initiated the process with a letter to Pakistan's Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon, seeking time for bilateral discussions on the gas pipeline.
Khan has been asked to select the venue in India or Pakistan and the dates in the hope that the two “might meet before the end of the year”.
The flurry of activity follows a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf on September 24 in New York where the two agreed to look at the possibility of a gas pipeline via Pakistan in the larger context of expanding trade relations between the two rivals.
New Delhi is convinced that Pakistan is tempted by the large and recurrent economic benefits - transit fees of $600-800m per annum, royalty and cheap gas - that would accrue from the onland pipeline apart from bringing in massive investment, which may help revive the economy and provide employment opportunities to local people.
South Block mandarins insist that any headway in the pipeline talks would be contingent on “complementary progress” on reciprocal transit facilities from India to Afghanistan and beyond, and prior grant of MFN status and normal trade and economic relations by Pakistan.
At a meeting with Singh in Qingdao, China, on June 21, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Kurshid Mehmood Kasuri had suggested delinking the progress and discussion on the pipeline from talks on MFN status and business relations.
The pipeline proposal has been in the freeze for more than a decade as the first initiative for studying its feasibility was launched in 1993 following a pact between India and Iran.
But the study on the sub-sea pipeline could not start and the issue was closed in early 1997 after Pakistan refused permission for offshore marine surveys. Islamabad had insisted that an onland pipeline option be considered, which India did not accept.
It was restarted in May 2000 at the 11th Joint Commission meeting between India and Iran where the two agreed to examine three options for the transfer of Iranian gas to India: overland pipeline via Pakistan, deepwater offshore gas pipeline and LNG.
Mr Karzai's moment
The Guardian 10/25/2004
Hanging chads troubled George Bush in the 2000 election in Florida, while Hamid Karzai, the now nearly official winner of Afghanistan's presidential poll, faced difficulties with imperfect indelible ink that was feared could mean multiple voting. Happily for Mr Karzai - and for his enthusiastic backer in the White House - the problem has been resolved and the Afghan result seems all but certain. Mr Karzai's rival, the ethnic Tajik Yunus Qanuni, conceded defeat yesterday, guaranteeing the Pashtun favourite a simple majority large enough to avoid a destabilising second ballot. The stage is thus set for a five-year term for a man whose dignity and self-assurance in tackling the horrendous problems of his war-ravaged land has won him plaudits across the world.
Overall, Afghanistan had a remarkably free election for a vast country with poor communications where much of the electorate is illiterate and hundreds of donkeys were needed to reach remote polling stations. How fair it was remains an open question, with reports of official blunders and some ballot-stuffing and multiple voting. Intimidation may have been far more widespread than has been reported by the few foreign observers on hand. And when 15 presidential candidates withdrew in protest because of the row over the non-indelible ink - used to make thumbprints on ballot papers - they were quickly persuaded to change their minds by the US ambassador, who is known as "the viceroy". Afghanistan's speedy transition to democracy matters very much to Mr Bush - especially because of the deepening mayhem in Iraq. Many believe the US has pushed too far, too fast, for its own selfish reasons. But that does not mean that significant progress, recognised by Afghans choosing their leader for the first time ever, should be underestimated.
Thankfully, the poll also took place without the widespread violence that had been feared - though a rare suicide bomb attack in central Kabul yesterday claimed the lives of an American woman and an Afghan girl. Until now, security forces have been relatively successful in subduing the Taliban threat and have reduced militants to launching sporadic rocket attacks and roadside bombs in the outlying southern provinces where the insurgency is strongest. Still, though, Mr Karzai had to spend much of the election campaign holed up in his secure compound in Kabul after a missile attack on his helicopter. Such dangers will not disappear magically overnight.
Security, in fact, is by far the biggest single problem facing the country - just as it is in Iraq - largely because the US and its allies, and Mr Karzai's interim government, have failed to disarm the powerful warlords. Nato, whose members agreed on Afghanistan while splitting over Iraq, has also failed dismally to meet its own pledges and move its troops in significant numbers to the west and south and help extend the reach of central government. The Americans, still fighting alone, will have to do more than hunt Taliban and al-Qaida remnants on the mountainous border with Pakistan.
Mr Karzai, who is widely seen as Washington's man, has probably won a strong enough mandate to allow him to improve his credentials as leader to all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups, which picked their candidates backed by regional militias, and in some cases drug money, for the top job in Kabul. But he will need to achieve a huge amount and avoid too many compromises in choosing his cabinet and provincial governors - especially shunning men who control private armies - if the parliamentary elections scheduled for next spring are to succeed. His victory should act as a spur to those foreign governments that have radiated goodwill towards this tragic country but have done too little to translate it into effective action.
Healing the wounds of Afghan war
Monday, 25 October, 2004 By Melissa Jackson / BBC News Online health staff
Afghanistan is a country where the physical scars of war are all too apparent among the thousands of landmine victims who have lost arms and legs or both.
But hope in the face of despair comes in the form of Italian physiotherapist Alberto Cairo and his team, who are helping these people to overcome their disabilities and fears of being "written off" by society.
The Afghanistan orthopaedic project has six centres across the troubled country where it provides artificial limbs and physiotherapy for amputees and fits braces, corsets and orthopaedic shoes for those wounded in wars or by the deadly weapons left behind.
The project was launched by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1988, and Alberto joined in 1990.
Over the past 16 years it has helped more than 55,000 people.
The centres were set up solely to give new limbs to the war wounded, but by 1994, they had opened their doors to anyone who had a motor disability, whatever the cause, although the victims of war - and the thousands of landmines left behind by conflict - still make up the majority of patients.
Alberto and his 450 staff see people with disabilities caused by, for example, polio and congenital deformities and cerebral palsy.
They have also ventured into the world of social welfare.
A job centre has been launched to help people find work instead of begging - a trap that many disabled people fall into because they feel unemployable and can see no other way of making a living.
Running alongside the job centre is a small bank which can offer loans to enterprising individuals, subject to them devising an appropriate business plan.
In Kabul alone, 2,700 small businesses have been started as a result of the job centre.
They also encourage disabled children to go to school or have lessons at home if they have a severe disability.
Alberto insists on solely employing people with a disability.
He said: "We employ only disabled people, from the cook to the cleaner to the doctors.
"I know it's discrimination but it is positive."
He thinks it forges a good relationship with patients and helps to build up trust and create good role models.
"It's good for patients to be treated by disabled doctors and physios because it helps them to see that their lives are not finished," he said.
Fifty-year-old Alberto loves his job and, although modest about his own role, cannot disguise the sense of satisfaction that comes with helping others.
He said: "To see someone coming in without legs and crawling and after two or three weeks or so, they are able to walk out again, is so rewarding.
About 80% of prostheses are for landmine victims. There are about 900 accidents a year involving landmines, some fatal.
Of those who survive, about 80% of amputees are adult men, over the age of 16; 7% are adult women and the rest are boys and girls.
Between them, the centres - at Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Jalalabad, Faizabad and Gulbahar - see about two or three new mine victims every day.
There is no appointment system - people just turn up at the door and by 7am there is already a queue outside.
All prosthetic limbs are made to measure. A cast is made and three days later they come for their fitting and if all is well, they are discharged a week later, once they have got accustomed to the new limb.
People travel long distances from remote villages to reach the clinics and often have to stay nearby in temporary accommodation while the limbs are made and fitted.
Landmine victims are sent directly to the clinics by the hospitals once their affected limb has been amputated.
Their stump needs to be prepared before a limb can be fitted.
Orthopaedic technicians and physios draw up an exercise programme for patients to follow until they are ready to return for a fitting about six weeks after amputation.
Alberto said the clinics are highly regarded by the Afghanistan medical profession.
He said: "They trust us so much and sometimes even come to us to ask our advice."
Alberto has carried on working through wars and the Taleban regime.
He said: "We always managed to have good relations with the Taleban and our work carried on under their regime.
"The Taleban used to come to inspect us with their religious police to see if women and men were separated and men had a long enough beard, but we were never disturbed by them.
"We had more problems with the Mujahideen than the Taliban and the most difficult time was during the civil war of 1992-95 when the Mujahideen were fighting amongst themselves.
"There were rockets being fired every day and sometimes we had to work in shelters or stop for a couple of hours until the bombing stopped.
"This is the sixth regime I have been through and each one has seen that we have been really useful."
Alberto qualified as a lawyer and claims physiotherapy was "always a hobby".
At 30 he "went back to school" and turned his hobby into a job and has never looked back.
He said: "I think I made the right choice.
"I think I would never have been as happy as I am now if I'd been a lawyer.
"If you can improve the life of a person it gives you so much joy.
"If I had to compare what I give to what I get, I get much more than I give.
"I feel really happy now. Sometimes I wait for the weekend to be over so that I can go back to work."
It is rare to hear someone say that with such genuine conviction.
Drought and instability slow down IDP return
Source: Norwegian Refugee Council 25 Oct 2004
Nearly three years after the fall of the Taleban, conditions in Afghanistan still do not allow for the return of all the internally displaced people (IDPs). Although undeniable progress has been made in many sectors, for the majority of Afghans living outside Kabul, the last three years have certainly not brought about the changes in their living conditions they had hoped for. The rule of the gun has in many areas replaced the authoritarian rule of the Taleban, with warlords and local commanders effectively in charge of much of the country. Reconstruction and development efforts have been impeded by security problems and donor fatigue. After another year of drought and crop failures, more than a third of the Afghan population remains dependent on food aid. Among them are at least 167,000 IDPs, most of them living in camps in the south and the west of the country. Persistent drought, lack of infrastructure and slow reconstruction have considerably slowed down the pace of return during 2004. Only 17,000 IDPs have made the journey home since the beginning of the year. Unable or unwilling to return to their homes, the remaining IDPs, most of them drought -affected nomadic Kuchi, are now in need of long-term solutions that go beyond humanitarian assistance.
For the estimated 440,000 IDPs who returned home during 2002 and 2003, the main need is for a sustained effort by the international community to deliver on its reconstruction pledge in order to further their reintegration. While many have been able to regain their land and houses and managed to secure some level of sustainable livelihood, others have found that their homes have either been destroyed or are now occupied by others. This has led in many cases to complex land and property disputes that will need to be addressed comprehensively if the reintegration process is to succeed. The government adopted a national IDP strategy in April 2004, calling for a total of $58 million over the next three years. So far, only one per cent of that amount has been pledged. This funding gap and the absence of security conditions allowing for the return of the displaced nearly three years after the official end of the war calls for an urgent stepping up of the level of commitment of the international community. In the absence of a fundamental increase in assistance, the Afghan people run the risk of losing faith in the promises made by the Western countries and Afghanistan could return to more fighting, bloodshed and large-scale displacement.
Two groups are particularly affected by internal displacement in Afghanistan: ethnic Pashtun displaced from the northwest by persecution and Kuchi, a nomadic group which is also of Pashtun ethnicity. The Pashtun, who are widely associated with the previous regime, fled harassment and human rights violations in the northern regions after the ove rthrow of the Taleban by a US-led coalition in late 2001. The Kuchi are pastoralists who were forced to abandon their lifestyle when they lost their livestock in a drought that began in 1999. They constitute the largest single group of displaced people in Afghanistan.
Following the defeat of the Taleban, an interim government headed by President Hamid Karzai was established. The new government has had little success in extending its authority beyond the limited area around the capital controlled by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and it remains largely dependent on the financial and military backing of the Western countries. The US "warlord strategy", effective in winning the war against the Taleban, has failed to date to provide a secure environment outside the capital and has instead had the effect of putting much of the country back into the hands of powerful commanders.While millions of Afghans took part in the first ever national presidential elections on 9 October 2004, large parts of the country remain outside the reach of any Kabul-based government. The armed struggle of warlords and local commanders for the control of territories and resources, as well as continued attacks by groups reportedly linked to the Taleban, have created a climate of lawlessness and insecurity throughout much of the country and have produced further displacement. In August 2004, fighting between rival warlords led to the displacement of several thousand people around the western city of Herat (AFP, 17 August 2004).
At least 167,000 people remain displaced
According to UN statistics, the number of IDPs in Afghanistan decreased sharply from 724,000 in December 2002 to 184,000 one year later (UNHCR, 3 January 2003, December 2003). So far in 2004, only 17,000 IDPs have been assisted to return, leaving 167,000 people displaced in camps (UNHCR, September 2004). The main areas of concentration of IDPs are in Zhare Dasht, Panjwai and other settlements in the south, Maslakh camp in the west, and a number of smaller camps in the north.
IDPs who have returned since December 2001 or who live in conditions similar to the general population have been excluded from the statistics on the assumption that they have attained a minimal level of self-sufficiency (Inter-agency mission, 19 June 2003, p. 2). However, the lack of return monitoring in both rural and urban areas, where large number of IDPs have chosen to resettle, means that little is known about their conditions and if they have attained that minimum level.
It has been reported that many of the refugees and IDPs who went back since 2001 have for many reasons been unable to stay. In a report published by Amnesty International in June 2003, many refugees and IDPs claimed that they were not given enough accurate information on the conditions they would find upon return. Many refugees and IDPs were disappointed with the lack of services and jobs they found in urban areas (AREU, February 2004, p. 7). Those who could afford to travel have sometimes turned around and left the country once again, while many have ended up in a situation of renewed internal displacement (AI, 23 June 2003, p. 26). The exact number of IDPs and the scope of renewed displacement are naturally difficult to ascertain, but the number of people falling under the definition of IDPs could be much higher than the UNHCR's official figure.
Return hampered by drought, insecurity and lack of aid
In early 2004, there were hopes that the two main causes of internal displacement – drought and ethnic-based persecution – would end and that a large number of IDPs would be able to return home during the year. These expectations, however, were not met.
The country is battling a sixth consecutive year of drought and water shortages now affect the population in more then half of the provinces. This has prevented the return of the displaced Kuchi and caused the displacement of several tho usand people in the south (UNICEF, 30 September 2004). From 20 per cent in 2003, the proportion of Afghans unable to meet basic food and non-food needs has risen to 37 per cent in 2004. The government, in partnership with the United Nations, launched an appeal in early September 2004 asking for $71 million to cover the immediate food needs of more than six million Afghans in the following six months. The southern provinces are most affected by drought and food insecurity, but northern provinces such as Badakhshan or Faryab, where many displaced Pashtun originated, are also hard-hit (TISA, 1 September 2004, p.2).
The absence of any national or international force capable of enforcing the rule of law outside Kabul remains a major impediment to the return of the remaining internally displaced people, the protection of human rights, and humanitarian access. In June 2004, some 54 NGOs called on the NATO, which is in command of the International Security Assistance Force since August 2003, to do more to address the deteriorating security situation (CARE 22 June 2004).
The US-led coalition has deployed Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in major cities since 2003. These PRTs consist of small numbers of combat troops, civil affairs soldiers and civilian US government officials and are designed to "strengthen the presence of the central government, improve security, and facilitate the delivery of reconstruction assistance" (USAID, 13 March 2003, p.1). Many NGOs have expressed concern that the PRT strategy was not an adequate substitute for efficient security measures and that the involvement of military forces in the reconstruction process was putting aid workers at risk by blurring the line between the humanitarian sector and the military (CARE, 25 July 2003; AFP, 1 September 2004).
Although ethnic-based persecution against Pashtun has reportedly eased in the north-west, the absence of the rule of law and a pattern of continued human rights abuses by local commanders still resulted in threats of illegal taxation, forced recruitment and illegal land occupation during the year. Only 150 Pashtun families returned to the north-west between January and August 2004 (UNHCR, September 2004).
It should be noted that although the two main groups of displaced – the nomadic Kuchi and the Pashtun – have fled for different reasons, these two categories are not exclusive. Some Kuchi IDPs are also prevented to return because of protection concerns. Displaced from the central and eastern provinces for their perceived association with the former Taleban, displaced Kuchi living in the south continue to face the hostility of the Hazara people who oppose their return and the use of grazing lands (RI, 15 July 2004). Other Kuchi had to flee their homes in the north following the fall of the Taleban, to escape persecution from Uzbek and Tajik groups. Most of them sought refuge in IDP camps in the west where some remain displaced.
Other factors discouraging IDP return include land disputes or lack of access to land, the slow pace of reconstruction resulting in a lack of infrastructure and the absence of job opportunities and sources of income to sustain their return. As a result, many prefer to stay in the camps where access to education, health and food is comparatively much better (Pete Spink, September 2004). One of the main reasons for the slowing down or suspension of reconstruction and assistance work has been the sharp deterioration in security conditions throughout the country. In recent months, aid workers have found themselves increasingly the target of attacks by unidentified armed groups, particularly in the south where the brunt of the displaced are located, but also in other provinces. More than 40 aid or reconstruction workers were killed in the first nine months of 2004 (AP, 4 October 2004). In September the UN pulled out of Herat, following riots and the ransacking of UN premises by a crowd protesting against the sacking of governor Ismael Khan by President Karzai (AFP, 12 September 2004). The impossibility of gaining access to many areas for assessment and monitoring activities has generally constrained planning and project development and considerably affected reconstruction.
In addition to the problem of insecurity, the fact that Afghans have not witnessed substantial improvements in their daily lives is also due to an obvious lack of aid and the growing indifference of donors, whose attention has shifted to other emergencies, in Iraq or Sudan. It was estimated in early 2004 that only two to five per cent of the $7 billion pledged since the Bonn Conference in December 2001 had resulted in completed projects (HRW, January 2004, p.9). The United Nations and the Afghan government estimated at the Berlin Conference in March 2004 that a total external assistance of $28 billion would be required over a period of seven years (TISA, ADB, UNAMA, UNDP, WB, 17 March 2004, p.11). Less then a third of that amount has been pledged by international donor in the wake of the confe rence, leaving some experts to doubt that this would be enough to ensure Afghanistan's reconstruction. By comparison, the United States is spending $12 billion annually on military operation in Afghanistan (Eurasianet, 5 April 2004).
Afghanistan lagging behind in human rights treatment, UN expert finds
Source: UN News Service 25 Oct 2004
While Afghanistan has made great progress since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, "gross violations of fundamental human rights" continue, from extrajudicial executions to inhuman detention to the frequent abuse or assault of women and girls, a United Nations expert says in his latest report to the General Assembly.
Prof. Cherif Bassiouni, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, says the "key to understanding these violations" is the insecurity caused by the continuing military power of warlords and local commanders and the increasing economic power of those involved in heroin production and trade.
"The absence of security has a direct and significant impact on all human rights," the report states, adding that the number of foreign troops should be increased substantially to deter violence and human rights abuses.
The report follows the Expert's visit in August, when he met with interim President Hamid Karzai, several government ministers and senior members of the judiciary and legal profession.
Professor Bassiouni says he is particularly concerned by the physical sanitary and health conditions at Pol-e Charkhi prison, where 734 Pakistanis and Afghans were illegally detained for 30 months until Mr. Karzai last month acceded to the envoy's request to release them.
Conditions at Pol-e Charkhi must be improved to meet UN minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, he states, while he also calls on the Government to release all female prisoners detained "for actions that do not constitute crimes under Afghan law."
The report makes 30 recommendations in total, including a call for the release of all individuals who have been held for lengthy periods with charge unless the Government can provide a fair and speedy trial.
Other recommendations include:
The establishment of a national monitoring body to investigate prison conditions.
The passage of a government decree that outlaws the transfer of young girls in marriage as payment of "blood money" and as a method of settling family debts.
Tougher measures to tackle the widespread practices of child abduction and child trafficking.
Greater government control over the school curriculum, especially in private religious schools, and enhanced education for women and girls.
More active efforts to reduce opium poppy cultivation and the resulting heroin trade.
How the Indians are Viewing the Latest Pakistan Army Reshuffle
NEW DELHI: As expected, President General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan announced a major reshuffle of the senior officers of the Pakistan Army of the rank of Generals and Lieutenant General on October 2 and 3, 2004. The reshuffle was necessitated by the impending retirement of Gen. Mohammad Aziz Khan, as the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and Gen. Muhammad Yusuf Khan as the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, both on October 7, 2004.
With the retirement of Gen. Mohammad Aziz Khan, a Kashmiri belonging to the Sudan tribe, from the Army, the Pakistan Army does not have any identified fundamentalist officers in the rank of Lts.Gen/Gen. When Musharraf seized power on October 12, 1999, the Army had two identified "fundos" in the rank of Lt. Gen.--- Lt. Gen. Mohammad Aziz Khan, who was then the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), and Lt. Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, the then Corps Commander, Karachi.
Subsequently, Musharraf appointed Mohammad Aziz Khan as the Commander of one of the two Corps in Lahore and Lt. Gen. Usmani as the Deputy Chief of the Army Staff. It was the triumvirate of Lt. Gen. Usmani as Corps Commander, Karachi, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Aziz Khan as the CGS and Lt. Gen .Mahmood Ahmed, as the then Corps Commander of Rawalpindi, which had staged the coup against Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, in the absence of Musharraf from the country and paved the way for his installation as the military dictator with the designation of Chief Executive. They refused to accept Nawaz's order dismissing Musharraf as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and appointing Lt. Gen. Ziauddin, the then Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence ISI), in his place. They had both Nawaz and Ziauddin arrested.
After taking over, Musharraf appointed Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed as the DG of the ISI. After the 9/11 terrorist strikes, the US reportedly exercised pressure on Musharraf to ease out all the three from the sensitive posts held by them before the US military operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban started on October 7,2001. The US did not trust Usmani and Mohammad Aziz Khan because of their close proximity to the Islamic fundamentalist parties and it was annoyed with Mahmood Ahmed because of his failure to pressurize Mulla Mohammad Omer, the Amir of the Taliban, to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US.
After 9/11 and before the US military strikes started, Musharraf had sent a team of senior religious clerics of Pakistan headed by the late Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Binori Madrasa, Karachi, to Kandahar to persuade Mulla Omar to hand over Osama to the US. He had asked Mahmood Ahmed, in his capacity as the DG,ISI, to accompany them.
During their meeting with the Amir, instead of asking him to hand over Osama to the US, they complimented him for not doing so and encouraged him to continue to resist US pressure. Mahmood Ahmed, who was present during the meeting, reportedly did not intervene and kept quiet. The US was furious with him on coming to know of this from one of the Mullas, who was allegedly in the pay of the US. It demanded his removal from the post of DG,ISI.
Musharraf had Usmani and Mahmood removed on October 7,2001. They went on premature retirement. He could not remove Mohammad Aziz Khan from the Army because of his Kashmiri background, his popularity amongst the fundamentalist parties and jihadi organizations and his role in orchestrating the jihad against the Indian Army in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). He removed him from Lahore, promoted him as a four-star General and appointed him to the largely powerless post of Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
To reassure the fundamentalist parties and the jihadi organizations that his being kicked upstairs would not involve any dilution of the Pakistani support to the jihad in J&K, he told them that even after his appointment as the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, he would continue to handle the jihad in J&K.
Usmani, though a fundamentalist like Aziz, was not as popular as Aziz amongst the fundamentalist organizations Musharraf did not, therefore, have to worry about any negative consequences of his removal.
Even after Aziz retires on October 7,2004, Musharraf has to keep a wary eye on him. Because of his role in the Kashmiri jihad and in helping the Taliban, Aziz is very popular amongst the lower ranks of the Army. Some of the junior Army officers and a Kashmiri belonging to the same Sudan tribe as Aziz and coming from the same village in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) as Aziz, who were arrested following the first unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Musharraf in December last year, were reported to have stated during the interrogation that they wanted to kill Musharraf not only because of his betrayal of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but also of Aziz. The Kashmiri detenu has reportedly accused Musharraf of preventing a Kashmiri (Aziz) from becoming the COAS for the first time in the history of Pakistan by giving himself an extension .
Musharraf might find himself compelled to reassure the jihadis once again that Aziz's retirement would not mean any change in his Kashmir policy. There is already speculation in Pakistan that he might appoint Aziz as the President of the POK in replacement of Maj. Gen. (retd)Mohammad Anwar Khan, the present President, who is Aziz's cousin or nephew.
Ehsanul Haq, who succeeds Aziz, is believed to be a Pashtun. He is a close family friend of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), but is not a fundamentalist himself. In 2001, when Musharraf accepted an invitation from AB Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, to visit India for the Agra summit, Qazi was strongly critical of it and refused to attend an all-party meeting convened by Musharraf before going to India. It was Ehsanul Haq, then a Corps Commander at Peshawar, who met Qazi, at Musharraf's request, and persuaded him to support Musharraf's decision to visit India.
After taking over as the DG, ISI, he came under some suspicion in February 2002, when Omar Sheikh, one of the principal accused in the case relating to the kidnapping and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl, reportedly told the Karachi Police during the interrogation that during a visit to Kandahar before 9/11 to meet Osama, he had come to know of Al Qaeda's plans for the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US and had mentioned this to Ehsanul Haq at Peshawar on his return. Omar Sheikh's allegation did not, however, affect Ehsanul Haq's position as the DG ISI.
The US was reported to have been quite happy with his stewardship of the ISI for three years during which some pro-jihadi officers were eased out of it and many key Al Qaeda operatives, who had taken shelter in Pakistan, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, were arrested by the ISI and handed over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). At the same time, there was concern over his perceived inaction against the Taliban leaders operating from the Pakistani territory. This, however, did not affect the over-all positive US assessment of him.
Keeping this in view, one would have expected Musharraf to appoint him as the VCOAS, in which capacity he would have continued to supervise and co-ordinate the functioning of the ISI. The post of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee to which he has been appointed is a largely paper-rich post involving medium and long-term assessment of the needs of the military, preparing and revising operational plans etc and does not involve important executive and operational responsibilities. Unless Musharraf has reassured the US that Ehsanul Haq would continue to be actively involved in the operations against Al Qaeda, his being shunted up to this post could mean his marginalisation for the next three years before he quits the Army.
It is not clear whether Gen. Hayat, the new VCOAS, who will assist Musharraf in the day to day running of the Army and the ISI and in supervising the anti-Al Qaeda operations, is a Punjabi or a Mohajir. He is senior to Ehsanul Haq, having been commissioned in 1967 in the Armored Corps, whereas Ehsanul Haq was commissioned in 1969 in an Army Air Defence Regiment. Gen. Hayat is known for his personal loyalty to Musharraf and his proximity to the US. These two factors would seem to have played a role in the June 10 attempt to assassinate him at Karachi by the Jundullah (the Army of Allah), a new organization, which is a member of the IIF.
Not much is known about Lt. Gen. Kiani, the new DG of the ISI. He had also served in the past as the DG of Military Operations, an important post from the point of view of the anti-Al Qaeda operations.
Mohammad Aziz Khan and Muhammad Yusuf Khan owed their promotions as Lt. Gen. to Nawaz Sharif and not to Musharraf. With them out of the way and the supersession and consequent premature retirement of six others, all the serving Lt .Generals owed their rise above the rank of Brigadier personally to Musharraf. He would, therefore, be confident of their personal loyalty to him.
There is unlikely to be any opposition from them to his giving himself another extension as the COAS or any heart-burning over it. The opposition to it is mainly from the opposition political parties and sections of the public. While it is certain that, with US backing for his decision, Musharraf will continue to wear the second hat of COAS after December in violation of the formal commitment made by him to the political parties to resign from that post, the events leading to his decision are not proceeding as he had expected them to.
He was planning to have resolutions passed by the two Houses of the Federal Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies of the four provinces requesting him to continue as the COAS too in Pakistan's supreme national interest. The provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Punjab have already done so and there should be no problem in getting similar resolutions passed by the two Houses of the Federal Parliament, which he controls through the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid e Azam) and the defectors from Benazir Bhutto's People's Party Parliamentarians.
However, he has been facing difficulty in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. The NWFP Assembly, which is dominated by the fundamentalists, has opposed his continuing as the COAS and in the Balochistan Assembly, where the fundamentalists have a large but not dominating presence, his supporters have not so far been able to have their way.
The religious fundamentalist parties, who feel cheated by him on this issue, have organized a series of public rallies to oppose his continuing as the COAS. Reliable reports from Pakistan say that the response to their rallies on this issue has been disquietingly (to Musharraf) large in the NWFP, reflecting the continuing Pashtun anger over his cooperation with the US against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Musharraf does not, however, have to worry over the protests of the political parties opposed to him and the religious fundamentalists, so long as he has the support of his officers and the US. Unless the public protests against him gather unexpected momentum, as had happened under Ayub Khan, which seems unlikely at present, he should have no concerns over any negative public reaction to his violating his past commitment on the COAS issue.
If at all there is any threat to Musharraf's position, it is likely to come not from the senior officers, but from junior officers not only in the Army, but also in the Air Force. As admitted by Musharraf himself in a private TV interview in June, 2004, the investigations into the two attempts to kill him last December have revealed the involvement of junior non-commissioned officers of the Army and Air Force. Any future threat to his position would come mainly from that level and not from a senior level in the form of another conspiracy to kill him.
There is some penetration of jihadi organizations into the Army and the Air Force at the lower and middle levels and there is anger against Musharraf at those levels because of his cooperation with the US against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and in the anti-proliferation investigation against Dr. AQ Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb.
There is also considerable anger amongst the Shias in the Armed Forces over his inability to stop the massacre of Shias by Sunni terrorists. Since he took over power, there have been 40 instances of massacre of Shias in different cities of Pakistan. Such a large number of anti-Shia massacres had not taken place under any other previous leader. Any threat to him would come from these sections.
The new promotions and postings mark the climbing up the professional ladder of a new generation of officers, who distinguished themselves not in battles against India over Kashmir or in the covert jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan ostensibly to protect Islam, but in the so-called war against Al Qaeda to protect American lives and promote US interests.
The fact that they did well in this war might be a good performance in the eyes of the US political leadership and policy-makers, but not in the eyes of large sections of Pakistani public opinion.
The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Distinguished Fellow and Convener, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org This analysis was published by South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG) at www.saag.org
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