19 May

The Cartoons aren’t the Real Crime

Keeping religious observance aside, I don’t want to see images of the Prophet. Just like I don’t want to see images of God. It keeps my faith pure and unadulterated. And I really need that in a world where my religion has been used as a flag to justify suicide bombings, oppression of women, and suppression of free speech.

The Quran forbids depictions of Allah, not the Prophet. Some ahadith explicitly prohibit images of Allah, Prophet Mohammad and all the major prophets of the Christian and Jewish traditions. The logic behind that is the same for not depicting God, to prevent idolatry, or attaching faces/symbols to God and his prophets.

What I find really disturbing about the current controversy is that by calling for Facebook bans or protesting, Muslims are actually saying that by simply “drawing the Prophet” the 70,000 + fans are creating symbols or idols of him.

Most of the people participating in “Draw Prophet Mohammad Day” probably don’t know much about the life of the Prophet. The depictions they end of drawing of him will be a direct reflection of how Islam is viewed today.

And that Islam is marred by our collective silence and inaction towards the crimes committed in the name of the religion and the Prophet. The crime isn’t the drawings themselves, but the festering opinions of Islam as a religion of terrorists, bigots, and authoritarians. That is our crime.

That being said, I think the need for a “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” doesn’t stem from a desire to insult Islam or the Prophet or to piss off Muslims. It’s to stand up for freedom of Speech. That is exactly what the creators of “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” are saying. And following the hadith (Prophet’s saying) “actions should be judged by intentions,” I’m pretty sure Prophet Mohammad is on their side.

The Prophet stood for freedom of speech. The Prophet stood for peace. I’m pretty sure he was more upset about the dozens of people that died in riots following the Danish cartoon controversy in 2006, than he was insulted by caricatures that depicted him as a terrorist or a pedophile.

Ever since Angel Jibrail came down to the Prophet in Mount Hira, and asked him to “Read! In the name of Allah!”, and ordered him to spread the word of Islam, he patiently endured attacks, insults and even banishment from Mecca by his fellow tribesmen. The Prophet did not retaliate. On the contrary, after conquering Mecca, the Prophet issued a general amnesty to the same people that violently opposed him.

According to a (Muslim & Bukhari) hadith, when the Prophet was brutally expelled from the city of Ta’if, two angels offered to crush the valley with the very mountains that surrounded it.

“The Prophet replied: (I do not want their destruction) I am still hopeful that some of their children will worship Allah, the One, without associating anybody with Him.”

As for Muslims who feel it is their religious duty to stand up against anyone who dares to “depict the Prophet” I say they should follow the Prophet’s example of tolerance.

And for Pakistanis who are voting for a ban of Facebook, I wish you would protest suicide bombings as vigorously as you raise your voice (and now legal brawn) to caricatures depicting the Prophet. My only hope is things don’t turn violent like they did in 2006. Back then 70,000 angry people marched across the country resulting in at least 5 deaths.

UPDATE: So the government not only banned Facebook till the 31st, but youtube as well. Speaking to Reuters Wahaj-us-Siraj, the CEO of Nayatel, an Internet service provider, said PTA issued an order late on Wednesday seeking an “immediate” blockade of YouTube. “It was a serious instruction as they wanted us to do it quickly and let them know after that.” A PTA official, who declined to be identified, said the action was taken after the authority determined that some caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) were transferred from Facebook to YouTube.

Further Reading:
READ: FOXNEWS ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’ Unleashes Facebook Fracas
READ: Washington Post Blog Pakistan blocks Facebook in response to ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’ pages
READ: BBC 2006 report on riots

19 May

Editor’s Pick “Protesting Cartoons-Episode Kazillion”

News and opinion inside and outside Islamabad as a motion to ban Facebook moves in a Pakistani court, over a page “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” which now has more than 40,000 “fans.”

I wish Pakistanis would protest suicide bombings as vigorously as they raise their voice (and now legal brawn) to caricatures depicting the Prophet. My only hope is things don’t turn violent like they did in 2006. Back then, more than four months after the Danish newspaper published the cartoons, Pakistan finally caught on. 70,000 angry people marched across the country resulting in at least 5 deaths.

Dawn: Pakistani court orders ban on Facebook over caricatures
A Pakistani court Wednesday ordered authorities to block Facebook in the country over a page encouraging users to post caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on the site.

Washington Post Blog: Pakistan blocks Facebook in response to ‘Everybody Draw Muhammad Day’
When is a cartoon not “just” a cartoon? Well, perhaps when an entire nation decides to ban its citizens’ access to Facebook over a page spawned by an illustration. An illustration that, in turn, was created to support an animated cartoon show.

BBC News: Pakistani court orders Facebook blocked in prophet row
Report also includes video of latest protests.

The Guardian: Taliban insurgents attack Bagram airbase in Afghanistan
Suicide bombers carrying rockets and grenades attacked one of the biggest Nato military bases in Afghanistan today, killing an American contractor and wounding nine US troops.

NYT: Taliban Attack American Base Outside Kabul
At no time were Bagram defenses breached,” said Col. Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for the American command. No suicide bombings succeeded, he said.

Dawn: In shift Mir says tape is doctored
Dawn’s Amir Wasim and Nasir Iqbal sit down with Hamid Mir and get his version.

Dawn Blog: Puppet strings
Questioning “where did the alleged Mir tape” came from, Nadeem Paracha says intelligence agencies (with the pragmatic support of bosses of some large media outlets) have successfully sidelined whatever there is left of any liberal, secular or leftist thought in the mainstream electronic media, where one right-wing media personality attacks another, as was the case when Zaid Hamid publicly accused Hamid Mir of being a CIA agent.

CBS NEWS: Faisial Shahzad Planned More Attacks
Accused Times Square bomber Faisial Shahzad was in court and charged with five counts of terrorism. As Bob Orr reports, Shahzad revealed he planned to bomb more New York locations.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The Daily Times: CIA Chief in Pakistan
In the wake of the failed bombing attempt at New York’s Times Square, two top national security lieutenants of US President Barrack Obama have arrived in Islamabad to drum up Washington’s “do more” mantra. The two officials will also deliver Obama’s message to the Pakistani government to do away with its India-centric policies and concentrate more on the war on terror.

CBS NEWS: Faisal Shahzad Probe Earns Pakistan CIA Visit

Agency Director Leon Panetta Praises Country’s Cooperation on Failed Times Square Car Bomb Plot; Pakistan Army Major Arrested

Dawn: Saif wants US safe
Pakistani man who was briefly detained after trace explosives were detected on him at the US embassy in Chile, staunchly denied Tuesday the explosives charge lodged against him. “I have friends and family in the United States of America and more than anyone I want America to be safe and secure. I have been to the US and I greatly admire the American values of true, justice and freedom,” Mohammed Saif-ur-Rehman Khan said in a statement issued in English.

CBS News: Alleged Terrorists Used Social Network Sites
Using Faisal Shahzad, and underwear bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab as examples, CBS News explores the Terrorism made-easy through social networking phenomenon.

17 May

The Web of Spies & Lies inside and outside Islamabad

Two recent developments across the two ends of my world–the US and Pakistan–are wrapped in a web of spies & lies and I can only hope the truth will eventually creep out of Pakistan’s shadow.

First, inside Pakistan, a recently released audio recording depicts one of Pakistani’s most popular news presenters, Geo TV’s Hamid Mir, not only as a Taliban sympathizer but also as an accomplice to the recent murder of a Pakistani spy.

Second, outside Pakistan, fresh fodder for Blackwater conspirators, the New York Times reveals that despite concerns about the legality of the operation, almost everyday privately contracted spies operating inside Pakistan submit detailed reports to top military commanders in the US on subjects “like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan.”

Pentagon's Michael Furlong, who set up the spy contractor network, is now under investigation

The purported Mir audio recording (which I recommend you listen to, is also available on youtube courtesy of the Rectfied Guy Productions and via mediafire) unveils a conversation between a man that sounds just like Hamid Mir and a man (X) believed to be linked to the Pakistani Taliban. The conversation starts:

Guy who sounds like Mir: There are lots of bombings going on
X: Right. There will be more. People are standing in line. So what do they say, are they going to stop the operation in Orakzai?
Guy who sounds like Mir: No they say they will expand the operation to North Waziristan, and the first unit of the army will head there in a day or two.
X: Right. To North Waziristan?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes.
X: So do you have any reports on Khalid Khwaja?
Guy who sounds like Mir: ahaan
X: So are there any reports on Khalid Khwaja?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes, they say Khalid Khwaja is ..uumm… with some Azim Afridi from Dara
X: Ohhh. Tariq Afridi?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes, Tariq Afridi he has him.
X: But isn’t he a government person or an ISI agent?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Who?
X: Khalid Khwaja
Guy who sounds like Mir: Khalid Khwaja, according to me isn’t ISI’s man. He’s CIA’s man. And its shocking that he managed to get so close to Taliban leadership.
X: Yes, when he came here last, he met lots of people, Hakimullah and a bunch of people.
Guy who sounds like Mir: This I know personally that Khalid Khwaja is not only associated with the CIA but also with a bigwig from this global network of Qaddiyanis named Mansur Ejaz…who is
X: yes, hes American
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes, so he is his front man.

Here’s a full transcript I worked on. I also found this version on Cafe Piyala, sourced to ISI’s facebook fanpage.

Khalid Khwaja

From the recording, it seems clear that the conversation took place when Khwaja was alive and in captivity, with a militant outfit from Dara Adam Khel (according to Mir.) Towards the end of the conversation X tells the purported Mir that there is a lot of pressure to release Khalid Khwaja. The following conversation follows:

Guy who sounds like Mir: They can let him go. That is their prerogative. But send these three questions to them: Ask him what is your relationship with Mansur Ejaz–his father stole Pakistan’s nuclear secrets and ran away. His father was a nuclear scientist.
X: Yes. He was.
Guy who sounds like Mir: He ran away with the secrets to America. And once he suggested a proposal to Benazir Bhutto, when she was Prime Minister, that if you recognize Israel, all of your debts will be forgiven. That means he also has links to Israel.

Mir’s journalism has always had a murky past. Many question whether he actually interviewed Osama bin Laden after 9/11..

And his late night Capital Talk–one of the most popular talk show’s in Pakistan–is nothing more than a contained political Jerry Springer– high drama with politicians at each others throats.

From the 13 minute audio recording, it is clear that the the man who sounds like Mir, is out to get Khalid Khwaja. Having worked at Geo’s Islamabad Bureau while Mir was Bureau Chief, I saw a different side to him that most people wouldn’t associate with the TV presenter.

Besides yelling at the office tea boys, he was as hands off as a Bureau chief could be. He rarely came into work in a good mood, and was known to scream at anyone who happened to come in his way before he slammed the door to his glass office, which he barely ever stepped out of. He didn’t pay much attention to the assignment desk, reporters or news coming out of Islamabad. His main concern was Capital Talk which he hosted twice a week back then.

But this latest recording, if proved authentic, could finally put an end to his journalism career.

Mir wrote a piece for The News two days after Khalid’s bullet ridden body was found in Waziristan, entitled, “What was the last mission of Khalid Khwaja?.”

This badly written, lengthy and confusing piece mirrors a lot of the what the purported Mir is telling X about Khalid Khwaja in the audio recording. But the alarming part is Mir attributes this information in his The News article to militants and Taliban.

In particular, this excerpt from his article:

“The militants claimed that he arranged a meeting between US Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes and a religious cleric Javed Ibrahim Paracha in 2005 in Serena Hotel, Islamabad. They also produced some articles downloaded from the Internet and asked about his links with former CIA officials, James Woolsey and William Casey.”

sounds a lot like this excerpt from the audio conversation (09:50-10:50):

Guy who sounds like Mir: Javed Ibrahim Paracha has a very big madrassa there.
X: Yes indeed, he has a very large madrassa..
Guy who sounds like Mir: And he Javed Ibrahim Paracha, always helps people in the tribal areas, who work against America.
X: Yes. And he also gets them released.
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes, his services are in front of all of you.
X: Yes.
Guy who sounds like Mir: So this guy (Khwaja) tricked Paracha into coming to Islamabad and told him I want to introduce you to someone very important. And then he took Paracha to Serena Hotel and introduced him to a visiting American government official. And said, this guy Paracha, can negotiate for you with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But Paracha, who is an educated man, understood that he had been tricked and ran out of there and called me and said, you were right about Khwaja.

And this excerpt from the article,

While talking to this scribe on phone from North Waziristan, the spokesman reacted to the statement of Khalid Khwaja’s wife, who declared that her husband was a martyr because he was killed by some criminals. The spokesman for the Punjabi Taliban said that both Mr and Mrs Khalid Khwaja played an active role in Lal Masjid tragedy in July 2007. They forced late Abdul Rashid Ghazi not to surrender but disappeared when the operation started.”

which sounds a lot like this excerpt from the audio conversation (03:15-04:50):

Guy who sounds like Mir: Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi–May God bless him with a place in heaven–what he told me the last time we spoke was was that, uh, did you do know that he was not in total agreement with Maulana Abdul Aziz (his
X: Yes..
Guy who sounds like Mir: He wanted to save the boys and girls inside. And for that purpose, he was being very flexible and was even willing to be arrested. His condition was that the people with him shouldn’t be arrested.
X: Right
Guy who sounds like Mir: But Khalid Khwaja’s wife pressurized Umme Hasan (Abdul Aziz’s wife). And eventually with Khalid Khwaja’s involvement Aziz fled Lal Masjid in a burqa without informing his brother .
X: Sorry the line got disconnected
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes.
X: So what were you saying about his wife?
Guy who sounds like Mir: Yes so I was telling you his wife put so much pressure. Ghazi used to say she said we are all going to fight and we are going to be martyred. And in the end, Khalid Khawaja managed to escape from the Lal Mosque and so did his wife–Khalid Khwaja’s!

What is clear from the contents of the recording, if proved authentic, is that Hamid Mir

1. knew about Khalid Khwaja’s kidnapping.
2. knows an associate of Hakimullah Mehsud (Head of Pakistan’s Taliban)
3. willingly gave the Taliban interrogation material about Khwaja–that he was a CIA agent. And should be questioned about his links to a Qadiyani American businessman who Mir said had Mossad links.
4. is a Lal Masjid sympathizer.
5. is a Qadayani-hater. In the recording, purported Mir says: To me Qadayanis are worse than Kaffirs.

I can believe that he is a Qadayani/Ahmadi hater. Working in Islamabad’s bureau I personally saw him give one of Geo’s most talented female journalists, who happens to be Ahmadi, a very hard-time, which eventually played a role in her decision to leave the organization. She currently hosts a very successful nightly news show on a rival news network.

I can also believe he is a Lal Masjid sympathizer, that was after all the Geo News editorial policy during the whole saga in 2007.

As the army prepared to make its way into the seized mosque, Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi pleaded his case live on Geo News via telephone. I was working with DawnNews at the time. We had just launched, and like all other networks we were trying to get Ghazi on air. Ghazi’s cell number and his brothers had gone dead a few days earlier.

I was in-charge of production and asked the assignments desk, most of which was from Geo, to find out what number Geo was calling Ghazi on. Eventually someone managed to get the number. And that is the number we at DawnNews also talked to Ghazi on, a day before he was killed. When I tried to save the number to my cell phone, I discovered I already had the number. It belonged to a Geo News reporter from Islamabad, who used to sit across from me when I worked there. When we called the number to talk to Ghazi, this same reporter, put him through. The operation was in full swing at this point. Burqa-clad Abdul Aziz made his exit soon. I still wonder how the Geo reporter–who I used to think of us a harmless mullah–managed to get out of there. (Harmless mullah, because he was always smiling and pleasant with me, but had a beard, always wore his shalwar high and had a prayer cap on his head.)

But then again there are so many things about Lal Masjid episode that just didn’t make sense.

As for Mir being capable of aiding and abetting to the murder of a Pakistani spy–that is for authorities to figure out.

It is still unclear who made or released the conversation. Hamid Mir has gone on the record and issued a strong denial saying the tape has been fabricated by his enemies in the government to destroy his reputation and silence him.

“I never said these things to these people. This is a concocted tape,” Mir told the Guardian, “They took my voice, sampled it and manufactured this conspiracy against me.”

As news of the audio recording went from blogs, to the airwaves and eventually the front page of this Sunday’s the Daily Times, Mir has just gotten more defensive. In a column entitled “Asteen Ka Saamp” (snake up a sleeve) in Jang’s Urdu daily, published on Monday, May 17th, Hamid Mir accuses Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer (also owner of the Daily Times) of being behind the campaign to blackmail him. The Daily Times responded to his column with an editorial.

Following the audio recording’s web trail, it seems to have first appeared on ISI’s Facebook fanpage.

And from the nature of the conversation it could have been recorded by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies or the Taliban. Or maybe it was released by the private spies working in Pakistan for the US military that the Times recently wrote about.

After all anything is possible in Pakistan.

Even though the American military is largely prohibited from operating inside Pakistan. And under Pentagon rules, the army is not allowed to hire contractors for spying, according to the Times, all of the above is happening.

The Times article entitled, ” U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts”, says

“Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns among some in the military about the legality of the operation.

Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former Central Intelligence Agency officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information — some of which was used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. Many portrayed it as a rogue operation that had been hastily shut down once an investigation began.”

The investigation began soon after Hillary Clinton’s three-day charm offensive to Pakistan in November 2009. Her trip was overshadowed by constant questions about private US security companies operating in Pakistan and who was carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan.

She avoided answering both questions during her visit, but apparently she wanted some answers from the Pentagon upon her return to the US.

According to the Times article,

“The private contractor network was born in part out of frustration with the C.I.A. and the military intelligence apparatus. There was a belief by some officers that the C.I.A. was too risk averse, too reliant on Pakistan’s spy service and seldom able to provide the military with timely information to protect American troops. In addition, the military has complained that it is not technically allowed to operate in Pakistan, whose government is willing to look the other way and allow C.I.A. spying but not the presence of foreign troops.”

So much like the drone strikes, the Pakistani government is willing to look the other way to CIA spying.

Sadly, that is exactly what former Foreign Secy, told me in an interview I conducted for the Disposable Ally back in the spring of 2009.

“You have CIA people crawling all over Pakistan. They have several offices in Islamabad. And they have networks all over Pakistan.” The Former Ambassador to the US went on to say, “Now what sovereign country would allow this kind of a thing?”

This clip didn’t make it into the series, but I’m posting part of the interview including what he had to say about the ISI here.

If that is the reality of Pakistan, then the evidence pointing as Hamid Mir being a crazed Taliban supporter, doesn’t seem all that unbelievable.

17 May

Editor’s Pick “Spies & Lies”

News inside and outside Islamabad reveals a web of spies and lies.

Inside Islamabad controversy spreads as a leaked audio tape (which allegedly first appeared on ISI’s Facebook fan page) reveals Geo TV’s Hamid Mir (controversial anchor of capital talk, and the self-proclaimed last man to interview Osama Bin Laden) and a Taliban spokesman discussing the fate of Khalid Khawaja, a former intelligence agent whose bullet-ridden body was found a few weeks ago in Waziristan

Outside Islamabad, the NYT’s reveals US military officials continue to rely on a secret network of private spies inside Afghanistan and Pakistan–some of which were used to track and kill people suspected of being militants.


The Daily Times, Hamid Mir’s terrifying indiscretions

A shocking audiotape of a conversation between Hamid Mir – one of the country’s top TV anchors – and a man purportedly linked to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, has revealed that negative information that Mir passed on to the Taliban could have led to the execution of Khalid Khawaja, the retired Air Force official allegedly killed by a group calling themselves the ‘Asian Tigers’.

The Guardian: Pakistani news presenter accused of link to Taliban hostage’s murder

Leaked audio tape purportedly reveals phone conversation between Hamid Mir and a Taliban spokesman about hostage

The Daily Times Editorial: Shocking revelations
An audiotape doing the rounds in the cyber world has taken the country by storm. One of the country’s top anchors and a prominent journalist, Hamid Mir, while talking to an alleged Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) member, made shocking comments about various things

BACKGROUNDER The News: What was the last Mission of Khwaja? By Hamid Mir
The last mission of ex-ISI officer Khalid Khwaja failed but his assassination exposed many hidden secrets, including differences between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, and has put a spotlight on his highly complex underworld life, as a mediator, sometimes on behalf of the Americans, a power-broker, a mover and shaker besides an ardent Islamic preacher.

NYT: U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts
Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns among some in the military about the legality of the operation.

Dawn: LHC upholds conviction against Rehman Malik
The Lahore High Court (LHC) dismissed the appeal filed by Interior Minister Rehman Malik against his conviction in two corruption references by an accountability court.

The News: President condones Rehman’s sentence

President Asif Ali Zardari Monday condoned the sentence of Rehman Malik hours after the Lahore High Court dismissed the latter?s pleas, according to the presidential spokesman.
NYT: Details Emerge About 3 Men Detained in Bomb Case
The three Pakistani men detained by federal authorities who are investigating the failed Times Square car bombing came from varied backgrounds: one was a computer programmer, one a gas station attendant and one a cabdriver.

NYT: For Times Sq. Suspect, Long Roots of Discontent
Just after midnight on Feb. 25, 2006, Faisal Shahzad sent a lengthy e-mail message to a group of friends. The trials of his fellow Muslims weighed on him — the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the plight of Palestinians, the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad.

Dawn Blog: The sinking middleground
The most convenient understanding of the phenomenon of Pakistani extremists that one hears being echoed from TV studios suggests that young Pakistanis turning into religious fanatics has something to do with illiteracy and unemployment. Though not entirely incorrect, this notion however is a complacent explanation.

NYT: Pakistani-Americans and Police Sharing, and Trying to Spread, Trust
As the arrest of Faisal Shahzad sets off soul-searching and unease among Connecticut’s thousands of residents of Pakistani descent, cooperation between Pakistani-Americans and law enforcement built over three years of meetings can be used as a model for communities across the state and the nation.

Dawn Blog: Her silent jihad
It is a matter of great national pride when your country tops headlines in the international news media. But Pakistanis only seem to make the news for actions that leave their compatriots blowing down their heads in utter shame and disappointment. Ajmal Kasab and Faisal Shahzad, for instance, have truly disgraced the country, and it remains a sad reality that we don’t get to hear stories of Pakistanis who show courage and determination in times of distress.


Dawn: Pakistani held at US embassy in Chile freed
A Pakistani man detained with suspicious chemical residues at the US Embassy in Chile was charged with possessing explosives on Saturday, and then set free pending further investigation.

Dawn Editorial: Dasti phenomenon
In the re-election of Jamshed Dasti, the parliamentarian from Muzaffargarh who was forced to resign after the Supreme Court took up the issue of his fake higher educational degree, lies an interesting paradox: the disconnect between the values ostensibly promoted by the media and what matters to actual voters.

Dawn: Pakistanis suffered most displacement in 2009

Local residents flee from a troubled area in Lower Dir on April 27, 2009 where the Pakistani military launched an operation against the Taliban. – AFP (File Photo)

Pakistan suffered the highest number of internally displaced people in 2009 due to the Taliban insurgency and Pakistan’s military response, a United Nations study showed.y. The number of internally displaced people worldwide reached 27.1 million individuals in 2009, the highest number since records began in the mid 1990s, said the report.

14 May

Editor’s Pick “The day Obama finally took on Oil Companies”

Finally a much needed rebuke for BP. As thousands of barrels of oil pour into the ocean, BP stands by its claim that the leak stands at 5,000-barrels. But a researcher says up to 70,000 barrels of oil could be leaking per day. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has closed off another part of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing. Now, 8 percent of the Gulf area within 200 miles of the coast, legally called an exclusive economic zone is out of commission. The total closed area a week earlier had been 4.5 percent.

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the April 20 explosion at the rig, which sank two days later. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead.

BBC: Barack Obama: No more cosying up to oil industry
US President Barack Obama has vowed to end the “cosy relationship” between oil companies and US regulators in the light of the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Promising “relentless” efforts to stop the deep sea leak, he rebuked oil industry executives for seeking to pass on blame for the disaster.

Obama Slams BP, Transocean, Halliburton Over Gulf Oil Spill
President Obama harshly criticized BP and other companies for “falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else” at recent Congressional hearings into who bears responsibility for the rapidly-expanding environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

NYT: Obama Vows End to ‘Cozy’ Oversight of Oil Industry
President Obama angrily denounced the finger-pointing among the three companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a “ridiculous spectacle,” and vowed on Friday to end what he called the “cozy relationship” between the government and the oil industry that has existed for a decade or more.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Watch CBS News Videos Online


Mumbai-Style Assassination Plot Foiled In Indonesia
Indonesian police announced Friday they had uncovered and foiled a plot to assassinate the president and other top officials, massacre foreigners in Mumbai-style attacks and declare an Islamic state.


Dawn: Pakistani Taliban say America will ‘burn’
In a video message obtained by Reuters, Pakistani Taliban spokesman Azim Tariq claimed responsibility for the failed NY bomb attempt, and warned America that it will soon “burn” while calling for Pakistan’s rulers to be overthrown for following “America’s agenda”

NYT Blog: New Qaeda ‘War Minister’ Warns of ‘Days Colored in Blood’

A man purporting to be the new military commander of the Islamic State of Iraq, the front for Al Qaeda in Iraq, has warned of “a long gloomy night and dark days colored in blood,” according to a statement circulated on Friday.

Dawn: AI concern at Pakistanis gone ‘missing’ in UAE


One month on, the ‘disappearance’ of three Pakistanis including a professor of dentistry in United Arab Emirates remains unresolved.


LISTEN: NPR, Sebastian Junger On The Thrill And Hell Of ‘War’

NYT Blog: At War: Personal Identity in a War Zone

Anticipating and experiencing anti-Semitism during his service in Iraq, Capt. Henry Brewster, who is Jewish, discovered how quickly bigotry could be touched off in himself.

CNN: From Long Island to Lahore: The plot to bomb New York
Nic Robertson talks about how a young American from Long Island, New York, became an al-Qaeda terrorist.

BBC: Taliban fighters who were won over by Nato
Operation Moshtarak, which means “together” in the Dari language, involves more than 15,000 Nato and Afghan troops. The idea is to clear the area of insurgents and allow forces to work with local institutions to bolster reconstruction and provide support for the rule of law. That includes trying to win over moderate members of the Taliban and draw them into the political process.

13 May

Conspiracy Theories–It doesn’t just happen in Pakistan

In most societies, conspiracy theorists remain on the fringe. In Pakistan, many are regularly on mainstream news shows. In the US, some have the gall to take their absurd theories to the court of law.

Case in point–FoxNews coined the Birther Movement, one of the most popular Obama conspiracy theories out here, claims that Obama is not an American citizen, thus rendering his presidency illegitimate. The theory is based on an absurd claim that his birth certificate is fake. Leading the Birther movement is a a lawyer and dentist from California named Orly Taitz. Her lawsuit was thrown out of court and she was slapped a $20,000 fine. You can see her below on MSNBC

You should also check out the Huffington Post’s 11 Most Paranoid Obama Conspiracy Theories.

13 May

The Facebook Revolution

In Australia, court notices can be served through it. Half of Denmark has an active profile on it. Over 400 million users log on to it in at least once a month. It comes a close second to Google, in terms of internet traffic. Welcome to Facebook.
Facebook: Facts You Probably Didn't Know
[Source: Online PhD Programs]

13 May

Editor’s Pick “The day the money trail led to more arrests”

Investigators outside Islamabad follow Faisal Shahzad’s money trail leading to arrests in Long Island, New Jersey and Boston.

NYT: FBI Arrests 3 Linked to Times Square Bomb Case
The Times reports early morning FBI raids in half a dozen locations in the Northeast, as part of the investigation into the failed Times Square car bombing. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says the three Pakistani men taken into custody may have provided money to the man who has admitted carrying out the unsuccessful attack.

BBC.com: FBI arrests three over New York bomb inquiry
Homes in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts were searched early on Thursday. Justice department spokesman Dean Boyd said the men were being held over alleged immigration violations and that the searches were the result of evidence collected during a 13-day investigation. Mr Shazhad has told officials he acted alone. But investigators have uncovered a possible link over the attempted bombing to the Pakistani Taliban and a Kashmiri Islamist group. “The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the failed attempt in Times Square. If this claim is true, the attempt would be the group’s first act in the United States.”

WATCH: CNN, Cash couriers target of Northeast raids, source says

The Washington Post, Pakistan arrests man with militant ties who says he aided Times Square bomb suspect
The Pakistani government has arrested a suspect with connections to a Pakistani militant group who said he acted as an accomplice to the man accused of trying to bomb Times Square, U.S. officials said


Pakistan more willing to act against terrorism: Obama
US president says his government’s goal is to break down old suspicions, bad habits and continue to work with Pakistani government


Dawn: Details of evidence in Benazir Bhutto’s case submitted
Police officials accused of destroying vital pieces of evidence after Ms Benazir Bhutto’s assassination have submitted to investigators details of about 30 items from the crime scene.

Dawn: Father calls Saif-ur-Rehman’s arrest in Chile a trap
Although reports from Chile suggested that Rehman went to the US embassy for visa processing, his father Mehmood Ahmad Rehman Khan claimed he already had a five-year valid visa for the US, adding that his son had been called to the US embassy for some questioning.

Dawn, Tell-tale silence in Faridkot
FARIDKOT: The comment itself was quite innocuous. The voice tone was balanced and the expression clear and un-halting. And yet there was something conspiratorial about it.

The Daily Times: Fate of 46 ‘fake degree holders’ hangs in balance
While the graduation requirement for candidates looking to contest elections to parliament was withdrawn in 2008, fake degree cases – pending with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) – continue to haunt dozens of public representatives.

The Daily Times: Baroness Warsi named Britain’s first female Muslim minister
Sayeeda Warsi has been announced as the Conservative Party’s chairwoman, becoming the first Muslim woman to be a part of the British cabinet, a private TV channel reported on Wednesday.

NYT: Psychologist Says Strip-Searches Traumatized Embassy-Bombings Suspect

A former detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who faces terrorism charges in Manhattan suffers from post-traumatic-stress disorder which is triggered by strip-searches he must undergo whenever he is taken between jail and court, a psychologist hired by his lawyers says.


Dawn: Pakistani psychologists issue conflict health warning
In the conflict between Taliban insurgents and Pakistan’s army, thousands have been killed in bombings of everything from military and police facilities to crowded street markets; even a volleyball match was attacked. Countless others have been wounded. But the psychological toll often goes unnoticed, even though underfunded and understaffed hospitals are treating a sharply rising number of people who can’t cope with bloodshed.

Dawn, OP-ED: Let’s discuss culture-I.A. Rehman

Source: ajoka.org.pk

The call to ban all controversial plays is the most ridiculous idea one expects to hear from any quarter. Most purposeful theatre, if not all of it, is controversial because it challenges social norms and practices. Shunning controversy means suppression of dissent and perpetuation of the status quo with all its decadence. Those who cannot make controversy palatable to their audience harm only themselves.

WATCH: Washingtonpost.com, On leadership

12 May

Editor’s Pick “Is he or isn’t he?”

Editorials and opinions inside and outside Islamabad feel out Faisal Shahzad’s Taliban connection.

Washingtonpost.com, Holder & Company jump the gun on Shahzad
The Post’s blogger questions how US Attorney General Holder can be so certain that Shahzad is a virtual agent of the Pakistani Taliban so early in the investigation.

The Guardian, Pakistan denies Taliban link to Times Square bomb suspect
Pakistani investigators dismiss US claims that Faisal Shahzad was working under direction of Pakistani Taliban

The Daily Times, Editorial, Change of Tone

The US is now beginning to perceive Pakistan’s policy for what it has been for the past nine years: a double-edged sword, slaying a dragon that only sprouts more heads

WATCH: 60 Minutes, Homegrown Terror

WATCH: 60 Minutes, Hillary Clinton on the Pakistan Connection

WATCH: Express 24/7 Pakistani Americans Reax


Dawn, Editorial, Jihadi infrastructure
The recovery of jihadi paraphernalia from a Karachi mosque is a sobering reminder that militant outfits are quietly carrying on their business in Pakistan.

Dawn, Editorial, Ulema and terrorism

Some ulema suggest the government’s ‘pro-America’ foreign policy justifies the militants’ war against it.

The Daily Times, The terrorist question —Dr Manzur Ejaz
No other Muslim country sponsors private religious and sectarian militias for domestic use or to achieve strategic goals. Probably, every state, other than Pakistan, knows fully well that the rise of private militias is bound to threaten the state’s monopoly of using power and coercion


The Washington Post, A fence-mending agenda for President Obama and Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai-Zalmay Khalilzad
Among other things, the former US Ambassador to Afghanistan stresses that success in Afghanistan depends heavily on regional relations. He writes, “Just as we are unclear on Karzai’s approach to the Taliban, Karzai is confused about our relations with regional actors such as Pakistan. These points must be clarified during his visit…”

NYT: At U.S.-Afghan Meetings, Talk of Nuts and Bolts
On Wednesday, as a delegation of eight Afghan ministers took seats across a polished oval table from President Obama in the Cabinet Room, the leadoff speaking role went to Muhammad Asif Rahimi, an articulate, burly fellow with salt-and-pepper hair.


NYT, Chile: Pakistani Still in Custody
A Santiago court extended the detention of a Pakistani man arrested Monday after traces of explosive material were found on his belongings as he entered the American Embassy there.
The Daily Times, VIEW: Taliban vis-à-vis the state of Pakistan —Daud Khattak
Such is the level of fear among the common people that not a single person from the village, not even the family members of the three abducted whose hands were severed, dared to inform the political administration or any other available state or government agency

The Express Tribune, 200,000 Facebook fans want me back: Musharraf

Former president Pervez Musharraf has said that he has 200,000 fans on the social networking site Facebook, and they want him to return to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s elite yet to pay their taxes

Punjab Excise and Taxation Department issued notices to multiple luxury car owners including former president Farooq Leghari, Abida Hussain, Zulfiqar Khosa, Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood, Hina Rabbani Khar, Wasim Akram and Inzamamul Haq, who owe Rs 600 million in taxes.


Slackistan to debut at Cannes
The trailer for the film debuted late last year and was talked about obsessively amongst what the film’s target audience will be – the bored 20-somethings whose days revolve around idly watching the news and figuring out where their lives are headed. 10 minutes of the film are being shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Daily Times, VIEW: Raising the curtain on the burqa —Reem Wasay
To impose restrictions and demarcations on the liberal arts is to indirectly avert any attempts at conveying dissent and opposition to the prevailing status quo by the masses, marring the very foundations upon which this nation, any nation for that matter, was created

9 May

Editor’s Pick “The day of the Pakistani Connection”

News and opinion inside and outside Islamabad debate Faisal Shahzad’s link to Pakistani Taliban

NYT, Pakistani Taliban Behind Times Sq. Plot, Holder Says
The accusation by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should increase pressure on the Pakistan military to attack the Taliban in the lawless region of North Waziristan.

Dawn, OP-ED, Faisal Shahzad’s anti-Americanism–Pervez Hoodbhoy
The man who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square was a Pakistani. Why is this unsurprising? Because when you hold a burning match to a gasoline tank, the laws of chemistry demand combustion.

Dawn OP-ED, Pakistan – A nursery of modern jihad?
Osama bin Laden’s ideology of global jihad against the United States and its allies, rooted in the mountains of the Afghan-Pakistani border, has inspired myriad offshoot groups and galvanised alienated youth.

Dawn OP-ED, Path of Terrorism leads but to Pakistan–Cowasjee

The adoption of terrorism tactics can no longer be merely attributed to ignorance, poverty, deprivation or hardship.
Many of our neo-terrorists are schooled and brainwashed beings, with a grudge, or several grudges, imbued with bravado, intent on disrupting what is left of civilised life, with nary a care as to how many complete strangers they either blow to smithereens or maim, or how much they destroy.

The Daily Times, ANALYSIS: Youth and militancy —Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi
Friday sermons in a large number of mosques preach how the West is out to undermine the Muslims and the Islamic world. It is easy to get radical ideological inspiration in Pakistan because Islamic orthodoxy and militancy have seeped deep into Pakistan’s state system and society

Dawn, FBI seek access to Shahzad’s father
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) team investigating Faisal Shahzad’s case has visited Pabbi, Nowshera and Hassanabdal on Saturday and seeks access to Shahzad’s father.


NYT, Imam’s Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad
Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric, has become a central figure in the luring of Western Muslims to violent extremism.

The Express Tribune, Will the real Zaid Hamid please stand up? –Amber Rahim Shamsi
If the Afghan jihad — funded and supported by the CIA and the ISI to fight the infidel communists — is pivotal in Pakistan’s history, it is also the case in Hamid’s biography.

The Daily Times, VIEW: Legally unjust? —Andleeb Abbas

Capacity building of the bureaucrats has become a lottery for most of the high-ranking officials where each one is going to prestigious universities like Harvard, Stanford and Princeton at exorbitant costs

Dawn, OP-ED, Paying for Pakistan–Mohsin Hamid
Here’s the great secret about Pakistan: we aren’t as poor as we like to think. Over the years I’ve travelled a fair bit around our country. I’ve ridden on the back of a motorbike in Gwadar, walked down streets in Karachi, explored bazaars in Peshawar.

The Daily Times, ANALYSIS: The bridge of indignities —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
Leaders, both good and bad, have a direct relationship to the level of social and political awakening in the populace. The public is always as good or bad as its leaders because politicians are role models

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