x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Warning that North West Frontier Province is breaking away from Pakistan

Islamist party leader warns Pakistan government that the province, which provides sanctuary to al Qa'eda and the Taliban and is believed to hold most of its nuclear arsenal, is "breaking away."

"A crisis meeting of Pakistan's new coalition government has been warned that it could lose control of the North West Frontier Province, which is believed to hold most of its nuclear arsenal," Bruce Loudon reported for The Australian. "The warning came yesterday from the coalition leader, who, although he is part of the new Government, is regarded as having the closest links to al Qa'eda and Taliban militants sweeping through the region. "Maulana Fazlur Rehman bluntly told his colleagues: 'The North West Frontier Province is breaking away from Pakistan. That is what is happening. That is the reality.' "This came just days before new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's scheduled meeting with US President George W Bush to discuss al Qa'eda and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan." Meanwhile, Asia Times reported: "In the first week of July, several people were killed in a village in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar by international forces. The US-led coalition forces described the operation as a precision air strike which had killed militants. Locals said they were civilians. Claims. Counter-claims. It seemed business as usual until investigations revealed that the air strike had in fact bombed a wedding party, killing 50, including the bride. "Though the incident was reported widely with concern for the civilian casualties, there was less attention on the other 'collateral damage' it caused - the casualty of credibility. "The war of words between anti-government militants and pro-government forces has become so routine that little attention is paid to the contradictions in the claims. In the process, the anti-government insurgents are gaining, a dangerous situation when the government's legitimacy is already under question. "The power of the militants' propaganda is evident from a new report published by the Brussels-based independent International Crisis Group (ICG) this week. The report, 'Taliban Propaganda: Winning the War of Words', argues that the Taliban are 'successfully tapping into the strains of Afghan nationalism and exploiting policy failures by the Kabul government and its international backers'. The result, it says, 'is weakening public support for nation-building, even though few actively support the Taliban'." For McClatchy Newspapers, Jonathan Landay wrote: "Barack Obama and John McCain say more US troops should be sent to Afghanistan, and President Bush agrees. Deploying additional forces could backfire, however, if the United States and its allies don't devise a coherent strategy to defeat the Taliban insurgency, strengthen the Afghan government, bolster the country's economy and deprive Islamic militants of their safe haven in neighboring Pakistan... "More foreign troops... would do little than turn more war-weary Afghans against US-backed President Hamid Karzai if they aren't part of a broader and more effective counter-insurgency strategy, some experts and US officials warned. " 'There is not one strategy with one person in charge,' complained a US defense official who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorised to speak publicly. 'If we had asked the Taliban to draw an organisational chart for allied forces in Afghanistan, they would have drawn this one.' "A more coherent approach, they said, would streamline the US and NATO chains of command, end restrictions that some allies place on their soldiers and use force far more judiciously to reduce civilian casualties."

Mass arrests of Fatah members after Gaza bombing

"Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip are said to have arrested 160 Fatah supporters and set up checkpoints after an explosion killed six people," BBC News reported. "A powerful explosion inside a car travelling past a beach in the Gaza Strip on Friday killed five Hamas activists and a six-year old girl. "At least 15 other people were said to have been injured by the explosion - the third bomb attack in a day." Xinhua said: "The armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement Al-Aqsa Brigades called on Hamas movement to halt arrests of its members in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. "Abu Mahmoud, the group's spokesman in the West Bank, told reporters that Fatah movement would carry out serious actions against Hamas members in the West Bank, if Hamas forces do not stop cracking down on Fatah movement and its institutions in the Gaza Strip." AFP said: "The cause of the explosion was not immediately known but Hamas blamed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's rival Fatah movement, accusing it of collaborating with Israel to undermine the Islamist movement. " 'The Fatah movement is behind this reprehensible crime,' senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya told a crowd of thousands of supporters and other senior leaders at a funeral for those killed. " 'Those who carried out this crime are making war on God, on the security of Gaza, and on the resistance,' he said. 'They will not be released after six months but will be hanged from the gallows and shot.' " Meanwhile, Der Spiegel recently interviewed Abu Mustafa, a Salafist leader in a growing movement that poses an increasing threat to Hamas who said: "he doesn't think it likely that the Salafis will have to take up arms against Hamas. 'It won't be necessary. They will destroy themselves.' "His explanation is clear. 'For many people in Gaza, Hamas embodied the promise of a good, Islamic lifestyle,' Abu Mustafa says. But once the group seized power in the Gaza Strip over a year ago, many were disappointed. Of the 10 defectors who call him everyday, many of them are Hamas fighters, he claims. 'These are tough men and they have insider knowledge. They will be very useful should it come to a power struggle.' "The group's greatest sin, says Abu Mustafa, who is also the father of two children, is its effort to bring Islam and democracy together. 'Hamas represents an American style of Islam. They have tried to curry favor.' Which is not such a bad thing for Abu Mustafa and his Salafis. 'Hamas is like a block of ice in the sun,' he says. 'Every minute they get smaller - and we get larger.' "

Iraqis outraged by Olympic ban

"Tempers flared among residents of Baghdad on Friday," Time magazine reported, "as word spread of Iraq's disqualification from the 2008 Summer Olympics. 'I am really angry because this is an international competition and it should be legal for us to compete,' says Bassam Ahmed, a shopkeeper in Iraq's capital. 'It's very important for a country like Iraq. We would like others to see that Iraq can produce some good athletes, in spite of the situation we are in.' "On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee informed Jassim Mohammed Jaafar, the Iraqi minister of sport and youth, in a letter, that it would uphold an earlier ban on the Iraqi Olympic team after the government unilaterally replaced the members of its national Olympic panel - the Iraqi affiliate of the international committee - two months ago. The move was taken by the IOC as corrupt conduct and it cited 'political interference' as its reason for the ban." In an editorial, The Washington Post noted: "When Iraq's Olympic team paraded at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, the head of the country's Olympic Committee was Uday Hussein, the notoriously sadistic son of dictator Saddam Hussein. Uday made Baghdad's Olympic facilities the headquarters for his own epic feats of rape, torture and murder; among those he brutalized were athletes on the national team who failed to live up to his expectations. His may have been the foulest abuse of a national Olympic movement in history. Yet the International Olympic Committee found a way to live with Uday, just as it has tolerated the manipulations of sports teams by totalitarian governments around the world - including this year's host, China."

Labour defeat puts pressure on British prime minister

"In one of its worst electoral setbacks in years, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party suffered a huge defeat in a Scottish by-election whose result was announced Friday, raising new questions about Mr Brown's ability to hold on to the job he has had for barely 12 months," The New York Times reported. "More unsettling yet for politicians in London, the defeat came at the hands of the separatist Scottish National Party, which supports independence for Scotland. Mr Brown is a Scot, and the Labour Party has long regarded Scotland as its fief, relying on Scottish seats to cement its majority in general elections." The Guardian said: "Labour's defeat in Glasgow was Brown's third byelection loss in nine weeks, but by far the most humiliating. The SNP overturned a 13,500 Labour majority to clinch the seat by 365 votes, a 22 per cent swing that if replicated at a general election would see only 20 Labour MPs survive. "It is understood Straw is deeply concerned by the defeat in Glasgow, nominally Labour's 25th safest seat and its third strongest in Scotland. The justice secretary, next ranking figure in the cabinet, is not thought to favour a rapid dethronement, since it is possible a party leadership election could leave Labour weakened further, and require the party to stage a general election next year it cannot financially afford. But friends say his primary concern is the welfare of the party, the implication being he might not support Brown indefinitely. Some Blairite MPs spoke of a move against Brown in the autumn, after a period of reflection, but hope the move will come from the cabinet." Patrick Wintour wrote: "The official line from the cabinet was business as usual. As John Denham, the skills secretary, and John Hutton, the business secretary, toured the TV news networks following Labour's devastating defeat in Glasgow East the message was familiar. The government is suffering the blowback from high global food and fuel prices and Gordon Brown remains the best placed leader to take the party through difficult times. "Behind the scenes it was a different story as former ministers and MPs contacted by the Guardian, many speaking only on condition of anonymity, sharpened the knives that may be plunged into the prime minister. 'We have moved from a one nation to a no nation party, thanks to Gordon,' said one disgruntled former minister. 'We are unelectable everywhere, and that is untenable. By and large when something is untenable in politics something happens, and as yet I do not know what it will be.' "