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Arab News: “Musharraf launches new Kashmir image makeover” by Internews.
The report states that perhaps the single biggest strength of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is his adroitness as a diplomat. He comes across as a frank person in his occasional national television addresses and a person who knows the effectiveness of media. This he demonstrated when he gently put one over the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee recently in the SAARC summit in Nepal with nothing more than a deftly offered handshake. And now with a stunning national speech, in which he announced bans on several radical religious and militant groups, he has re-enforced his image as a tough customer with a gentle demeanor. But while Musharraf understands the importance of cultivating his image, Pakistan as a whole has struggled with the public relations game. Now with the country teetering on the brink of another war with its bitter enemy India, the military regime has decided to embark on a rapid image makeover. Musharraf has set up a new organization— the National Kashmir Committee — to publicize Pakistan’s case in the row over the beautiful but disputed mountains of Kashmir, which are at the heart of the latest military tensions. The job of the National Kashmir Committee will be to explain Pakistan’s claims over Kashmir, to play down the role of Pakistani fighters and to stress that many of those involved in the guerrilla war are Kashmiris themselves. Sardar Abdul Qayyum, head of the Muslim Conference party in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, will lead the group. Qayyum, a veteran politician, is known to be opposed to the involvement of Pakistani fighters in the war. Others in the group include Imran Khan, the cricketing legend turned politician, Gohar Ayub, a former foreign minister under the last government, and Mushahid Hussain, a former information minister. “It has become patently clear in recent weeks that Pakistan has lost the propaganda war over Kashmir, despite the strength of its case,” Imran Khan says. Previous governments achieved little. India’s international lobbying skills, particularly in Washington, are far more effective. Too often in the past, says Gohar Ayub, the job was given to “troublesome politicians who can be appeased by being sent off on endless junkets.” By banning two Kashmiri militant groups and three radical religious groups, Musharraf’s latest attempt at a national image makeover is more important than ever before.
Saudi Gazette, Arab News & Urdu News: “Islamabad hopes Delhi will soon move to talks” by agencies.
The report states that Pakistan said Monday it hoped it could soon resume deadlocked peace talks with India but stressed Islamabad would not lower its guard on their tense shared border until its nuclear rival pulled back its forces to peacetime positions. A foreign ministry spokesman said Islamabad had “taken a note” of New Delhi’s guarded welcome to a crackdown against militants announced by President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday, and India’s readiness to resume dialogue. “We hope (India) will soon move toward the desired direction,” spokesman Kamran Niaz told a news briefing. “We do not regard their response as negative and we continue to look to the future to hope that tensions will be reduced.” He denied that the ban on the two had come as a result of international pressure from India or other countries. No action was taken as a result of complaints, he said, but rather as a result of evidence. “Complaints by New Delhi without evidence have not resulted in any action being taken,” he said. Asked whether Pakistan was satisfied with the Indian response, Niaz said: “The fact that they have responded, we don’t regard their response negative”. The foreign ministry spokesman reiterated Pakistan’s traditional position that Islamabad would continue moral and political support to what Islamabad terms the Kashmiri “freedom struggle”. Pakistan’s top military spokesman, Major General Rashid Qureshi, said at the same briefing it was “difficult to predict” if the worst tension between the two countries since their 1999 standoff in Kashmir would now ease. As long as the Indian troop concentration along the border continued, “Pakistan is constrained to keep what it requires for defense close to the border,” Qureshi said. But he added: “We expect the Indian forces would be pulled back to peacetime locations.”
Arab News, Saudi Gazette & Urdu News: “Pakistan’s mission reopens in Kabul” by AFP.
The report from Kabul dateline states that Pakistan began formal moves to resurrect its relationship with neighboring Afghanistan Monday when it reopened its diplomatic mission in Kabul. Pakistani diplomats told AFP they were confident that hostility between the two countries over Islamabad’s sponsorship of Afghanistan’s former ruling Taleban regime would be replaced by mutual self-interest. In a discreet ceremony attended by just 25 people, Islamabad’s new Charge d’Affaires in Kabul, Muhammad Ziad Khan, began laying the foundations for the appointment of an ambassador from Islamabad. During the brief ceremony attended by the United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, Pakistan pledged 100 million dollars in aid to its western neighbor. He also committed Pakistan to establishing a working relationship with Kabul over the next month or two despite suspicions between Islamabad and the Northern Alliance leaders who dominate the ranks of Afghanistan’s interim government.
Arab News, Saudi Gazette & Urdu News: “India rules out troops pullback” by correspondents/agencies.
The report from New Delhi/Islamabad datelines state that India ruled out yesterday immediate military de-escalation on its border with rival Pakistan, despite the rounding up of some 1,400 alleged extremists in a crackdown on five groups in Pakistan banned by President Pervez Musharraf. “The mobilization is complete and any effort at de-escalation can come only, I repeat only, if and when the cross-border terrorism is effectively stopped,” Indian Defense Minister George Fernandez told reporters in New Delhi. He said the border buildup had been triggered by “terrorist” activities emanating from Pakistan, especially the Dec. 13 attack on the Indian Parliament, which left dead 14 people including the five gunmen. “The moment these incidents end on the border and within our territory it is the time to think of de-esca1ation,” he said. Pakistan military spokesman Rashid Qureshi responded that Islamabad expected India “to move back to peace time positions to reduce tensions.” Fernandez welcomed Musharraf’s speech, but said his promises would “have to be translated into action,” and added that the president should “do it fast” given the tense military standoff on the border. He also said “no sensible person” would consider the use of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, security officials on both sides of the disputed Kashmir border reported the resumption yesterday of artillery exchanges between Indian and Pakistani troops. Pakistani police said Indian troops resumed shelling at 1245 GMT yesterday of villages in Pakistani Kashmir.
Saudi Gazette: “Pakistani envoy in Moscow for Kashmir talks” by AFP.
The report from Moscow dateline states that Pakistan’s envoy Aziz Ahmad Khan arrived in Moscow Monday for talks with Russian diplomats on the situation in Kashmir and Afghanistan, the Pakistani embassy in Moscow announced. It was not known whether the envoy would meet Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov by the end of his visit Thursday, embassy officials said. Ivanov expressed “alarm” Friday at the continuing tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and warned over the possible consequences of a conflict between the two nuclear powers.
Saudi Gazette: “Pakistan overcomes default threat and expects growth” by AFP.
The report states that Pakistan has overcome the threat of default on its foreign debt and should return to a path of sustainable economic growth by 2004, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz reportedly said Monday. Having successfully stabilized the economy, Pakistan would focus in the medium-term on rekindling growth through encouraging the private sector, cutting debt and improving public sector investment, Aziz told a meeting of the Society of Development Economists (PSDE). “We have enormous responsibilities on our shoulders. We have embarked on a journey of reconstruction and reform that will bring returns if we stay the course,” Aziz said, according to APP. Pakistan’s current account deficit, which averaged almost five percent of gross domestic product (GDP) during the first nine years of the 1990s, fell to an average of two percent during the last two years, he said.
Arab News, Saudi Gazette & Urdu News: “Cleric warns of Islamic revolution –Ban could be counterproductive, warns Imam” by Reuters.
The report states that a prominent cleric said yesterday President Pervez Musharraf’s sweeping crackdown on religious extremism was sowing the seeds of Islamic revolution. Maulana Abdul Aziz, imam of Islamabad’s main Red Mosque, said while there had been no immediate backlash to Musharraf’s crackdown, announced on a Saturday, a reaction was brewing. “This government is paving the way for Islamic revolution by creating hurdles for the Islamic parties,” Aziz said in an interview at his home next to the Red Mosque. “There may not be instant reaction but they will respond once the dust is settled,” the fiery preacher said of Musharraf’s decision to ban five militant Muslim groups, including two fighting Indian forces in its part of disputed Kashmir. “We are just watching the situation but the silence will not last for long,” Aziz said, adding he believed Musharraf launched his crackdown because of US pressure. “The timing of this announcement by the president has raised suspicion in the minds of religious people. It is being done under US pressure,” he said. “We have lost Afghanistan and it seems we are now losing Kashmir,” he said of the banning of the two Kashmiri militant groups blamed for the Dec. 13 attack on the Indian parliament. ‘This will affect the freedom movement in Kashmir.” A teacher at a madrassa in Islamabad said he had no problems with the new restrictions. “It is a good decision by the government that madrassas will not be opened without permission. We fully support it,” teacher Kaleem Mortaza said at his school. Mortaza said he would register his madrassa with the government.
Urdu News & Arab News: “Powell due In Pakistan tomorrow” by Reuters
The report states that the US Secretary of State Colin Powell will arrive in Islamabad tomorrow for talks with Pakistani leaders as part of a weeklong Asian tour, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday. He said Powell whose trip also includes India, Japan and the Afghan capital Kabul, would hold “bilateral meetings” with President Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar.
Arab News & Urdu News: “PPP urges lifting of ban on political activities” by SANA
The report states that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s PPP has demanded that a ban on politics in the country be removed. “As the dust settles after the speech (of President Pervez Musharraf), the need to immediately lift the ban on political activity and hold free, fair and transparent elections is paramount. It should also allow Ms. Bhutto along with other political leaders to participate in these elections, which, as circumstances have shown, are the need of the hour,” a party statement said. Raza Rabbani, the acting secretary general of the party issued the statement yesterday. The statement added: “Fundamentalism and terrorism take root in a political vacuum, which exists in the country today and due to economic disparity which hounds the common man.” “As a logical consequence and a historic necessity of events it is imperative that an independent and autonomous Election Commission be constituted immediately with the consultation of the political parties, a government of national consensus be formed to hold free and fair elections thus paving the way to transfer power to the, elected representatives of the people, who through a national consensus can then face the extremist elements,” he added. Meanwhile, leaders of various political and religious parties hailed President Pervez Musharraf’s address to the nation and termed it wise and well balanced. The chief of the JUP, Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani, supported the stand taken by the President in his address to the nation and described it as well balanced and best under the prevailing circumstances. The convener of the MQM, Dr. Imran Farooq said the announcements made by the President were welcome, but everyone wants to know whether these steps would be implemented, and how would they be enforced.
Saudi Gazette, Arab News & Urdu News: “2,000 militants held in nationwide crackdown -- Banned groups not to be allowed to work under new names” by Agencies.
The report states that police have rounded up 2,000 alleged extremists in a sweeping crackdown against five groups banned by President Pervez Musharraf, officials said Monday. The arrests, which began hours before Musharraf announced the crackdown on extremism in his landmark address to the nation Saturday, continued Monday with police moving against religious militants in all four provinces. While more than 1,200 activists were apprehended in Punjab, 400 were nabbed in Sindh (200 in Karachi alone), 25 in Islamabad, 200 in NWFP’s Malakand division and 150 in Balochistan. Interior ministry officials said that in addition to the arrests, some 500 offices belonging to the outlawed groups had been closed. Officials said the banned groups would not be allowed to operate under new names, as threatened by some militant leaders engaged in the self-determination drive in Indian-administered Kashmir. ‘The moment they try to do that we will go after them and smoke them out,” an interior ministry official said. Earlier Interior Secretary Tasneem Noorani said the activists had been arrested “on suspicion that they could indulge in activities threatening public peace and obstructing implementation of the orders.” Authorities estimate less than a million people across the country support the five banned groups Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Sipah Sahaba Pakistan, Tehrik Jafria Pakistan and Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi. “Collectively their hardcore strength is in thousands,” the interior ministry official said.
Arab News: “Missile-launch sites being built on border: Report” by AFP.
The report from Washington dateline states that Pakistan is building missile-launch sites near its border with India and is moving missiles toward the area, The Washington Times reported yesterday, citing US intelligence officials and intelligence reports. The sites consist of concrete areas where mobile missile launchers capable of firing short-range M-II or Haft missiles will be stationed, the report said. “US intelligence agencies have learned that five new missile-launch sites are being built in eastern Pakistan and have identified the exact location of three of the new sites,” the Times article said. A convoy of 95 trucks was seen near a missile-storage facility south of Islamabad and is believed to be carrying missiles toward the border with India, officials told the paper, speaking on condition of anonymity. Pakistan has several types of missile systems “capable of striking a large number of targets throughout most of India,” according to intelligence reports cited by the Times. These include medium-range Ghauri missiles “acquired from North Korea,” Shaheen-I short-range missiles and longer-range Shaheen-II missiles, which are still in development, the reports said.
Arab News: “Liaquat Jatoi’s return fuels speculations” by Salahuddin Haider
The report states that Liaquat Jatoi, a former chief minister of Sindh, made a surprise return to Pakistan on Sunday night, fueling speculations that some sort of changes in the country’s political system may be on the cards. A member of the powerful Jatoi clan, he derives his strength from his father Abdul Hameed Jatoi rather than his uncle Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, who has been a caretaker prime minister of the country. Abdul Hameed is also a veteran politician but has always stood for certain values in life thus commanding far greater influence among the Sindhi landlords than brother.
Saudi Gazette, Arab News & Urdu News: “Delhi, Beijing vow to jointly fight terrorism” by Reuters.
The report from New Delhi dateline states that Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji ended talks with Indian leaders Monday with both sides pledging to fight terrorism and improve ties, which have been marked by decades of distrust. Zhu, in India as the country is locked in a military standoff with Beijing’s old ally Pakistan, said stronger ties with New Delhi were a key component of Chinese foreign policy. “China has never viewed India as a threat, nor do we believe that India will regard China as a threat,” he said, at a banquet hosted by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The two sides also signed agreements including to cooperate in space, science and technology and tourism. India and China, which fought a border war in 1962, have in recent years sought to improve ties. But China’s relations with Pakistan have long been regarded with suspicion in India. Vajpayee said the two nations would fight terrorism together. “Cooperation against terrorism is at the top of the agenda of all peace-loving countries and I am happy that we have agreed today to jointly counter this menace,” he said. Analysts said Beijing might be keen to end years of distrust to offset growing US influence in South Asia, where Washington has been playing a lead role in defusing tension between India and Pakistan.
Saudi Gazette, Arab News & Urdu News: “Confusion over death of Dutch ‘militants in Kashmir firing” by agencies.
The report from Srinagar dateline states that confusion Monday shrouded the killing of two Dutch nationals in Indian-administered Kashmir, with local media saying the two were tourists and not militants as claimed by India’s Border Security Force (BSF). BSF personnel shot dead the two Dutch nationals in Srinagar on Sunday, saying they had attacked one of their patrols with knives. But local newspapers in Kashmir were running a different version of events on Monday. “The two took umbrage at the molestation of a local woman by the patrolling party and in the ensuing scuffle were brutally killed by the BSF,” the region’s largest circulation English daily, Greater Kashmir, quoted unidentified sources as saying. A spokesman for the Dutch embassy in New Delhi confirmed the men had Dutch passports but said no other details about them or the nature of their visit were immediately known. “We are now retrieving the bodies to transport them to The Netherlands,” the spokesman said. In Srinagar, another English daily, Kashmir Images, said the two were killed after an argument with BSF personnel turned into a scuffle. Quoting witnesses, the paper, said the patrol had tried to molest one of the foreigners. “The BSF troops opened fire on tourists killing both on the spot,” it added. A police press release said investigations had been launched into the sequence of events that led to the shooting of the two Dutch nationals — identified as Ahmed El-Bakiowli and Khaliq El-Hussnowi.
Arab News, Saudi Gazette & Urdu News: “Hurriyat urge Delhi to resume peace talks” by agencies.
The report from Srinagar dateline states that Kashmir’s main separatist alliance on Monday urged India to respond to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s fresh offer of talks, made during a weekend national address. “Now is the time to rise above ordinary considerations, respond to the call of the times, seize the opportunity and take practical and productive measures toward a better world and a brighter future,” said Abdul Gani Bhat, the chairman of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference. “Musharraf’s historic address will hopefully be followed by a purposeful and substantive dialogue involving India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir,” said Bhat. “The dialogue should be held with a view to find an honorable and a durable solution to the dispute over Kashmir.” Omer Farooq, another senior leader of the Hurriyat which groups some two dozen separatist parties and organizations, said Musharraf’s address and otter of dialogue had put the ball firmly in India’s court. Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), one of the few Hurriyat groups demanding full independence for Kashmir from both India and Pakistan, also hailed Musharraf’s speech. “We welcome Pakistan’s renewal of political, moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris” said senior JKLF leader Tahir Mir. “New Delhi, Pakistan and Kashmiris should start a dialogue to find an everlasting solution of the issue of Kashmir,” he added.
Saudi Gazette: “Blair’s peace mission ends with arms sales drive” by Noel Rogers from London.
In his article published in Saudi Gazette the wrier is of the view that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under severe criticism for promoting arms sales to India at a time of increasing regional tensions and only days after he returned to Britain from what his spin doctors termed as his own “peacekeeping initiative” to South Asia, supposedly meant to defuse the India-Pakistan confrontation over Kashmir. At the time of his visit Blair said he hoped his presence would have a “calming influence”. The British government is now in the process of promoting an ‘intensive campaign” to boost arms sales to India including the sale of 60 Hawk war-jets worth £1 billion ($1.45billion). British ministers have apparently been “pressing” India behind the scenes to “clinch” this contract. A spokesman for the British pressure group Campaign Against the Arms Trade, found the British policy contradicting the declared objectives of Blair’s visit to South Asia. “It is diabolical that just days after Tony Blair was promoting peace in India, his government uses taxpayers’ money to fund activity which could achieve the exact opposite,” he said. As expected a spokesman for the Pakistan high commission in London expressed concern at the arms buildup. “India has overwhelming support in conventional weapons. India has increased its defense spending by 28 percent in the last two years, whereas Pakistan has virtually frozen its defense budget in the same period. Any build-up of Indian equipment will aggravate the situation as it will tilt the balance even more in favor of India and encourage aggression, he said. Britain imposed an effective arms embargo on Pakistan three years ago. Although the United States lifted its arms embargo late last year after Pakistan helped the US in its war in Afghanistan, the Pakistan high Commission spokesman revealed that the British embargo was still in place. There is of course, no reason why a country with a well-established arms industry should not promote the sale of its products. At present Russia is the largest supplier of military equipment to India. Unfortunately, many domestic commentators believe the Blair administrations sanctimonious posturing about an “ethical” foreign policy leaves it exposed to charges of hypocrisy. It may well be the case, as Britain’s arms lobby argues, if Britain does not sell weapons to India someone else will. While this is a perfectly reasonable argument in terms of economic returns, it does not deal with the political ramifications of a situation in which a government says one thing and does another. Nor is it an argument that is likely to sit very well with core Labor supporters. Britain’s Foreign Office refuted charges that increased arms sates might contribute to regional problems saying Britain had one of the “toughest export licensing regimes” in the world and that all sales to either India or Pakistan would be judged against “stringent criteria”. In that regard London appears to be sending out mixed signals, as it is difficult to believe even the Foreign Office “mandarins” will be able to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable.
Arab News: “Surviving the Kashmir Storm” by Joshua Hammer
In his article published in Arab News the writer has concluded that Pakistan and India both stoked tensions in Kashmir. Now both must do something to calm them. Diplomats argue that the only way to guarantee peace is for New Delhi to work out some degree of autonomy for its northernmost state. If Musharraf shuts down the insurgents and the level of violence drops significantly, they say, India should make some concessions to Kashmiris — such as freeing more than 2,500 political prisoners held in Indian jails. “If Pakistan can muster the political will to stop [the infiltrations], and India doesn’t draw down its security forces and clean up its human-rights record, the tap [of militancy] will reopen,” warns a diplomat in New Delhi. India may have only itself to blame then.
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