Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pakistan-based US drones ‘nothing new’

* Excerpts from news reports reveal Predators have operated from Pakistan for years

Karachi: Contrary to the impression being created by the media and the Los Angeles Times in particular, the fact that Predator drones were based in Pakistan has long been public, a US-based website has claimed.

The blogger points to the following news stories accessible on the Internet:

New York Times, 6 November 2002: “In any offensive against Iraq, the air force would probably use Predators flying from Ali Al-Salem Air Base, Kuwait, military officials said. The Predators flying over Afghanistan have operated from an air base in Jacobabad, Pakistan.”

CNN, 1 January 2003: “In a separate development, a US surveillance plane crashed on Wednesday in southern Pakistan, shortly after takeoff. There were no injuries or damage on the ground.”

“Jacobabad police chief said the drone crashed about seven kilometers from Jacobabad because of technical reasons.”

RAND Corporation report, 2004: “Pakistan provided the US access to numerous military bases and helped establish facilities including Intermediate Staging Bases at Jacobabad, Pasni, Dalbandin and Shamsi; Predator basing at Jacobabad and Shamsi, and access to other bases used by over 50 aircraft and 2,000 coalition military personnel at these locales.”

Washington Post, 27 March 2008: “Musharraf, who controls the country’s military forces, has long approved US military strikes on his own. But senior officials in Pakistan’s leading parties are now warning that such unilateral attacks – including the Predator strikes launched from bases near Islamabad and Jacobabad in Pakistan – could be curtailed.”

The News International (Pakistan), 27 October 2008: “In the early days of our entering the US “war on terror”, we offered certain bases of which Jacobabad had been apparently returned over two years ago. As for the Shamsi base in Balochistan where there are Predators, one can assume that the US would find it tempting to target Iran from this prime location.”

The Wikipedia entry on Jacobabad reads: “Pakistan agreed to an American request for a long-term, logistics and support base at the Shahbaz Air Base in Jacobabad following 9/11. The US forces, mainly from its air force, were stationed there from October 2001 to November 2004. Units active during this period included a Predator UAV squadron, a C-130 airlift squadron, a CSAR detachment, and associated support units.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coke has a rival. RSS's cow urine cola !

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Dehradun The RSS has found something to give the popular colas and cold drinks a run for their money: bovine urine. The Sangh's Cow Protection Department is planning to produce a soft drink with this magic ingredient as base, and believes it will sweep the market.

The head of the Hardwar-based department, Om Prakash, said: "We refer to gau ark (cow urine) as gau jal (cow water) as it has immense potential to cure various diseases. We have developed a soft drink formula with gau jal as the base and it has been sent to a laboratory at Lucknow for testing."

Once the tests show positive results, he added, the department will think about its packaging, preservation and marketing.

While the RSS is at the task alone right now, once the drink is ready to be taken to the market, the Cow Protection Department might seek the help of the Uttarakhand Government in the operations.

"It will be a revolution of sorts. The acceptance of cow urine as a potent medicine is increasing day by day and once it comes as a cold drink, its demand will definitely increase," Prakash claimed.

Stating that several colas are harmful to the extent that they can be substituted for pesticides, he asserted that their soft drink with cow urine will not only be natural but cost-effective too. "In addition to this, it will prove and justify the high stature accorded to a cow in Indian culture."

Cow urine, in fact, ranks quite high on the RSS list of priorities. "We discuss its importance at various meetings and public programmes. We have also been circulating pamphlets about its medicinal value," said Om Prakash, who has been actively involved in the task of cow protection and promoting bovine urine for the last four decades.

He names products ranging from toothpaste, shampoo, soap, face powder and shaving lotion to balm, biscuits, incense sticks, phenyl, mosquito coils and distemper which are being made from cow urine and cow dung.

He asserts that tiles made up of cow dung have been found to be fire - and water-resistant and can ward off radiation.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Senate Elections :PPP, PML-N, PML-Qand MQM jostle to make alliances

PML-N left out in the cold by tactical PPP maneuvering !
Ishartul Ebad being accorded the slot of Senate Chairman, and City Nazim Mustafa Kamal being given the slot of Sindh Governor.

The Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have started manoeuvring for making new alliances in preparation for Senate elections which are due in March.

Sources said that the Pakistan Muslim League — Quaid (PML-Q), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the PPP are likely to form an alliance and efforts would be made to extend more cooperation to the MQM. Sources said this would be done to thwart attempts from the PML-N to launch a political campaign in PPP-dominated Sindh.

PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif is expected to visit Sindh before the Senate elections to mount political pressure on the PPP. It may be noted that National Reconciliation Bureau (NRB) Chairman Dr Asim Hussain has arranged a meeting in Dubai between President Asif Ali Zardari, federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Ghauri (from the MQM) and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of the PML-Q. Besides, they are also in touch with MQM chief Altaf Hussain in London.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, who often plays the role of mediator, is expected to reach Dubai in the next 24 hours.

Sources said that this emerging alliance is also meant to counter any political reaction or pressure from the PML-N, and the PPP was not leaving any option open regarding the court judgment in the Nawaz Sharif case. On the other hand, sources said, the Saudi government was trying to enact some rapprochement between the PPP and the PML-N, because during his recent visit a Saudi prince had met Zardari and Sharif to bring them closer.

Moreover, a leading UAE figure, Nasir Loota, has close relations with President Zardari and he had recently met him at the President House in Islamabad. Sources further said that the PML-N was also trying to make a new alliance for which it contacted Jamat-e-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and nationalist parties.

The visit of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer to Karachi and his meetings with MQM leaders was also meant to mount pressure on the PML-N before the Senate elections. There is also speculation about the likelihood of Ishartul Ebad being accorded the slot of Senate Chairman, and City Nazim Mustafa Kamal being given the slot of Sindh Governor. Dr Hussain is also one of the candidates for the post of Sindh governor but he may also be vying for a Senate seat.

An MQM spokesman said they were waiting for the outcome of the Dubai meeting. Meanwhile, the statement of the Punjab governor during his recent visit to Karachi, where he categorically stated that the PPP government would not roll back the local government system, conveyed a good message to the MQM.

Monday, February 2, 2009

India wary of Obama’s South Asia focus

* Potential problems to US-India ties include Obama’s approaches to Kashmir dispute, terrorism
* New Delhi keeping its fingers crossed ahead of Holbrooke’s visit to region

NEW DELHI: With US President Barack Obama still in the early days of his presidency, India is keeping a wary eye on policy changes that could irritate what has become a key strategic relationship.

These include the new president’s approaches to terrorism and the Kashmir dispute. “When it came to India, (former president) Bush was exceptional. Whenever any matter on India reached him, Bush overruled his team to address Indian concerns,” said former Indian ambassador to Washington Naresh Chandra. “I don’t think we can expect that kind of personal commitment (from Obama) though all his statements are in line with whatever objectives India holds dear. One has to see how the general is translated into specifics,” he added.

New Delhi is also keeping its fingers crossed ahead of an expected South Asia visit in February by Richard Holbrooke, named special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In an interview with Time magazine, Obama, as president-elect, was quoted as saying the “most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan is actually deal with Pakistan”. “We should try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that Pakistan can stay focused ... not on India but on the situation with those militants,” he added.

“It is an open secret that Holbrooke’s original brief included India,” noted Siddarth Varadarajan, strategic affairs editor of the Hindu paper, in an article last week.

However, “silent but strenuous” diplomacy, including strong signals that “any appointment which smacked of linkage with Kashmir would be seen as an unfriendly act” ensured Holbrooke’s brief finally excluded India, he added.

C Raja Mohan, professor at Singapore’s Nanyang University, agreed that it was in ‘deference’ to India that Kashmir was not part of Holbrooke’s responsibilities but “reworking the India-Pakistan relationship will be an inevitable and important component of his initiative”. “It will be a pity if India does not grasp this historic opportunity because its leaders lack either the self-assurance or the strategic imagination to leverage Obama’s South Asia initiative,” Mohan said.

New Delhi-based analyst Uday Bhaskar agreed that engaging Washington was “more of an opportunity” than a challenge. “There is a convergence (between New Delhi and Washington) that terrorism in the region has to be dealt with. The divergence lies in the fact that according to India, the Pakistan military is the problem.

“Until recently, Washington used to see it as part of the solution.

“It’s only on the Obama watch that there appears to be the beginning of a radical review of the role played by the Pakistan military in abetting terror,” he added, noting that Washington had linked aid to Pakistan with delivery on promises to crack down on militants operating on its soil. afp