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Who are behind Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder?

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By: Sajjad Shaukat

In wake of continued terrorist acts in Pakistan, on March 2 this year the cold-blooded murder of the country’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti has intensified the debate that as to who are behind his assassination. Although Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan, a militant group has taken the responsibility of Shabaz’s murder, yet Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies are investigating in connection with some foreign hands or the possible involvement of Xe International, (formerly Blackwater) and indian intelligence agency RAW, specifically looking into the activities of a white foreigner who is acting as a “security consultant” in Islamabad. In this regard, some high officials of Pakistan have revealed that a third hand or party might be involved in the assassination of the federal minister for minorities.

Some intelligence officials told a Pakistani newspaper that they found suspect-the activities of the foreigner who was living under the umbrella of a NGO and running an office in sector G-11 of Islamabad. They indicated, “nobody knows what he is doing in Islamabad and on what mission”, he is. The paper explained that the foreigner also met with some security officers a couple of days back posing as “security consultant” and interviewed them regarding the current security situation of Pakistan, asking them whether Pakistan could face Libya-like situation in the near future. In this respect, a Pakistan’s renowned newspaper insisted, “the fact that the foreign hand that has been creating unrest in the country for a long time now could be behind the incident cannot be ruled out…links between foreign intelligence agencies like Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and American CIA and militants have been suspected…RAW is even known for having provided financial and military support to spread violence in Pakistan.” In another report, the paper, while quoting “well-informed sources” disclosed that in 2010, the Obama administration deployed over 400 pro-India and pro-Israel CIA agents in Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi, the country’s biggest cities.

Washington hired these contractors from private security companies like Blackwater, and leading Indian and Israeli businessmen including their secret agencies which have been clandestinely and heavily funding such companies to carry out secret operations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa as per their interests against the Islamic countries. Some reliable sources suggest that the Blackwater has hired 286 houses in different residential sectors of Islamabad for their suspicious activities. Regarding the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, the police confirmed that the terrorists used 7.62 mm-AK-47 Klashnikov, an automatic gun and sprayed 35 bullets with two guns, adding that police recovered all the 35 empties from the scene.

It is notable that the terrorists threw on the road the pamphlets with Kalma-e-Tayyaba printed on them and also the name of the holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) after killing Shahbaz Bhatti. Th fact remains that no Muslim can ever think of dropping on ground such sacred material. Nevertheless, that condemnable act might also have been committed precisely to divert the investigations away from the real terrorists which belong to RAW, CIA and Mossad.

It is mentionable that through their secret agencies, the concerned foreign countries want to fulfil their multiple-nefarious aims against Pakistan by the murder of the federal minister for minorities affairs. In this regard, firstly, they intend to divert the attention away from the issue of Raymond Davis including his companions who are agents of the American CIA and were on an anti-Pakistan mission. Especially, Davis is part of the illegal activities of the Blackwater whose employees entered Pakistan in the guise of diplomats. Secondly, these covert agents of the related intelligence agencies want to distort the image of Pakistan in the comity of nations as they have already tarnished the country’s image through various subversive activities-are now working against Pakistan by taking advantage of the country’s deteriorated law and order situation which they have themselves created through their secret forces. Notably, in this context, the rulers and leaders of the western countries have strongly condemned the murder of the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, expressing outrage and termed it as “unspeakable”, “unacceptable” and a “dastardly crime”, and also called it an attack on the values of tolerance. In this regard, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the assassination of Bhatti was “absolutely brutal and unacceptable”. He also stated that the minister’s murder showed what a huge problem we have in our world with intolerance. He further added, “I will send not only our condolences but our clearest possible message to the government and people of Pakistan that this is simply unacceptable.” US President Barack Obama pointed out that he was saddened by the “horrific” assassination. He said, “I am deeply saddened by the assassination of Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti,” and “condemn in the strongest possible terms this horrific act of violence.” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a US Senate committee, “I was shocked and outraged by the assassination of Bhatti…I think this was an attack not only on one man but on the values of tolerance and respect for people of all faiths.” German Federal Foreign Minister, Dr Guido Westerwelle, expressed his shock and dismay over the assassination of Bhatti, and said, “he was the only Christian who was passionately committed to the rights of minorities in Pakistan.” Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian leaders have also expressed similar views. However, this is what the anti-Pakistan secret agencies wanted to achieve through the murder. Thirdly, the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti was actually aimed at further creating rifts between different religious communities, accelerating sectarian violence in Pakistan. Fourthly, it is noteworthy that Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World; hence the US, India, Israel and some western powers are determined to weaken it. Despite American cooperation with Islamabad, its main aim along with India and Israel remains to de-nuclearise our country whose geo-strategic location with the Gwadar port entailing close ties with China irks the eyes of these countries, therefore, they are in collusion to destabilise Pakistan. For this purpose, a well-established network of Indian army, RAW, Mossad and CIA which was set up in Afghanistan against Pakistan in order to support insurgency in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and separatism in Balochistan have been extended. Fifthly, the major aim of these external secret agencies is to show that Pakistan is a prejudiced country where religious extremism is running high, and where people cannot tolerate other religious communities, particularly Christians. Sixthly, by creating such an aggravated situation, these secret forces are determined to isolate Pakistan with the efforts of Indo-Jewish and American lobbies which are already working on the anti-Pakistan agenda.

Nonetheless, while taking cognizance of the real aims of the external intelligence agencies in relation to the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the patriot people of Pakistan must wake up in order to apprehend the secret forces which have been trying to weaken the country. For this purpose, foreigners such as covert operatives who are running clandestine networks in the country must be captured by our intelligence agencies with the cooperation of public as quickly as possible. In this respect, a comprehensive strategy must be prepared to secure the lives of all people as well the survival of the country.

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A Handful of Pebbles

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In the land that once sheltered Lord Ram, Mawasi tribals tell SHRIYA MOHAN that they struggle to feed their children every day.

IN PATNI, a remote village in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, sevenmonth- old Sandeep is playing in the mud. He finds a pumpkin seed in the dust and promptly puts it into his mouth. A tiny piece of cow dung, a pebble, a fallen leaf and finally the sole of a rubber slipper follow the pumpkin seed. For Sandeep and the children in the 300- odd families in the village, this is their daily breakfast spread.


SHRIYA MOHAN

As legend goes, Chitrakoot jungles or present day Satna is divine land that once played host to Lord Ram for 14 years. The winding mountainous terrain that the Mawasis call home today bears no resemblance however to the lush jungles that Ram chose as shelter. The Mawasis are forest dwellers from central India, who were once hired as gatekeepers, watchmen and orderlies of native rulers – jobs that complemented their robustness and physical strength. Today, poverty means that there is no sign of the famed physical strength. Their primary concern is how to keep their children alive with food that is sparingly available.

Sandeep’s village, Patni, is one of the larger ones in the district. By eight in the morning, the men, women and older children are in the fields – babies are left in the care of their grandparents. Since mothers spend all day working in the fields, children, even those as young as Sandeep are fed diluted goat milk, twice a day. Weaned away from breast milk, the children are severely malnourished. As Sandeep drags himself on the floor, signs of malnutrition are very visible – wrinkled skin hangs loosely around his limbs. Anand Shriwas, an activist with Adivasi Adhikar Manch (AAM), an NGO that partners in the government’s Right to Food Campaign, talks of how most mothers leave for work soon after childbirth. “When a child is left in the care of a grandparent or an older sibling, it is automatically fed much lesser. Malnutrition starts right there, he says. If Sandeep isn’t given proper care, he will become the thirteenth child from Patni to die of malnutrition in the last 20 months.

THE MAWASI

Mostly live in: Satna Population: 11,012 (1981census) Percentage malnourished: 45% Number of NRCs: 4

Elsewhere, Chauti Bai is at the grinding stone making a side dish to go with the coarse rotis she has just prepared. It is a mixture of salt, coriander and green chilli, all in equal proportions, to make a semi-dry powder. Ask her about dal or vegetables and her response is telling, “Last time I cooked dal was for a celebration last monsoon.” Chauti Bai has six children – the youngest is 8 months old while the oldest is 15 years. The frugal meal she is preparing will feed everyone in the family – including two severely malnourished children. Her youngest, Omvati weighs 5.5 kg, when a girl her age should normally weigh 6.5 kg as per WHO health standards. Three-year-old Raj Bahadur at 7.9 kg is no better – he should ideally weigh 11.5 kg.

Good rains mean that Mawasis have food to last seven months

The story of Chauti Bai and her family is typical of families in the region. Along with other relatives, they farm with three acres of dry land. Scattered rainfall and absence of alternate irrigation facilities mean that the small holding does not yield beyond six quintals of rice and wheat to feed 16 stomachs of both families. A good monsoon then means food supply for 100 days for Chauti Bai’s family. Add to that a 35 kg supply of grains from the ration shop – food for 11 days every month. In essence, the calculations mean that on an average, there isn’t a single grain to eat for nearly five months. When the monsoons are bad, there is no food to eat for half the year. Last monsoon, Chauti Bai’s husband was assigned 10 days of road work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). Payments were doled at Rs 60 a day instead of the guaranteed Rs 91. Now, Chauti Bai takes a loan each month just to be able to afford their monthly ration quota.

ASTATE HEALTH department report states that 4,954 children below six years of age have died in Satna in the last three years. Activists believe that a majority of the children who die are tribal children whose lives are claimed by malnutrition. The last time the Mawasis were counted was in the 1981 census. They numbered 11,012 -0.1 percent of the tribal population in Madhya Pradesh. Over the years, their numbers are feared to have decreased; malnutrition proving to be a significant threat faced by the Mawasis.


Absent mothers Mawasi kids are left in the care of the elderly as their parents go to work in the fields

In a neighbouring village of Madlehai, an old police station doubles up as an anganwadi centre. The building has half a ceiling, two walls and one broken parapet and resembles a haunted ruin in the middle of the village. The children from 100- odd families are supposed to come there for a meal every day, but only 10 turn up for the tasteless khichdi (rice and dal mix). The anganwadi is meant to be a village day care centre where pregnant mothers and children are fed nutrition supplements, given vaccinations and where the children are given pre-school education. The centre performs none of these.

Problems at the anganwadi centre are not restricted to the building structure, but extend to the poor training of the anganwadi workers. Technically, they have to have their pulse on malnutrition, but ground realities are different. In Kanpurgaon, another Mawasi village in the region, Pappi Bai, the anganwadi sahayak or helper weighs the children every month. Pappi herself has four children, two of whom are blind and severely malnourished. Her youngest, one-yearold Rinki is 4.5 kg against a normal weight of 7 kg. The skin on Rinki’s face is peeling and her arms and legs are painfully thin. She can’t even crawl. Ask Pappi what malnutrition means and she stares blankly. She has never heard of the word. Ask her why she weighs the children every month and she says she has been asked to do so.

4,954 children below six years have died in the last three years

As night falls, men gather. Songs and a smoke of marijuana is the only relief on hand for all of them. The laughter accompanies the upbeat music and claims the entire audience.

‘Our engagement in Af-Pak region should be seen as supportive of India’s interests’

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A few months ago, you spoke about ‘strategic reassurance’ as a concept where the West accepts China’s rise in return for China agreeing that it will not rock the boat, it will not hurt anybody else’s security. We hope you have some similar big ideas for India.

The evolution of the India-US relationship has been one of the most significant developments in the evolution of the US global strategy. It has been fuelled in a very positive sense by the end of the Cold War and dramatic changes in both countries, including political and economic changes taking place in India that have opened up India to the world and propelled it to its tremendous economic and political achievements.

From the beginning of the Obama administration, we have placed enormous importance on building this relationship. We have tried to accelerate the relationship, beginning with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit here a year ago, and the Indian Prime Minister’s state visit to Washington, the first state visit by any head of state in the Obama administration. Most recently, the Prime Minister participated in the Nuclear Security Summit and had a meeting with President Obama.

Before I gave a speech about China, I gave a speech about India. It’s a reflection of the importance I attach to this relationship. In that speech, I used the metaphor of a three-stage rocket-about how, during the Clinton administration, we launched the first stage of that rocket to help us get off the ground through President Clinton’s very powerful visit to India. In the second phase was the very strong commitment of President Bush towards building a more strategic relationship with India through the civil nuclear deal. My argument was that the third stage, which is the stage that puts the payload into orbit, should be reflected in the growing breadth of the relationship between the United States and India, on a government-to-government, a people-to-people, a business-to-business, and NGO-to-NGO level. This is reflected in the initiation of the strategic dialogue between United States and India, the next round of which will take place in Washington in the first week of June.

In the Indian policy establishment, there has been a sense of apprehension that when it comes to global issues, the new administration is more in tune with China. There is talk of a G-2. Also, the emphasis on Af-Pak issues puts Pakistan at the forefront. India seems to be falling off the map. How would you address those concerns?

From our perspective, the centrality of this relationship couldn’t be clearer. It’s no accident that President Obama chose to invite the Indian Prime Minister for the first state visit. It is a powerful signal. I think President Obama has felt a very strong sense of partnership with the prime minister of India, both as an economic partner and as a strategic partner. The fact is that Secretary Clinton has travelled to a lot of places but her longest visit to any place, as Secretary of State, was to India-four days. So, from our perspective, there is a deep investment in the relationship. We don’t feel that our engagement or interest, whether in dealing with the Afghanistan problem or trying to ensure that we have a stable relationship with China, is in any way in conflict with that. I think one of the things that has been important in building the India-US relationship is that we both have agreed that this is not an India-China issue. Our having good relations with China is in India’s interest just as China having a good relationship with India is in our interest. We have issues to work through in the India-US relationship but they are in no way nearly as challenging as some of the difficulties we have in the US-China relationship.

I know there is a great deal of concern in India about our engagement in Afghanistan, about our working with Pakistan to deal with the problems of terrorism, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan itself. From our perspective, our engagement there is something that should be seen as supportive of India’s interests. It is our goal to have a stable, sovereign, inclusive Afghanistan that can stand on its own feet without outside interference. This is very much in the interests of India and the United States so that Afghanistan does not become a source of insecurity for India or for the US. Our engagement with Pakistan is designed to deal with not only the terrible threat of terrorism and violent extremism but also to help build a more stable, outward looking, and positive Pakistani society and government which can be a better partner for all the countries in the region.

In a strategic sense, India and the US have come together in a serious manner during the past few years, which includes military exercises. Where does it go forward from here, keeping China in mind? Is there a limit to our military and strategic cooperation in the region?

I don’t think there are any inherent limits to it. Our view of this relationship is that it is a relationship that benefits India and the United States but is also in the interests of regional and global stability. Our partnership with India is not adversarial to anybody. We have common interests in maritime security, in keeping the shipping lines open, in making sure we have an environment which is open to trade and one that supports our goals in energy and environment. I don’t see any ceiling on it because it’s not designed or oriented against anyone else.

We have a very positive relationship with China but we don’t do exercises together. The point is that we are able to pursue these kinds of relationships with only a relatively small number of close partners of the US.

Can you give us one positive outcome of President Obama’s multilateral policies in Iran, Israel or any other part of the world?

We just had an enormous success in our relations with Russia, not only in terms of negotiating the first really significant arms control treaty in the post-Cold War world but also developing a stronger relationship on a number of common challenges, including Afghanistan.

President Obama made it very clear that he was prepared to engage with Iran and because of our diplomatic engagement, it has become perfectly clear why there is a problem there. It’s not the United States that is causing the problem. It is because the Iranians are not taking advantage of the opportunity to build a different kind of relationship.

The other core area where diplomacy has made a huge difference is the global economic crisis where President Obama’s efforts at the G-20, in organising the international community to move forward, have made a huge difference.

Even on the Middle East peace process, I think it is important that we have been able to show all the communities in the region that the United States is engaged, that we are not indifferent. You don’t necessarily need results overnight; sometimes it takes a long time to bring about peace.

You were in the government when India carried out the Pokhran-II tests. A decade later, India attended the Nuclear Security Summit. How does Washington see this transition?

I think there has clearly been an evolution in the way we think about the longer-term strategy in dealing with the challenges of nuclear weapons and security. The United States is one of the founding conceptualisers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and was obviously concerned about the spread of nuclear weapons and the increased number of nuclear weapon states. We also understood that we first had to deal with the realities of the world that we found ourselves in; secondly, we recognised that we had to move forward in a positive way to deal with the constructive role India could play even as a country with nuclear weapons. India made a choice which was available to it-to stay out of the NPT. We would have preferred a different course, but India had a strong record of dealing with some of the other challenges of arms proliferation which we took very seriously. So rather than fight past battles, we have tried to think of how we can move forward in a positive direction.

Coming back to your doctrine of strategic reassurance and China. Suppose it was the case that China’s lack of reassurance about the rest of the world was born out of a sense of historical victimhood, then an attempt at reassuring them would turn into appeasement, wouldn’t it?

What I spoken of is the absolute obligation of countries, particularly countries that are rising powers, to provide the kind of assurance to others that they do not seek to achieve this at the expense of others. We don’t view the modernisation of India, in any way, as a threat or challenge to the United States. It never comes up. Why not? Because we have a lot of assurance about how India sees its strategic environment, and what it’s trying to do, and there’s no reason why China under similar circumstances, notwithstanding its history, can’t provide similar assurances to others.

There are a number of irritants in Indo-US relations. One, India has repeatedly raised the issue of misuse of military aid by Pakistan. Second, the US has some concerns about India; we have still not signed the logistics support agreement. Also, we are still not part of the Proliferation Security Initiative. How are you addressing these?

On the misuse of assistance, I understand the concern although I think you should feel confident that our Congress is attentive at ensuring that the funds are used in a direction that they want to see done. In Pakistan, they thought there were too many conditions on the assistance. This is a reflection of the fact that we do expect accountability.

No relationship is without issues and we need to do something to strengthen our ability to cooperate particularly in defence, space and technology related areas. I (met) the Indian Defence (Minister) and we spoke about some of the agreements that you talked about and we have had a very good and productive exchange on it.

The sense in Islamabad is that the US is with them and therefore they can pursue their support to terrorist groups directed at India.

We do not make any distinction between that it’s not okay to support terrorist groups that target the United States and it’s okay to support terrorist groups that target somebody else. In this case, groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba are not just a threat to India, they are a threat to us too because these groups are increasingly interconnected. So, we have made clear in unequivocal terms to our friends in Pakistan that we expect an unqualified effort to end it. The best way to do this, in the long term, is to strengthen the civilian government and civil society in Pakistan.

In the early stages of the financial crisis, there was a huge amount of international cooperation, and not just the G-20. There were consultations between central banks. Has that experience changed the way the US looks at multilateral arrangements?

I think it has. We recognise two things. One, none of these problems can be solved by the United States alone, no matter how powerful we are. We have seen that diplomatic engagement is essential to meet those needs and we need to broaden the base for that engagement. That is why we have welcomed the transformation of the G7 and the G8 into the G20.

Copenhagen was also another example of our commitment to work with others. In the past they said the US was not prepared to deal with the climate change issue, but we got in there, rolling up our sleeves. While everybody recognises that there is a lot of work to do going beyond the Copenhagen protocol, it was an example of deep and multilateral commitment to try and find a common ground among developing and developed countries. So, I think we are seeing a very creative period in multilateral diplomacy.

There is a sense that the American government is treating David Headley with kid gloves, and also puzzlement as to why the Indian authorities have not been allowed to interview him.

I don’t think we consider the arrangement that we have reached, the plea bargain, to be kid gloves. The President and the Prime Minister have discussed this, and we are working to facilitate access to Mr. Headley.

You have worked with President Clinton, and President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Can you give us a personal sense of their strengths?

They are people who have tremendous personal energy and commitment and the ability to think out of the box to deal with new challenges. One of the things that I found powerful about President Clinton was that he always urged us to think of the problem from the point of view of the person on the other side of the table. That is a lesson that served him well, and served our country well in terms of his role as a peacemaker.

President Obama is obviously a president who brings enormous personal dimensions to his understanding of the world. He is the first president who has really had that sort of extraordinary experience outside of the United States. It is important not only in terms of the kind of leadership he can provide to the US, but also the ability of the rest of the world to see him as someone who can understand and work through their problems.

One of Secretary Clinton’s greatest strengths is that she is able to (conduct) the people-to-people dimension of the US engagement with the rest of the world more ably than people who have been professionally involved with diplomacy.