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Sharmeen Gangat: Crime and (the Lack of) Punishment in Pakistan

The night of May 10, 2007, was violently nightmarish for us. My husband and I were on a yearly trip from our home in New York to visit family and friends in Pakistan. We arrived in Karachi on the night of May 10, 2007. My family met us at the airport and in just 20 minutes of landing, our car, carrying my sister, brother, and myself, rolled up to the front of my parents' house. Another car, carrying my husband and father, had left the airport bit sooner. We expected to see them removing the luggage as we pulled up. Instead, I saw my father and husband standing outside their car, encircled by four, young, clean-shaven boys brandishing AK-47 assault rifles. Before I could comprehend the situation, there was a burst of rifle shots. In utter confusion, my brother threw the car into reverse. The armed men began spraying bullets at us, and we crashed into a lamppost. Wielding their rifles, they surrounded our car, smashing the windows with their guns and forcing us out into the street. I was convinced that I would not see my loved ones again. My brother was pulled out of the car and beaten up before my eyes, while my husband and father looked on at gunpoint. Meanwhile, another vehicle pulled alongside our car, yelled something at the armed boys, and they all zoomed off, taking only our luggage. We thanked our stars that it had not been worse.

Swadesh M. Rana: U.S. Rediscovers the UN in Afghanistan

As the Obama administration increases the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, it seems also to be planning for a gradual disengagement and a more imminent NATO exit with an old friend and partner—the United Nations. Indeed, President Obama has rediscovered the United Nations, and hopes the global body can help set the stage for a graceful exit without dominating the scene. It won’t happen, though, by replacing the 90,000 U.S. and NATO troops now committed there with another UN peacekeeping operation or by creating a new organizational unit in the Secretariat that Washington has often berated as cumbersome, top-heavy, and wasteful. The disengagement task is entrusted instead to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) that was established after the U.S.-led military action to overthrow the Taliban regime. Building upon the UN experience in Afghanistan since 1982—after the Soviet troop withdrawal from an inconclusive and costly war that began in 1979—UNAMA was tasked with two civilian missions in 2001: development and humanitarian issues, and political affairs. It is now headed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative, Kai Eide, a veteran Norwegian diplomat who has represented his country at NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and whose appointment to this position in March 2008 was fully supported by the United States and NATO. With a current staff of 1,500, around 80 percent of whom are Afghan nationals, UNAMA is now called upon to strike a balance between the military and civilian components of international assistance to Afghanistan by some 80 countries, 20 international agencies, and 40 non-governmental organizations (NGOs). An immediate task for UNAMA is to prepare for and ensure fair, impartial, and credible elections in Afghanistan this August. Underlying this act of faith in the UN to secure the elections is a long overdue and more nuanced U.S. view of the nature of the global threat of terror, Al Qaeda and Taliban operations in southwest Asia, and the terroristic activities in Afghanistan. The Bush administration saw Afghanistan as the headquarters of Al Qaeda that could be destroyed after a military ouster of the Taliban regime. It viewed Al Qaeda as a global monolith of Islamic fundamentalism with a well-defined chain of command that could be broken with superior intelligence and military action. And, of course, it wanted Osama bin Laden dead or alive—with the help of a democratically elected President Hamid Karzai after his interim installation with U.S. support. The Obama administration sees the global terror network as less of a monolith driven by Islamic fundamentalism and more a labyrinth of organized crime, drug cartels, illicit arms traffic, contraband trade, political dissidence, and individual disaffection. It is looking at southwest Asia as the crossroads of terrorism and nuclear proliferation with a growing collusion between the ideologically driven, militant Taliban and disaffected groups opposed to the ruling regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is also mindful that the current government in Afghanistan lacks true legitimacy. Indeed, the 2001 presidential elections in Afghanistan were boycotted by 50 percent of the electorate amidst vociferous local resentment over some voters casting their ballot twice and others supporting candidates who were encouraged to withdraw their names so that the U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai could be declared the clear winner.

Jonathan Power: To Help Afghan War, Talk to India

Today Pakistan is probably the most dangerous country in the world. But it is India, not Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, that now bears much of the responsibility for this and arguably is the country that holds the key to the beginnings of a solution. More the pity that President Barack Obama backed straight down when India protested at the mandate he wanted for his sharpshooting diplomat, Richard Holbrooke­—including India, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. So Holbrooke is reduced to dealing with only two sides of the triangle of madness. Of course, it is an over simplification to finger India first. It ignores history, not least the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which left behind a raging civil war in Afghanistan, enabling the rise of the dogmatic Taliban, who in turn gave a home to Osama bin Laden. In 1986 I visited Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province in northern Pakistan, at the eastern end of the Khyber pass. The town, even then, was full of armed encampments in its outer suburbs settled by Pashtun chiefs who had escaped from the Afghanistan war with their people, building huge, well-defended compounds to house the refugees from their kin group. It was clear then that the hospitality Pakistan felt it had to extend to the displaced Pashtuns would cause trouble up ahead. Two million such refugees bred violence and extremism.

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