زمرہ: United States

Pakistan ranks 10th among ‘failed states’

Visa Dawn – WASHINGTON: Pakistan was ranked the 10th most failed state in the world, just three places below Afghanistan, in a US survey released on Monday. 

Somalia tops the 2010 Failed States Index followed by Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Chad. 
The index issued by the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, a Washington-NGO, ranks India 87th in a list of 177 countries. 
Burma has been placed at 13. Sri Lanka is ranked 22 and Nepal 25. China is at 57th place. 
Norway is ranked the world’s most stable country and is at the bottom of the list.The Untied States is ranked 158 but is not among the 10 most stable countries. 
The report notes that Pakistan has more than once been described as the world’s most dangerous country. Its wild northern reaches remain host to various branches of the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda. 
More than three million Pakistani civilians were displaced by “counterinsurgency” operations in 2009 — the largest single movement of people since the Rwandan genocide. 
“President Asif Ali Zardari’s democratically elected government looks hapless — unable to gain any measure of civilian control over a nuclear-armed military … or an intelligence service that stands accused of abetting the Afghan Taliban,” observes the Foreign Policy magazine. 
Social Indicators 
Pakistan is the world’s seventh-most populous country, with a population density of over 226 people per kilometre. The country has a moderate youth bulge; the average age is 21 and over 37 per cent of Pakistanis are under 15 years of age. 
Pakistan has historically been home to vicious political battles between rival parties, as well as consistent conflicts within the tribal regions and in Balochistan. Pakistan suffers from a significant brain drain. 
The instability of the country has pressured many students to seek education abroad; many scientists, doctors, and businesspeople who can afford to leave the country altogether. 
Economic Indicators 
The poorest 10 per cent of Pakistanis account for four per cent of the national income, while the richest 10 per cent account for over 26 per cent of the income. 
“Billionaire President Asif Ali Zardari is one of Pakistan’s wealthiest men.” 
The official unemployment rate is 7.4 per cent but it could be higher. 
The country had a trade deficit of nearly $15 billion in 2008 and has an inflation rate of 20.8 per cent. The inflation rate increased dramatically due to devaluation of the Pakistani rupee under Pervez Musharraf and the rising costs of production stemming from social and political instability. 
Political/Military Indicators 
While presidential elections in Pakistan are indirect, President Zardari’s election nevertheless represents a shift towards legitimate democratic governance. 
The continuing violence in Pakistan’s poorest and most remote regions makes it extremely difficult for food and medical supplies to reach the areas that need it most. Many parts of the country go without electricity and clean water; conditions are notoriously poor in the refugee camps in northern Pakistan. 
The human rights situation has improved significantly since 2008. 
The security apparatus indicator has also improved. In Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan local militias exercise significant control over their communities. In the tribal areas, the government’s authority is barely recognized. 
The 2008 parliamentary elections brought tensions within the political elite to a peak. However, the conclusion of the elections and the restoration of civilian government have since eased tensions. 
The indicator for external intervention has worsened since 2008. Pakistan is the second-largest recipient of US foreign aid. The US is also using drone aircraft to attack Taliban and Al Qaeda sites within Pakistan.

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Pakistani PM ignores US warning on Iran gas deal

SLAMABAD The Associated Press — Defying a warning from Washington, Pakistan’s prime minister promised to go ahead with a plan to import natural gas from Iran, even if the U.S. levies additional sanctions against the Mideast country.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s comments Tuesday came two days after the U.S. special envoy to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, cautioned Pakistan not to "overcommit” itself to the deal because it could run afoul of new sanctions against Iran being finalized by Congress.
The deal has been a constant source of tension between the two countries, with Pakistan arguing it is vital to its ability to cope with an energy crisis, and the U.S. stressing it would undercut international pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
Gilani said Pakistan would reconsider the deal if it violated U.N. sanctions, but the country was "not bound to follow” unilateral U.S. measures. He said media reports that quoted him as saying Pakistan would heed Holbrooke’s warning were incorrect.
The U.N. has levied four sets of sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. The latest set of U.N. sanctions was approved earlier this month.
The U.S. has also applied a number of unilateral sanctions against Iran, and Congress is finalizing a new set largely aimed at the country’s petroleum industry. Both houses have passed versions of the sanctions and are working to reconcile their differences.
Pakistan and Iran finalized the gas deal earlier this month. Under the contract, Iran will export 760 million cubic feet (21.5 million cubic meters) of gas per day to Pakistan through a new pipeline beginning in 2014. The construction of the pipeline is estimated to cost some $7 billion.
While U.S. officials have expressed opposition to the deal, Washington acknowledges that Pakistan faces a severe energy crisis and has made aid to the energy sector one if its top development priorities. Electricity shortages in Pakistan cause rolling blackouts that affect businesses and intensify suffering during the hot summer months.
U.S. opposition to the gas deal has also been tempered by Washington’s reliance on Pakistani cooperation to fight al-Qaida and Taliban militants staging attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani military is also engaged in fierce battles with Taliban fighters along the Afghan border who have declared war against the state.
Pakistani troops backed by fighter jets killed 43 militants and wounded two dozen others in the Orakzai tribal region Tuesday, said Jahanzeb Khan, the deputy political administrator in the area.
Four soldiers were killed in the fighting and 18 others were wounded, said Khan.
The military declared victory against the Taliban in Orakzai at the beginning of June, but regular clashes with the militants have continued.
Meanwhile, a purported Pakistani Taliban spokesman warned the group would kill 35 Pakistani soldiers unless the government agreed to a demand to release captured militants.
"We have 35 Frontier Corps men in our custody and we will start killing them if our arrested fellows are not released soon,” Ikramullah Mohmand told The Associated Press over the phone from undisclosed location.
Mohmand did not mention how many militants the group wanted freed and refused to give a deadline, but said "we will not wait for long.”
He confirmed the paramilitary soldiers were the same ones who went missing after a militant attack on a border checkpoint in Mohmand tribal region more then a week ago. Six Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in the attack.
Attempts to reach a spokesman for the military were not immediately successful.
Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Hussain Afzal in Parachinar and Anwarullah Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.

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Obama Tries to Shift Focus from McChrystal to the War Effort

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via Wikipedia
TIME – When President Obama first read the new Rolling Stone article, he did not bother to play it cool. In it, Obama found the erstwhile bible of rock-‘n’-roll attitude had chronicled his Afghanistan commander, General Stanley McChrystal, openly mocking the Administration in conversations with aides, cavorting in a Paris pub and generally acting less like a General than like a jock. "He was angry,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs of the President’s reaction to the article he was shown on Monday night. "You would know it if you saw it.”

By Tuesday afternoon, however, as he gathered his senior staff in the Cabinet Room, it appeared that the President’s mood had changed. At one end of the table sat National Security Adviser Jim Jones, who had been called a "clown” by a McChrystal aide quoted in Rolling Stone. Across from Obama sat Vice President Joe Biden, who had been called "Bite Me” by one of the General’s advisers. There was no one present to represent the French minister whose dinner a McChrystal aide had called "f___ing gay.”(See pictures of Stanley McChrystal, TIME’s Person of the Year 2009 Runner-Up.)

Rather than lash out in response, however, Obama projected a Zen-like calm. He called McChrystal’s actions "poor judgment,” and said he would not decide about the General’s fate until after the two men meet on Wednesday. Then he tried to make the burgeoning scandal a teachable moment. "Whatever decision that I make with respect to General McChrystal or any other aspect of Afghan policy,” Obama said, "is determined entirely on how I can make sure that we have a strategy that justifies the enormous courage and sacrifice that those men and women are making over there and that ultimately makes this country safer.”

It was classic Obama: when presented with a hard choice — fire or retain a General that had stepped out of line — he tried to rise above the debate. Obama insisted that his focus needed to be less on the things McChrystal had said (and for which he had already apologized) than on shaping a war policy that is not progressing as well as the White House had hoped it would. Defense Secretary Robert Gates echoed Obama’s approach on Tuesday, noting McChrystal’s "poor judgment” before pivoting quickly to the importance of the war effort. "Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security,” Gates announced, "and our singular focus must be on supporting them.” The same message came from press secretary Gibbs, who insisted that the conversation should not be "about the personalities and the egos.” Instead, he said, "It should be about the men and women that are there doing the hard work under some of the toughest conditions in the world.”

As a political gambit, Obama’s handling of the situation is not without risk. On Capitol Hill Tuesday, Republican advisers wondered at Obama’s decision to handle McChrystal’s faux pas from the White House. Rather than have Defense Secretary Robert Gates or Central Command chief David Petraeus dish out the discipline, Obama had recalled McChrystal for a face-to-face meeting, a decision that would keep the issue — and the shortcomings of U.S. progress in Afghanistan — in the headlines.(See who’s who in Barack Obama’s White House.)

GOP aides saw the issue as a trap for Obama: if he keeps McChrystal on, he could be cast as a weak leader, tolerant of insubordination. If he dismisses McChrystal, it would be a sign of disarray in his Afghan policy. "Obviously a General and his top brass don’t make statements like these without being frustrated,” announced House Republican whip Eric Cantor in a statement on Tuesday, clearly seeing the imbroglio as an opportunity to seek political advantage.

As rumors about McChrystal’s fate swirled around the capital, there were conflicting reports on whether or not the General had offered to resign. "There is no SOP on how to resign,” says a senior military officer. Usually, an offer to resign would be made, in writing, to the immediate commander. In McChrystal’s case, that would be Centcom commander Petraeus, and, given the fact that he also commands NATO forces, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Command (a job once held by Jones). But because Obama has summoned McChrystal to the White House, McChrystal is likely to refrain from offering his resignation formally until he meets with Obama. "He has not,” this officer says, "officially tendered his resignation yet to anyone.”(See photos of President Obama in Afghanistan.)

Unfortunately for Obama, the Rolling Stone story coincides with growing alarm over the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. The planned U.S.-led operation to secure Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual capital, has been postponed, partly because of a lack of support among local Afghans for a military escalation there. And that delay and the difficulties it highlights have raised a question mark over Obama’s vow to begin the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan next summer. Firing McChrystal would not improve matters, since the General handpicked by Obama to run the war has personally led much of the outreach to Afghans on which the strategy depends. "It’s in the White House’s interest to have a wounded McChrystal rather than a hero and a martyr,” says one retired Admiral, speaking on background. "So I think he’ll survive.” Both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday released statements of support for McChrystal.

Other senior military veterans took the opposite view. "I don’t know how you serve an Administration and be loyal to them, which you have to be, when you’re speaking out like this,” said a former General, who also asked for anonymity.

Should McChrystal be ousted or resign, the leading candidate to replace him might be Army Lieutenant General David Rodriguez — former top military aide to Gates and McChrystal’s deputy in Afghanistan. Another contender would be Army Lieutenant General William Caldwell, who has been training Afghan security forces. A third is Army General Martin Dempsey, now running the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command following tours in Iraq. And a dark-horse candidate would be Marine General James Mattis, currently running the U.S. Joint Forces Command and slated to retire this fall.

Faced with a lose-lose decision, Obama’s effort to focus on the war effort rather than on the Rolling Stone revelations held a certain logic. But it leaves the White House facing the difficult task of explaining the unsatisfactory progress in Afghanistan. The most damning statements in the Rolling Stone article are those dealing with the actual progress of the war, rather than the headline-grabbing personal comments. "If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal told the magazine reporter at one point. Another aide was even more blunt. "It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win,” Major General Bill Mayville, McChrystal’s chief of operations told the magazine. "This is going to end in an argument.” Long after the scandal over the locker-room humor of McChrystal’s crew has faded, these are the quotations for which both President Obama and General McChrystal will have to answer. And they may struggle to offer a reassuring response.

— With reporting by Mark Thompson, Jay Newton-Small and Elizabeth Dias

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