NEWS & ANALYSIS: Pakistan says no (again) to foreign troops; Pakistan’s ethnic faultlines

Pakistan says won’t let in foreign troops

Pakistan will not allow any country to conduct military operations on its territory, officials said on Monday, rejecting a report that said the United States was considering authorising its forces to act in Pakistan.

The New York Times said on Sunday the U.S. government was considering expanding the authority of the CIA and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in Pakistan.

The U.S. officials considering the move were concerned over intelligence reports that al Qaeda and the Taliban were more intent on destabilising Pakistan, the newspaper said.

Pakistani government and military officials dismissed the report and said Pakistan would not permit any such action.

“Pakistan’s position in the war on terror has been very clear — that any action on Pakistani soil will be taken only by Pakistani forces and Pakistani security agencies,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq.

“No other country will be allowed to carry out operations in Pakistan. This has been conveyed at the highest level,” he said. [complete article]

Waziristan: the hub of al-Qaida operations

The killing of eight tribal elders involved in peace negotiations in the Waziristan region of Pakistan is the first flash of violence in the area for about six months.

The bloodshed unfolded in a series of attacks between Sunday night and Monday morning around Wana, the lawless capital which is a hotbed of al-Qaida linked violence.

The Pakistani military reported attacks on two “peace committee” offices in Wana and the nearby Shikai Valley, a rugged mountain retreat where soldiers discovered a network of al-Qaida safehouses in 2005.

The bloodletting underscores the collapse of government authority in Waziristan, where 100,000 troops are deployed, and the perils run by those engaged in controversial efforts to broker peace between the government and well-armed militants. [complete article]

Strains intensify in Pakistan’s ethnic patchwork

To Khaled Chema, an unemployed 32-year-old living in a sprawling slum of this mega-city by the sea, Benazir Bhutto wasn’t assassinated because she opposed extremism and advocated democracy. She was killed because, like him, she was a Sindhi.

And just as her father did before her, Bhutto died a long way from home — in the back yard of the Punjabi establishment. Her assassination has inflamed long-simmering resentments among ethnic minorities toward the dominant Punjabis.

In Pakistan — a federation of four provinces, each associated with a different ethnic group — the issue of ethnic identity has long been troublesome, imperiling the unity of the state.

In Baluchistan, many people are in open revolt. Pashtuns in North-West Frontier Province have joined their clansmen on the Afghan side of the border in a bloody insurgency against both governments.

Now, Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi, a key city in Punjab province and the home of the military, has endangered the uneasy balance in which Sindhis suppressed their ethnic-nationalist desires because they knew that one of their own was among the most popular politicians in the country. [complete article]

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