In Fright Race, Pakistan Grabs the Top Spot

Iraq, Afghanistan now tied for second place.

Always in partial meltdown, Pakistan is oozing more bad news right now than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Take one day's worth of news from Dawn, the biggest English-language newspaper in the planet's sixth most populous country.

You thought that things couldn't get worse, what with 4,000 U.S. soldiers dead in Iraq. Now the drumbeat in recent days is that Afghanistan is a sorer sore spot than Iraq, what with the Taliban regaining control over more and more of Afghanistan from Hamid Karzai, who couldn't survive without U.S. backing.

It's already apparent that Afghanistan is becoming even more of a quagmire than Iraq, and even Barry Obama is saying so. This from Agence France Presse:

With Taliban rebels launching mass jail breaks, threatening a major city and killing more foreign troops than ever, Afghanistan is replacing Iraq as the focus of the "war on terror", analysts say.

The Islamist movement has dealt a series of stunning blows to President Hamid Karzai's fragile government in the past week, causing jitters among Western nations who together have around 70,000 troops in the country.

Hundreds of insurgents escaped from a prison in Kandahar on Friday and within days rebels had massed in villages outside the southern city, forcing 1,000 Afghan and NATO troops to launch a major offensive to drive them out.

Democratic US presidential candidate Barack Obama spelt out his priorities if elected by saying on Monday that the real front of the "war on terror" was now Afghanistan and that the US mission in Iraq had been a disaster.

Further underscoring the instability is the fact that Afghanistan was deadlier for foreign forces than Iraq during the month of May for the first time since the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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Sorry — make that very sorry — Pakistan has overtaken both. Iraq and Afghanistan each has about 25 million people; Pakistan's population is 166 million, and it has nuclear weapons. And it has numerous fighter jets, eagerly brokered by the Bush regime. And it has an assassinated opposition pol (Benazir Bhutto) and a dictator (Pervez Musharraf).

The only hopeful note is that, in Pakistan, lawyers are prone to kill other lawyers.

Anyway, here are just a few headlines from Karachi-based Dawn's front page today:

Four soldiers killed in ambush along LoC
Four Pakistani soldiers were killed in an encounter with ‘unknown miscreants’ in the Hajira sector, close to the Line of Control, on Thursday, Inter Services Public Relations said.

Heavy fighting in Kurram after convoy attack: Four drivers, three militants killed
Security forces, backed by helicopter gunships, killed three militants and injured 30 others after armed men attacked a food convoy, killing four drivers in the Kurram Agency’s Sadda town on Thursday.
Assistant political agent Atta-ur-Rehman said four trucks loaded with food items had been set on fire by the militants after an attack on the convoy going to Parachinar, the regional headquarters of the Kurram region....

NWFP allowed to strike deal with Taliban
Islamabad has authorised the NWFP [North-West Frontier Province] government to enter into deals with the Taliban for ensuring peace in the province and called for respecting such agreements.
“The federal government will support the provincial government in its efforts to eliminate extremism and improve security in troubled areas,” Rehman Malik, the prime minister’s adviser on interior, told a high-level meeting of officials of the federal and provincial governments at the chief minister’s secretariat on Thursday.....

Oilseed shortage in store
After wheat and sugar, the country’s agriculture sector is in the grip of oilseeds crisis amid a constant surge in prices of edible oil in the local market.
The price of cooking oil has doubled over the past six months touching Rs150 per kg this month and growers, responding to the rising market demand, produced about 11 million tons of oilseeds, almost double than last year’s output of six million tons, and were expecting higher rates for their crop....

Policeman killed in Khuzdar A police official was killed by unidentified armed men in Khuzdar town on Thursday evening.
Sub-Inspector Ghulam Mustafa Rao was passing through the Hospital road when the assailants riding a motorcycle opened fire on him. He died on the spot....

Pakistan high on US policy agenda: Rice
Pakistan enjoys a prominent place in the US policy for Asia but it also is a place where America’s worst nightmare of a nexus of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction could materialise, warns US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

For once, Rice is telling the truth.

But other Bush regime officials are trying to keep a stiff upper lip. Here's another headline from this morning's Dawn:

Pakistan, Afghanistan conflict ruled out
A senior US official has ruled out the possibility of an armed conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan over their differences in the fight against terrorism.
"I don’t think so," said US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Donald Camp when asked if President Karzai’s threat to cross into the tribal areas in pursuit of the Taliban could lead to a war between the two countries. He also assured Pakistan that US troops had never targeted Pakistani soldiers deployed along the Afghan border....

Well, we should know about Pakistan's intentions. After all, on the morning of 9/11, Porter Goss, then the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and later Bush's CIA director, was having breakfast in view of the Pentagon with a Pakistan intelligence official who turned out to be hijacker Mohammed Atta's bagman.

And then Osama bin Laden went into hiding in Pakistan and then we scaled back our search for him to invade Iraq and then — the rest is hysteria.

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