Secular Pashtuns under attack

12 February 2008

A car bomber killed ten people, including acandidate in upcoming elections, in northwest Pakistan when he slammed hisvehicle into the candidate's convoy. Nisar Ali Khan was due to run as anindependent, but was thought to have close links to the Awami National Party, asecular leftist Pashtun nationalist party. The attack was the third against theANP and its allies in less than a week.

The Frontier Post, a daily newspaper publishedin the Pashtun border regions, condemns the attack on an ANP election rally inCharsadda, which left 27 dead on Sunday. The paper sees the blast as part of a"deeper conspiracy to divide up the Pashtuns and set them at one another'sthroats".

The toD verdict: AsAhmed Rashid told us at the end of 2006, secular Pashtun organisations needgreater support in Pakistan.They could greatly aid efforts to push elements of the Taliban and othermilitant groups towards negotiation. "Some of these secular and morenationalistic Pashtun organisations have been in touch with moderate elementsof the Taliban. They have been persuading a lot of these Afghans to talk to thegovernment in Kabul,"Rashid said. "The problem is in Pakistan, where the secular Pashtunnationalists are not being supported by the government, but being suppressed bythe military regime. Unless they have some degree of state support in whatthey're trying to do, they're not going to be able to move very far."

Suppressed by the government, the ANP hasalso fallen under the cross-hairs of Islamists who feel threatened by theparty's attempts to build a non-religious politics bridging tribal and othersectarian divides in the Pashtun regions. Though Pakistan has always been wary of"ethnic" nationalists - Baluch and Pashtun - along its westernborders, they pose far less of a threat to the state than the Islamistmilitants. Indeed, they even offer glimpses of solutions. It is unlikelythat Islamabadwill extend itself very far in ensuring their protection.

Brother  Dadullah captured Keep up to date with the latest developments and sharpest perspectives in a world of strife and struggle.

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Pakistani officials claim to have capturedthe Afghan Taliban commander Mansour Dadullah, brother of the late militaryleader known as Mullah Dadullah, after a gunfight in southwest Pakistan.Mansour was allegedly "sacked" by the Taliban late last year for disobedience.

Jumblatt takes on Nasrallah

Lebanon'spro-government Druze leader Walid Jumblatt singled out his Hizbollahcounterpart, Hassan Nasrallah, for severe criticism in a televised speech whichanalysts fear will only escalate tensions in the deadlocked country. Formonths, the so-called "March 14" ruling coalition and the allegedlySyrian-backed opposition - which includes Hizbollah - have failed to agree onthe make-up of the parliament. Jumblatt refused to mince his words whenattacking Nasrallah and Hizbollah for driving Lebanon towards the precipice ofrenewed violence. "Our existence, dignity andsurvival, and Lebanon,are the most important things of all," he said. "If you want chaos, we welcome chaos. If you want war, we welcomeone."

Demonstrations mark anniversary of Kashmiri "martyr"

Protesters took to the streets of theKashmiri capital Srinagar to mark the 24thanniversary of the hanging of Maqbool Bhat, the founder of the Jammu and KashmirLiberation Front. In 1984, Bhat was executed in Delhi for killing an Indian intelligenceofficer. Indian police detained dozens of demonstrators in clashes thatinvolved rock-throwing and tear gas.

Indian authorities in the restive state of Assam thwartedrebel plans to hijack a plane in order to demand the release of several jailed militants. Video below from the India-based IBN Live network:

Chad rebels object to Frenchtroops

Following a week of civil war in Chad,rebels in the country now object to the imminent arrival of European Unionpeacekeeping troops - the bulk French. A rebel statement insisted that"the alliance of the armed opposition no longer believes in the neutralityof a force essentially composed of French troops and whose operationaldirection is carried out by France".Idriss Deby, Chad'sembattled president, is thought to be close to Paris.

Copts allowed to "reconvert" to their faith

In an important ruling, an Egyptian courthas allowed two converts to Islam to return to their original Coptic Orthodox faith. In the past many Copts who become Muslims in order to secure divorces (which is not permissible under Coptic practice) were allowed to reconvert toChristianity. However, a hardening of religious feeling in Egypt has madesuch delicate issues as conversion away from Islam much trickier. The rulingprovides human rights and minority rights campaigners with hope that minorityreligious rights will be upheld and protected in Egypt.

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