Davis Arrest Throws US Undercover Campaign in Pakistan into Disarray

March 2, 2011

This Can’t Be Happening

By Dave Lindorff

The ongoing case of Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor facing murder charges in Lahore for the execution-style slaying of two apparent agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, is apparently leading to a roll-back of America’s espionage and Special Operations activities in Pakistan.

A few days ago, Pakistan’s Interior Department, which is reportedly conducting a careful review of the hundreds of private contractors who flooded into Pakistan over the last two years, many with “diplomatic passports,” and many others, like Davis, linked to shady “security” firms, arrested an American security contractor named Aaron DeHaven, a Virginia native who claims to work for a company called Catalyst Services LLC.

The Catalyst Services LLC website describes the company, with offices in Afghanistan, Dubai, the US and Pakistan, as having experience in “logistics, operations, security and finance,” and as having a staff led by “individuals who have been involved in some of the most significant events of the last 20 years,” including “the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US effort in Somalia, and the Global War on Terror.”

DeHaven is being held on a 14-day remand, charged with overstaying his visa and with living in an unauthorized area.

Meanwhile, the English-language Express Tribune in Pakistan reports that according to ISI sources, 30 “suspected US operatives” in Pakistan have “suspended” their operations in the country, while 12 have fled the country.

The paper quotes the Pakistan Foreign Office as saying that 851 Americans claiming diplomatic immunity are currently in Pakistan, 297 of whom are “not working in any diplomatic capacity.” The paper says that the country’s Interior Department claims that 414 of the total are “non-diplomats.” The majority of these American operatives, the paper says, are located in Islamabad (where the US is building a huge fortress-like embassy reminiscent of the one in Baghdad), with the others in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Most are suspected of being involved in covert missions that report to the US Joint Special Operations Command, with many suspected of being active-duty Special Forces personnel from the Army’s Delta Force. (The website of the JSOC says its responsibility is “synchronizing Department of Defense plans against global terrorist networks and, as directed, conducting global operations.”)

As I reported earlier, both Pakistani and Indian news organizations are claiming, based upon intelligence sources, that Davis was involved in not just intelligence work, but in orchestrating terrorist activity by both the Pakistani Taliban and the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has been linked to both the assassination of Benezir Bhutto and the capture and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Multiple calls to members of both groups were found by police on some of the cell phones found on Davis and in his car when he was arrested in Lahore.

It is unclear how far the blow-up in Pakistan over the exposure of America’s role in stirring up unrest in that country will go. Clearly, the ISI and the Pakistani military have long had their own complicated relationship with the Pakistani Taliban, and much of the current anger in both the ISI and the military has to do with the US being found to be working behind their backs, including in its contact with those groups.

But things have been complicated too by mounting public outrage over Davis’s brazen slaughter of the two Pakistanis, who reportedly were tailing him because of concerns about the nature of his activities, and who reportedly were both shot in the back. This public outrage has been further stoked by both a subsequent suicide by the 18-year-old bride of one of the victims, and by the death of an innocent bystander mowed down by a second vehicle carrying several more US contractors which sped to Davis in response to his call for assistance following the shooting. That vehicle, after running down the bystander, raced to sanctuary at the US Consulate. The men in the car, never identified by the consulate, were spirited out of the country by the US so they could avoid arrest.

Further complicating matters for the US, the province of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital, is run by the opposition party, headed by former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif, who still has presidential aspirations, has no incentive at all to make things easy for the country’s ruling party by letting Davis go. Indeed, with public opinion running almost 100% in favor of trying Davis for murder, Sharif can only gain by insisting that the court system have the final say.

Pakistan’s central government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, clearly wants to put the Davis incident behind it by having him declared to have diplomatic immunity. Foreign Officials allege that Zardari pressured the Foreign Office in early February to backdate a letter identifying Davis as being a “member of staff” of the US Embassy in Islamabad, which would have afforded him such immunity from prosecution. But the country’s foreign minister at that time, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, reportedly refused, saying, “On the basis of the official record and the advice given to me by the technocrats and experts of the Foreign Office, I could not certify him (Raymond Davis) as a diplomat. The kind of by blanket immunity Washington is pressing for Davis, is not endorsed by the official record of the Foreign Ministry.”

He has subsequently been ousted and replaced by Zardari.

The reality is that the US, which as required, on Jan. 25 submitted to the Foreign Office its annual list of those employees of the US Embassy whom it classified as “diplomats” warranting diplomatic immunity. The list had 48 names on it, and did not include Davis. Only after Davis’s Jan. 27 shooting of the two Pakistani motorcyclists, on Jan. 28, did the US submit a “revised” list, to which Davis’s name had been appended.

The US initially said Davis was an employee of the Lahore Consulate, and Davis himself told arresting police officers that he was a contractor working out of the Lahore Consulate, a role that would not afford him any diplomatic immunity, as consular workers, under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations only receive immunity for their “official duties,” and in any case lose even that limited immunity in the case of “grave crimes.”

His current legal problems, and the public demand that he be tried (and then hanged) for the killings, has definitely led to a reduction in US undercover operations in Pakistan, and to a pullback of at least some of the Special Forces personnel operating there. It will take considerable finesse for the US and the Zardari government to put the the relationship back together-if the Pakistani military and the ISI even want to restore it-finesse that the US has not been very good at displaying.

So far, in fact, the US response to Davis’s arrest has been to bluntly and publicly threaten Pakistan with a loss of foreign and military aid-a threat that seems empty given the American need for Pakistani assistance in supplying its military in Afghanistan, and its need for at lease covert permission to continue sending Predator and Reaper drones across the border to attack Taliban suspects in the tribal border areas. US bluster, and some clumsy efforts to forge records that would purport to show Davis had diplomatic immunity-all widely exposed in the Pakistani media-have only served to further stoke public outrage.

Meanwhile, local authorities in Lahore at the prison where Davis is being held, are so worried that the US may try to have him killed to prevent him from spilling the beans about his activities-for example explaining why the camera he was carrying held photographs of Pakistani military installations as well as of mosques, madrassas and other schools-that they have reportedly posted special guards (unarmed as an added precaution) around his cell, and have been monitoring his food. Davis was reportedly even denied a box of chocolates sent by the US Consulate in Lahore, for fear it might have been laced with poison.


Seymour Hersh Unleashed

January 25, 2011

By Blake Hounshell

DOHA, Qatar-David Remnick, call your office.

In a speech billed as a discussion of the Bush and Obama eras, New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh delivered a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe here Monday expressing his disappointment with President Barack Obama and his dissatisfaction with the direction of U.S. foreign policy.

“Just when we needed an angry black man,” he began, his arm perched jauntily on the podium, “we didn’t get one.”

It quickly went downhill from there.

Hersh, whose exposés of gross abuses by members of the U.S. military in Vietnam and Iraq have earned him worldwide fame and high journalistic honors, said he was writing a book on what he called the “Cheney-Bush years” and saw little difference between that period and the Obama administration.

He said that he was keeping a “checklist” of aggressive U.S. policies that remained in place, including torture and “rendition” of terrorist suspects to allied countries, which he alleged was ongoing.

He also charged that U.S. foreign policy had been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative “crusaders” in the former vice president’s office and now in the special operations community.

“What I’m really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals* if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over,” he said of his forthcoming book. “It’s not only that the neocons took it over but how easily they did it — how Congress disappeared, how the press became part of it, how the public acquiesced.”

Hersh then brought up the widespread looting that took place in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. “In the Cheney shop, the attitude was, ‘What’s this? What are they all worried about, the politicians and the press, they’re all worried about some looting? … Don’t they get it? We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. And when we get all the oil, nobody’s gonna give a damn.'”

“That’s the attitude,” he continued. “We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command.”

He then alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before briefly becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.”

Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic organization commited to “defence of the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering,” according to its website.

“Many of them are members of Opus Dei,” Hersh continued. “They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.”

“They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins,” he continued. “They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community.”

Hersh relayed that he had recently spoken with “a man in the intelligence community… somebody in the joint special operations business” about the downfall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. “He said, ‘Oh my God, he was such a good ally.'”

“Tunisia’s going to change the game,” Hersh added later. “It’s going to scare the hell out of a lot of people.”

Moving to Pakistan, where Hersh noted he had been friendly with Benazir Bhutto, the journalist told of a dinner meeting with Asif Ali Zardari, the late prime minister’s husband, in which Hersh said the Pakistani president was brutally disdainful of his own people.

Hersh described a trip he made to Swat, where the Pakistani military had just dislodged Taliban insurgents who had taken over the scenic valley, a traditional vacation area for the urban middle class. Hersh said he asked Zardari about the tent cities he saw along the road, where people were living in harsh, unsanitary conditions.

“Well, those people there in Swat, that’s what they deserve,” the Pakistani president replied, according to Hersh. Asked why, Hersh said Zardari responded, “Because they supported the Taliban.” (Note: Hersh’s conversation is not recounted in his 2009 New Yorker article on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, presumably because it coudn’t be verified.)

The veteran journalist also alleged that the CIA station chief in Islamabad, who was recently recalled after his name surfaced in Pakistani court documents and in the lively Pakistani press, had actually been fired for disputing the plans of Gen. David Petraeus, who took over the Afghan war last summer after General McChrystal was summarily dismissed.

“When Petraeus issued a very optimistic report about the war in December that he gave to the president,” Hersh said, the station chief “just declared it was bankrupt… internally. He just said ‘This is completely wrongheaded. The policy’s wrongheaded.’ Off he goes. Out he goes.”

“I’ve given up being disillusioned about the CIA,” Hersh said. “They’re trained to lie, period. They will lie to their president, they will lie certainly to the Congress, and they will lie to the American people. That’s all there is to it.”

Hersh was speaking on the invitation of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, which operates a branch campus in Qatar.


Rumors of Pakistan’s Anti-Aircraft Deployment Against NATO

October 7, 2010


A Pakistani soldier adjusts a surface-to-air missile

A highly placed Pakistani STRATFOR source on Oct. 6 vehemently denied reports that Pakistan has deployed anti-aircraft missiles along its border with Afghanistan. The reported deployment originated in an Oct. 3 Pakistani TV report on channel SAMAA, where a member of the Pakistani National Assembly claimed that now that the missiles were deployed, “no helicopter will be able to escape after entering Pakistani territory.”

Notably, the apparently sensationalist story never got picked up by Pakistani mainstream media, and the STRATFOR source commenting on the issue adamantly ridiculed the idea of Pakistan making such a bold move against the United States. The source drew a parallel to the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, when Soviet aircraft would regularly bomb Pakistan’s Kurram agency. If the Pakistanis were too afraid to shoot at their Soviet rivals then, he said, Pakistan is most definitely not interested in firing on its U.S. allies now.

The mere fact that rumors of a Pakistani anti-aircraft deployment are being circulated deserves attention. The United States has now hit day seven in Pakistan’s closure of the Torkham border crossing at the Khyber Pass through which pass three-fourths of the supplies for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Throughout the whole affair, militants have attacked scores of fuel tankers on the Pakistani side of the border.

Following the Sept. 30 incident, in which ISAF attack helicopters fired on a Pakistani military post and killed three paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers, the Pakistani military and government have chosen the ISAF supply line dependency as its main retaliatory weapon of choice against Washington. The United States, not wanting to further undermine the security of its supply lineswhen its forces are concentrated in the region and when Pakistan has already been greatly destabilized, has had to be extremely cautious in dealing with Islamabad on the matter. Meanwhile, Pakistan is using swelling anti-American sentiment in the country as an opportunity to assert its sovereignty and rally Pakistanis around the embattled government.

While it is unclear whether these rumors originated with deliberate leaks from the government or were simply wild speculation by a Pakistani politician, the rumors of anti-aircraft batteries being deployed can serve two main purposes for Islamabad. One is to satisfy its domestic constituency, which has been galvanized by the Sept. 30 event and is calling on the Pakistani leadership to stand up to Washington over the deaths of its soldiers. The second, more significant, purpose is to signal to Washington the danger of pushing Islamabad too far in this war. The United States is not interested in seeing Pakistan increasingly turn from friend to foe, especially when the key to any U.S. exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan lies in Islamabad.


NATO apologises over deaths of Pakistani soldiers

October 5, 2010

  • Rasmussen hopes border will be open for supplies as soon as possible
  • Qureshi says Pakistan will only reopen supply route once public anger eases, security improves

ISLAMABAD/BRUSSELS: NATO’s chief expressed regret on Monday for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers last week and said he hoped Pakistan’s border would reopen for NATO supplies to Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Angered by repeated attacks by NATO helicopters on targets within its borders, Pakistan blocked one of the supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan after a strike killed three Pakistani soldiers in the Kurram region.

Analysts and Western officials said Pakistan’s closure of the border for a few days would not seriously impact the war effort in Afghanistan.

“I expressed my regret for the incident last week in which Pakistani soldiers lost their lives,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after meeting Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Brussels. “I expressed my hope the border will be open for supplies as soon as possible.”

The apology came after gunmen attacked a convoy of trucks taking goods to Western forces in Afghanistan on the outskirts of Islamabad, killing three guards. Rasmussen said the killing of the three soldiers was unintended and showed the need to improve coordination between the NATO and the Pakistani military.

Also, Qureshi expressed Pakistan’s concern over the border violations and attacks in Pakistani territory by NATO and ISAF forces.

He said that Pakistan would only reopen the supply route once public anger eases and security improves. “Unless the reaction cools down and we make sure that the supply line is secured, we cannot reopen it,” he said, adding that the UN mandate for ISAF was confined to Afghanistan and NATO/ISAF forces were again advised to refrain from any actions that constitute a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. agencies


Was A Fourth Military Coup Averted In Pakistan?

September 29, 2010

The paranoid elected government of President Asif Zardari has been out battling shadows and ghosts, whipping up anti-military sentiment when the military never planned a coup of any sort against him. His problems are with the Supreme Court on legal grounds. To calm frayed nerves, it appears Gen. Kayani agreed to let Zardari and Gilani issue a statement on the three’s commitment to ‘defending’ democracy. Pakistani military could also be bound by ‘sovereign guarantees’ given as back as 2007 stating that Pakistani military won’t destabilize a government created through the US-sponsored NRO deal.

By AHMED QURAISHI
Tuesday, 28 September 2010.
WWW.PAKNATIONALISTS.COM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Hardly. Better still, there wasn’t a coup to start with.

Monday’s well-timed meeting between the so-called ‘troika’ – the President, Prime Minister, and the Army chief – is being widely interpreted as having averted a possible collapse of the elected Zardari-Gilani government. There is no word from the military’s media people on the meeting but the president’s media office took the liberty of releasing a statement renewing the commitment of Gen. Kayani, and that of the President and Prime Minister, to defending democracy.

If there’s anyone who created a frenzy about an extra-constitutional [read: military-engineered] change, it is the elected government when it opened indiscriminate fire at shadowy and unseen enemies, warning it will defend democracy, pleading its American friends to issue pro-democracy statements, prodding ministries and NGOs to place newspaper advertisements extolling the virtues of democracy, and unleashing a frontman like Abdul Qayum Jatoi to whip up anti-military sentiment. By choosing Balochistan and Akbar Bugti’s house as a venue for Mr. Jatoi’s provocative lines, it was a clear message to the Pakistani military that, if toppled, the Zardari government will use Balochistan against the federation. It was naked blackmail. It came on top of other forms of blackmail – the waving of the so-called Sindh card, Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement about breaking away from Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto’s death, and coalition partner ANP’s recent bold statement linking respect for the military to respect for the elected government.

This paranoia by the elected government worsened when the ruling politicians saw the military winning hearts and minds in interior Sindh and Balochistan, where people saw soldiers saving them when politicians in power diverted flood water to save their lands. Another thing that sent shivers down the spines in the PPPP government was to see the Pakistani military gaining ground once again in America’s war on terror, forcing Washington to become dependent again on Pakistani military’s goodwill.

So, did Gen. Kayani deliberately become part of the ‘defend-democracy’ meeting on Monday?

No doubt about that. He must have been told about the statement that would be issued after the meeting and he accepted it. Or President Zardari might have wanted to test the waters with the general on the post-meeting statement and Gen. Kayani simply said yes [what else could he do? Say no?]. Or maybe it was Gen. Kayani’s initiative to suggest such a meeting in order to calm the frayed nerves of the government. It could be any one of the three scenarios, we don’t know for sure. There are also rumors that either Mr. Gilani or Gen. Kayani brought up the question of expelling some figures who occupy key positions in the Zardari government. Again, no confirmation from any quarter about this, but it’s important to recall that a similar understanding was reached between the troika last year after the Kerry-Lugar bill fiasco and it seems the government reneged later, benefiting from the military’s distraction after a bold terror attack on the GHQ building in Rawalpindi.

All of these reports are important and cannot be ignored but they remain unconfirmed. What is confirmed, however, is that the military wasn’t planning any coup.

Here is a key point that analysts forget when debating this point: whether it likes it or not, the Pakistani military is one of the main guarantors for the Mush-BB-US-UK deal of 2006-7 that created the piece of law called NRO and the incumbent coalition government in Islamabad. For the Pakistani military to remove this government would amount to staging a coup against the whole set of ‘sovereign guarantees’ that Gen. Musharraf left Pakistan and the military saddled with. Apparently these guarantees include a lot of secret clauses about US activities in Pakistan, in addition to committing the Pakistani military to avoid destabilizing this government. [Yes, despite US criticism about the corruption of the current Pakistani government, Washington won't ditch it so easily. Just ask the US ambassador in Islamabad how much busy time she spent earlier this year quietly convincing opposition politicians 'not to rock the boat'!].

The day the Pakistani military turns against this government would be the day Pakistan would opt out of America’s failed war effort in the region.

So, has a fourth coup been averted?

Hardly. Conditions for a military intervention in Pakistan continue to exist. After all, this nation can’t spend the next nine decades of this century with this kind of a messy and porous political system. But for the time being, whatever problems the government faces are with the Supreme Court. And only a fool would advise the military to stage a coup and stop the politicians from doing such a wonderful job of proving they are not fit to rule now or in the future, without inducting new faces and, more importantly, a new mindset.


Was A Fourth Military Coup Averted In Pakistan?

September 29, 2010

The paranoid elected government of President Asif Zardari has been out battling shadows and ghosts, whipping up anti-military sentiment when the military never planned a coup of any sort against him. His problems are with the Supreme Court on legal grounds. To calm frayed nerves, it appears Gen. Kayani agreed to let Zardari and Gilani issue a statement on the three’s commitment to ‘defending’ democracy. Pakistani military could also be bound by ‘sovereign guarantees’ given as back as 2007 stating that Pakistani military won’t destabilize a government created through the US-sponsored NRO deal.

By AHMED QURAISHI
Tuesday, 28 September 2010.
WWW.PAKNATIONALISTS.COM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Hardly. Better still, there wasn’t a coup to start with.

Monday’s well-timed meeting between the so-called ‘troika’ – the President, Prime Minister, and the Army chief – is being widely interpreted as having averted a possible collapse of the elected Zardari-Gilani government. There is no word from the military’s media people on the meeting but the president’s media office took the liberty of releasing a statement renewing the commitment of Gen. Kayani, and that of the President and Prime Minister, to defending democracy.

If there’s anyone who created a frenzy about an extra-constitutional [read: military-engineered] change, it is the elected government when it opened indiscriminate fire at shadowy and unseen enemies, warning it will defend democracy, pleading its American friends to issue pro-democracy statements, prodding ministries and NGOs to place newspaper advertisements extolling the virtues of democracy, and unleashing a frontman like Abdul Qayum Jatoi to whip up anti-military sentiment. By choosing Balochistan and Akbar Bugti’s house as a venue for Mr. Jatoi’s provocative lines, it was a clear message to the Pakistani military that, if toppled, the Zardari government will use Balochistan against the federation. It was naked blackmail. It came on top of other forms of blackmail – the waving of the so-called Sindh card, Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement about breaking away from Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto’s death, and coalition partner ANP’s recent bold statement linking respect for the military to respect for the elected government.

This paranoia by the elected government worsened when the ruling politicians saw the military winning hearts and minds in interior Sindh and Balochistan, where people saw soldiers saving them when politicians in power diverted flood water to save their lands. Another thing that sent shivers down the spines in the PPPP government was to see the Pakistani military gaining ground once again in America’s war on terror, forcing Washington to become dependent again on Pakistani military’s goodwill.

So, did Gen. Kayani deliberately become part of the ‘defend-democracy’ meeting on Monday?

No doubt about that. He must have been told about the statement that would be issued after the meeting and he accepted it. Or President Zardari might have wanted to test the waters with the general on the post-meeting statement and Gen. Kayani simply said yes [what else could he do? Say no?]. Or maybe it was Gen. Kayani’s initiative to suggest such a meeting in order to calm the frayed nerves of the government. It could be any one of the three scenarios, we don’t know for sure. There are also rumors that either Mr. Gilani or Gen. Kayani brought up the question of expelling some figures who occupy key positions in the Zardari government. Again, no confirmation from any quarter about this, but it’s important to recall that a similar understanding was reached between the troika last year after the Kerry-Lugar bill fiasco and it seems the government reneged later, benefiting from the military’s distraction after a bold terror attack on the GHQ building in Rawalpindi.

All of these reports are important and cannot be ignored but they remain unconfirmed. What is confirmed, however, is that the military wasn’t planning any coup.

Here is a key point that analysts forget when debating this point: whether it likes it or not, the Pakistani military is one of the main guarantors for the Mush-BB-US-UK deal of 2006-7 that created the piece of law called NRO and the incumbent coalition government in Islamabad. For the Pakistani military to remove this government would amount to staging a coup against the whole set of ‘sovereign guarantees’ that Gen. Musharraf left Pakistan and the military saddled with. Apparently these guarantees include a lot of secret clauses about US activities in Pakistan, in addition to committing the Pakistani military to avoid destabilizing this government. [Yes, despite US criticism about the corruption of the current Pakistani government, Washington won't ditch it so easily. Just ask the US ambassador in Islamabad how much busy time she spent earlier this year quietly convincing opposition politicians 'not to rock the boat'!].

The day the Pakistani military turns against this government would be the day Pakistan would opt out of America’s failed war effort in the region.

So, has a fourth coup been averted?

Hardly. Conditions for a military intervention in Pakistan continue to exist. After all, this nation can’t spend the next nine decades of this century with this kind of a messy and porous political system. But for the time being, whatever problems the government faces are with the Supreme Court. And only a fool would advise the military to stage a coup and stop the politicians from doing such a wonderful job of proving they are not fit to rule now or in the future, without inducting new faces and, more importantly, a new mindset.


Saudi Flood Aid To Pakistan: First, Largest, Not Politicized

August 30, 2010


Saudi Arabia was the first nation to respond to Pakistan’s flood aid appeal. It created a back-to-back air bridge that saw 30 cargo planes land in Pakistan.

Washington’s aid is politicized and arrogant; Riyadh’s aid is compassionate

By GULPARI NAZISH MEHSUD
Monday, 30 August 2010.
WWW.PAKNATIONALISTS.COM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Saudi Arabia has quietly bypassed the United States as the single largest aid donor in real terms so far. Riyadh’s commitment to helping the victims of Pakistan’s devastating floods has crossed US$140 million.

The Saudis have also outdone themselves. The Saudi military and air force set up a back-to-back air bridge between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, sending thirty large cargo planes carrying hundreds of tons of relief goods. The air bridge continues to operate.

With more than $120 million sent in cash, the first 3-day international telethon to raise funds, and 30 major air relief shipments to land in Pakistan in what is the largest air bridge in support of flood victims, Saudi response was better than any other nation.

The only exceptions are UAE sending six helicopters when the United States initially provided only five, [later increased to 15]. After its initial reluctance, US surpassed any other donor by providing three large cargo planes in addition to ten more helicopters. Most of the pledged US aid money is, however, ‘recycled’ from earlier aid commitments to Pakistan and is not new. And, according to Ahmed Quraishi, Project Pakistan Senior Fellow at Project For Pakistan In 21st Century, an independent Islamabad-based think tank, US help is politicized, meant to shore up a pro-US govt. in Islamabad in the face of better performances by the Pakistani military and Pakistani charities in responding to the humanitarian disaster.

Mr. Quraishi told PakNationalists.com: “Despite frosty relations with the Zardari-Gilani government, Riyadh’s aid was massive but received little media attention in Pakistan. Unlike the US embassy’s clamor for publicity and attention, the Saudis and others worked quietly. At one point, the Saudi ambassador is reported to have told Pakistani reporters that the Pakistani media failed to highlight the fact that Riyadh was the first country to respond to Pakistani help request after the floods.”

SAUDI REACTION

Within the first week of the flooding that started on 29 July, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz ordered a massive kingdom-wide fundraising and aid collection campaign. Official aid collection camps were set up in all major Saudi cities. The Saudi royal family set an example when several princes donated $20 million on the first day, encouraging Saudi citizens to follow suit. More than $107 million were collected in the first three days.

Saudi Arabia established the largest air bridge to air lift relief supplies to Pakistan, sending more than 30 cargo planes so far to Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber-PK and Punjab. Saudi Arabia is the only country so far to have established such a large back-to-back air bridge to Pakistan.


The Saudi rescue team busy in Thatta.

Eight more planes have landed in Pakistan over the weekend carrying two field hospitals, complete with equipment and medical staff. The Saudi ambassador Abdul Aziz bin Ibrahim al-Ghadeer hardly visited his office in Islamabad in the past two weeks because of his constant field presence in Lahore, Multan, and Hyderabad, in addition to the Chaklala Air Force base in Rawalpindi, to receive Saudi cargo planes. On the recommendation of the Pakistani military, which suggested the hospitals focus on Sindh, one Saudi field hospital has already become operational in Thatta. The second field hospital will also probably be set up somewhere in Sindh considering the urgency there.

Two Saudi rescue teams, which Saudi Arabia has raised according to international levels of training and performance following repeated floods in some Saudi regions, have also arrived in Hyderabad where they are active in several parts of the Sindh province.

In neighboring Kuwait, the Kuwaiti government lifted a long standing ban on collecting donations in public. This exception was made on the orders of the Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed in deference to the emerging humanitarian disaster in Pakistan. Donation camps sprung up in large and small mosques and shopping malls across the emirate. Interestingly, the wealthy Kuwaiti business community outshone the government in donating to flood victims in Pakistan. One Kuwaiti logistics company, Agility, mobilized 1,000 of its workers for flood relief effort in Pakistan.

Fundraising efforts outside of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are important but were modest in their outcomes. A German telethon attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised $10 million. British donations came largely from the British Pakistani and British Muslim communities, with the British magazine The Economist showing skepticism at reports suggesting ordinary British citizens have shown any passion to donate to Pakistan. Turkey has donated $10 million, China a little more, while India came up with a symbolic $5 million, probably because smug Indian officials were sure Pakistan won’t accept the money anyway [Pakistan thanked India and accepted the money but asked New Delhi to send through UN]. Iran has sent relief supplies and most other countries have also gave preference to relief goods because of lack of trust in the Pakistani government and politicians’ credibility or ability to utilize aid money properly.

SAUDI ARABIA

One of the most endearing aspects of donations coming to Pakistan from the Gulf is individual donations from politicians and businessmen, which are enough to put the wealthy Pakistani politicians to shame.

On the first day of a nationwide Saudi campaign to raise funds for the victims of floods in Pakistan on Monday, 17 Aug. 2010:

  • King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdelaziz Al Saud, donated US$5.3 million from his private money to Pakistan flood victims
  • Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdelzziz Al Saud gave away US$2.7 million from his private money
  • Interior Minister Nayef bin Abdelaziz Al Saud gave away two million Saudi riyals
  • Governor of Tabouk donated one million Saudi Riyals
  • Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdelaziz Al Saud gave ten million Saudi riyals
  • Businessman Eesa bin Mohammad al Eesa, president of the Samba Financial Group, donated two million Saudi riyals

Separately, and in addition to his $2.7 million in aid, the Saudi Crown Prince has also dispatched one hundred tons of dates from his private farmland to Pakistan.


Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

The Saudi public’s response to the massive Saudi aid appeal has been amazing. Women were seen donating jewellery to makeshift fundraising camps in Jeddah and Riyadh.

A Saudi commentator left this comment on the website of the Arabic-language Saudi newspaper, Okaz: “What the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, may Allah protect him, has given to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is something that all the five permanent nations at UNSC and all the Arab countries could not have given. His Majesty’s stand with Pakistan will never be forgotten.”

Comments posted at the online editions of Saudi newspapers showed how deeply the Saudis are moved by the tragedy in Pakistan. “Pakistanis deserve our help,” wrote one Saudi. “They are our brothers.”

IRAN

Iran has committed over 400 tons of relief goods so far as of 14 August 2010 out of which 180 tons have already been delivered by the Iranian transport aircrafts. These goods include tents, floorings, clothes, canned food, bread and medical supplies. Iranian Red Crescent society has also been on the ground along with Pakistan Red Crescent society as part of its ongoing relief operation inside Pakistan reaching out to more than 100,000 flood victims. In addition to the Iranian government help Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani has announced that one third of collected Khums will be donated to Pakistan for humanitarian assistance. Iran’s chamber of commerce also donated US $1 million to the flood victims.


Grand Ayatollah Nasir-Makarem Shirazi

And on 17 August, senior Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem-Shirazi [left] met the Pakistani ambassador in Tehran and announced donating $50,000 to the victims of flood-stricken Pakistan in response to Pakistan’s call for more relief aid.

‘KUWAIT IS WITH YOU’

On 21 August, Kuwaiti government launched a nationwide fundraiser called ‘Kuwait Is With You’, in a message to Pakistanis devastated by the floods.

Kuwait’s official and private donations have crossed $20 million, half of them coming from the government. But most of the aid won’t reach the Pakistani government. The noisy Kuwaiti media, while expressing solidarity with Pakistan, has also seen several write-ups questioning the credibility of the Pakistani government. Some criticized the Pakistani government for ‘collusion’ with Washington in hounding credible Pakistani charities in the name of fighting so-called terror.

The emirate launched a national fundraiser for Pakistan on 23 August, collecting so far close to $10 million from the public.

Kuwait had banned charity fundraisers for the most part of the decade. But on the 23rd, the government lifted the ban to make way for a nationwide fundraiser for Pakistan, which began grandly at the Grand Mosque of the state, where close to 1,000 worshippers donated generously for Pakistan.

Equally impressive is the contribution from the Kuwaiti business community:

  • Mohammad Hmoud Al-Shaya Company, which owns a series of upscale designer clothing and jewellery outlets across the Gulf, donated $500,000 to Pakistan
  • Kuwait Finance House has dispatched $2 million to Pakistan
  • General Secretariat of Awqaf has donated $1.5 million
  • The Joint Kuwaiti Committee for Relief, a local charity, has donated $1.5 million
  • The sons of the late Abdullah al-Mutawa, a businessman, have donated $100,000 to Pakistan
  • E-Q8 Petrochemicals has donated $100,000
  • The employees of the Bank of Bubiyan started an internal fundraiser for Pakistan


Dala al-Mudaf

Dalal al-Mudaf, a senior officer at the Kuwait Investment Company, with offices in the Gulf, London and New York, has kicked off an internal company fundraiser for Pakistan as of today, Monday 30 August. In a statement, she quoted a saying by the Prophet [PBUH], ‘A Muslim for a Muslim is like a wall, pulling one another’.


Tariq al Sultan

Agility, one of the largest logistics companies in the region with operations in Pakistan, has mobilized its 1,000 workers here to get involved in relief work. According to Tariq al-Sultan [right], Chairman of Agility worldwide, the company has offered its entire commercial warehouses full of foodstuffs and the space along with cooling facilities in Multan for use by United Nations in Punjab. In Peshawar, the company has donated several air-conditioned containers to transport food items to flood victims. And in Sukkur, the company has put its entire fleet of trucks in the service of food and aid distribution effort across Sindh. The company has also distributed urgent food items and medicines to 5,000 families in Sindh, and the employees of Agility worldwide have donated their one-day salary to Pakistan.

In another step of indirect support to Pakistan, one of the young members of the Kuwaiti parliament, Mr. Mohammed Hayef al-Huwaila, held a press conference at the parliament building last week and drew the attention of the Arab public opinion to massive human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir. He called on the Kuwaiti government to condemn Indian atrocities.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 106 other followers