THE BLOG

Pakistani Media Report Significant Meetings and FM Mullah

A much heralded meeting between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and newly reinstalled Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took place a few days ago on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Yekaterinburg in Russia.

Dawn.com reported PM Manmohan Singh's unusual act of making a bold statement during a media photocall before the 40 minute meeting. Reuters reported
Singh saying to Zardari, in the full glare of the media spotlight,

I am happy to meet you but my mandate is to announce that Pakistan must not be used for terrorism.

Dawn.com described the Indian PM talking to journalists on his way back from the SCO summit.

Dr Singh said he had told President Zardari that ties between the two countries remained under considerable stress, primarily because of unending terror attacks in India from across the border.

He said the foreign secretaries of both countries would meet to discuss 'what Pakistan is doing and can do to prevent terrorism from Pakistan against India and to bring to justice those responsible for these attacks, including the horrendous crime of the attacks in Mumbai.

This was the first meeting between the two leaders since November 2008, when relations between the two countries cooled after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. President Zardari, however, seemed surprised at Singh's outspokenness in Yekaterinburg.

It was then reported that the Pakistani President, whom Manmohan Singh had announced would be continuing ice-breaking discussions with him on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Sharm-el Shaikh, Egypt, July 15th, would not be attending the NAM meeting and would instead send his Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani. The Siasat Daily wrote,

Diplomatic and other sources said the move was a reaction to Singh's remarks, which the pro-establishment daily The News had described as "rude". They said the intention was to send out a clear message that Singh's comments had not gone down well with the Pakistan government...

Apparently embarrassed, the Pakistani President told Singh that they could talk after journalists have left the hall.

Another significant meeting reported this week in The Nation and elsewhere was the first ever European Union-Pakistan Summit, which was held in Brussels. Subjects up for discussion were possible trade agreements between the EU and Pakistan, as well as funding support from the EU to help Pakistan in its battle with insurgents and the resulting hordes of refugees needing food and shelter. President Zardari met with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso who said,

EU is ready to help Pakistan in this fight against extremism and terrorism and strengthening democracy in Pakistan.

The Nation, in a piece titled 'EU offers aid but no trade breaks' declared that Barroso, in a joint press conference with the Pakistani President,

Said the European Union would provide 20 million Euros immediately for the rehabilitation of the displaced people of Swat and Malakand, adding that another 45 million euros would be provided in aid for Pakistan from the EU reserve fund.

On the subject of violent attacks in Pakistan, private news channel GEO reported that a fellow cleric was calling for a government enquiry into the June 9th assassination of anti-taliban seminary head Dr Sarfraz Naeemi, explaining that certain members of a religious community,

Are the prime target of the terrorists, adding the martyred Dr Naeemi was not provided any security.

Pakistani security forces are already stretched, being deployed along both Eastern and Western borders and internally in Swat and Waziristan, but GEO raises the point that those who speak out against the Taliban need protection too.

Much of the recent media coverage has concerned the military offensive on South Waziristan, an operation known as 'Rah-e-Raast,' or 'Operation Straight Path.' On this subject, PK on Web discusses pirate FM radio stations used by the Taliban to counteract the Pakistani military offensive and accompanying messages that Pakistani officials send out to civilians.

It was the Swat Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah, who first gained international attention through his FM radio broadcasts and earned the nickname "FM Mullah". However, the use of pirate radio stations in the region began in the Khyber Tribal Agency...

In their fiery radio speeches, the Taliban preachers have demanded that the non-Muslim minorities of Malakand pay jizya (protection tax) or face jihad. In the same tone, they have issued warnings to local non-governmental organizations, musicians and anybody else involved in "un-Islamic" activities. Those defying their orders are butchered, and daily announcements of the details of their deaths (are) broadcast on FM channels.