That would be Pakistan, according to Jesse Johnson. It isn’t just that Christian are persecuted by the government. The entire culture systematically excludes, punishes, and torments Christians. Christians may not attend schools or universities, so most of them are illiterate. This keeps them from getting decent jobs. Their testimony is not accepted in a court of law, so they lack legal protection. Their daughters are routinely kidnapped. Christians are often accused of blasphemy and murdered. [Read more…]
Islamic terrorists attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing as many as 65 people and wounding some 200. Also this weekend, Islamic suicide bombers attacked All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing (at latest count) 81 people and wounding 140. [Read more…]
NATO planes bombed a Pakistani military base, killing 24 soldiers. (Afghans claim that the Pakistanis were firing on them as they patrolled with NATO troops.) So the country is refusing to allow allied convoys into Afghanistan and the people are rioting.
Hundreds of enraged Pakistanis took to the streets across the country Sunday, burning an effigy of President Barack Obama and setting fire to US flags after 24 soldiers died in NATO air strikes.
The rallies were organised by opposition and right-wing Islamist groups in major cities of the nuclear-armed country of 167 million people, where opposition to the government’s US alliance is rampant.
In Karachi, the port city used by the United States to ship supplies to troops fighting in Afghanistan, more than 700 people gathered outside the US consulate, an AFP photographer said.
They shouted: “down with America, stay away Americans, Pakistan is ours, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our army”, while Pakistani riot police were deployed near the consulate.
Outside the press club in Karachi, dozens of political activists burnt an effigy of President Obama, an AFP photographer added.
In the central city of Multan, more than 300 activists loyal to the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as local traders took to the streets, burning US and NATO flags.
They carried placards and banners, and shouted: “down with America,” “down with NATO,” “Yankees go back”, “vacate Afghanistan and Pakistan” and “stop drone attacks” — a reference to a CIA drone war against Islamist militants.
Speaking at the rally, opposition lawmaker Javed Hashmi demanded that the government end its alliance in the US-led “war on terror”.
In Islamabad, at least 200 activists of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party held a rally in the middle-class I-10 neighbourhood.
“We strongly condemn the attack and the killing of our soldiers,” local JI chief Mian Aslam told the rally in reference to the air strike early Saturday, as protestors chanted “Pakistan is America’s graveyard.”
Pakistan has reacted with fury over the killings, and has called the attack by NATO helicopters and fighter jets on two military posts close to the Afghan border “unprovoked”.
In response, Islamabad has sealed its Afghan border to NATO supply convoys and is reviewing its alliance with the United States and NATO, mulling whether to boycott a key international conference on Afghanistan next month.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Ministry of Minority Affairs, was assassinated for opposing that country’s anti-blasphemy law, which is being used to persecute his fellow Christians. He was the second official to be killed for taking this position. At the link, see also the video in which he confesses his Christian faith and says that he is willing to die for it.
Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq who killed who knows how many American troops, has come back–from Iran–and his party is part of the new coalition government:
Anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia contributed to the bloodiest days of the Iraq war, made a surprise return to Iraq on Wednesday, ending nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran and raising new questions about U.S. influence here.
Sadr’s remarkable trajectory brought him home just as his political faction attains significant power, allied in Iraq’s new national unity government with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who just a few years ago moved to crush Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
It was Sadr’s recent decision to support Maliki for a second term, in a deal brokered by Iran, that ended eight months of political deadlock and allowed Maliki, also a Shiite, to cobble together his new government two weeks ago.
In another sign of Iran’s significant influence in Iraq, just as U.S. troops prepare to leave the country by the end of the year, Iran’s new foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, met in Baghdad on Wednesday with Maliki and more than a dozen other government officials.
The Sadrist faction controls at least eight of about three dozen ministries in Maliki’s new cabinet and has vowed to become a full participant in the political process. But the return of Sadr leaves open the question of whether he will seek to reassert his influence solely through political means, or will instead revert to violence.
Whether he uses violence or politics, we see the specter of a pro-Iranian strongman back in power. Can anyone doubt that al-Sadr will eventually become the nation’s leader?
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, as you may have heard already, the governor of the province of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his body-guard. Why? He came out against Pakistan’s law requiring the death penalty for “blasphemy”; that is, speaking ill of Mohammed or Islam. A Christian woman is facing execution for allegedly criticizing the prophet, and Taseer wanted her spared. The case has become a catalyst for conservative Muslims in opposing the more secular establishment and its increasingly shaky government. If the jihadists take power, not only will the Christian die, the Taliban in Afghanistan will have a powerful ally. With nuclear weapons.
The Washington Post is publishing excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439172498?ie=UTF8&tag=cranach-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1439172498″>Obama’s Wars</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=cranach-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1439172498″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />. It includes a fascinating account of some hard-ball diplomacy played by national security director General James Jones and CIA director Leon Panetta with the president of Pakistan.
If, God forbid, the SUV had blown up in Times Square, Jones told Zardari, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Should a future attempt be successful, Obama would be forced to do things that Pakistan would not like. “No one will be able to stop the response and consequences,” the security adviser said. “This is not a threat, just a statement of political fact.”
Jones did not give specifics about what he meant. The Obama administration had a “retribution” plan, one of the most sensitive and secretive of all military contingencies. The plan called for bombing about 150 identified terrorist camps in a brutal, punishing attack inside Pakistan.
Wait a second, Zardari responded. If we have a strategic partnership, why in the face of a crisis like the one you’re describing would we not draw closer together rather than have this divide us?
Zardari believed that he had already done a great deal to accommodate his strategic partner, at some political risk. He had allowed CIA drones to strike al-Qaeda and other terrorist camps in parts of Pakistan, prompting a public outcry about violations of Pakistani sovereignty. He had told CIA officials privately in late 2008 that any innocent deaths from the strikes were the cost of doing business against senior al-Qaeda leaders. “Kill the seniors,” Zardari had said. “Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.”
As part of the partnership, the Pakistani military was billing the United States more than $2 billion a year to combat extremists operating in the remote areas near the Afghan border. But that money had not prevented elements of the Pakistani intelligence service from backing the two leading Afghan Taliban groups responsible for killing American troops in Afghanistan.
“You can do something that costs you no money,” Jones said. “It may be politically difficult, but it’s the right thing to do if you really have the future of your country in mind. And that is to reject all forms of terrorism as a viable instrument of national policy inside your borders.”
“We rejected it,” Zardari responded.
Jones and Panetta had heard such declarations before. But whatever Pakistan was doing with the many terrorist groups operating inside its borders, it wasn’t good or effective enough. For the past year, that country’s main priority was taking on its homegrown branch of the Taliban, a network known as Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP.
Panetta pulled out a “link chart,” developed from FBI interviews and other intelligence, that showed how TTP had assisted the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.
“Look, this is it,” Panetta told Zardari. “This is the network. Leads back here.” He traced it out with his finger. “And we’re continuing to pick up intelligence streams that indicate TTP is going to conduct other attacks in the United States.”
This was a matter of solid intelligence, Panetta said, not speculation.
Jones and Panetta then turned to the disturbing intelligence about Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group behind the horrific 2008 Mumbai attacks that had killed 175, including six Americans.
Pakistani authorities are holding the commander of the Mumbai attacks, Jones said, but he is not being adequately interrogated and “he continues to direct LeT operations from his detention center.” Intelligence shows that Lashkar-e-Taiba is threatening attacks in the United States and that the possibility “is rising each day.”
Zardari didn’t seem to get it.
“Mr. President,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was also at the meeting, “This is what they are saying. . . . They’re saying that if, in fact, there is a successful attack in the United States, they will take steps to deal with that here, and that we have a responsibility to now cooperate with the United States.”
“If something like that happens,” Zardari said defensively, “it doesn’t mean that somehow we’re suddenly bad people or something. We’re still partners.”
No, both Jones and Panetta said. There might be no way to save the strategic partnership. Underscoring Jones’s point, Panetta said, “If that happens, all bets are off.”