May 18, 2011

Bloody Day in Afghanistan

On Wednesday, May 18, a deadly NATO night raid on a house that left four dead sparked a massive protest that 12 people killed after the police forces opened fire on a 2,000 crowd.

Reports on Taloqan's raid are vary, some say that the four people who are killed yesterday were members of Taliban while others strongly believe they were members of Al Qaeda. I have been watching the Afghan news outlets, probing for details but could not find any detail whether those four people who are killed by NATO were the Al Qaeda members or not.

However, the Fighting for Bin Laden's documentary on the PBS website which reveals a lot about the influence of Al Qaeda in northern Afghanistan provides a clue that they might have been linked with Al Qaeda members.

Meanwhile 13 others died in a separate incident when a suicide bomber drove an explosive car into a bus carrying police academy trainers in Nangarhar province. These incidents are wracking the country while NATO forces are planning to hand over some areas to Afghan security forces.

May 3, 2011

Killing Osama: Would it Have Been Possible Without ISI Help?

Many people are writing and discussing the outcome of Osama Bin Laden’s death, will his death make the world safe and is this a final nail in the coffin of Al Qaeda? These are part of the big questions on his death which have been raised during the last 48 hours. Yet, there is a crucial question that no one touched on: was this operation inside Pakistan possible without the ISI assistance?

The answer for this question is simply no. The reality that lies behind this operation must have been caused by a deep rift inside the Pakistani intelligence service otherwise this operation would not be possible without cooperation between the ISI and CIA. It is now quite crystal clear for everyone that Osama was under the safeguard of ISI for the past few years. The fortified million dollar compound in which he dwelt and its location next to a military academy makes it clear that he was enjoying living under ISI protection.

The ISI has so far simply said that it did not know about the operation, and it is possible that they are contemplating how to find proper answers to the question: how is it possible for American forces to fly two helicopters from Afghanistan to Pakistan and launch an operation under the ISI’s nose, only a few kilo meters away from Islamabad? This incident definitely brought shame to Pakistani intelligence service and they must be now working on how to find this rift, and understand what was going wrong inside the organization.
The U.S forces could have used drone attacks to kill Osama Bin Laden, instead of risking their lives through ground operation. It would be less controversial and also less humiliating to Pakistan authorities. Anyway, it is a complex issue and it is too soon to tell what made things so easy for the U.S. Navy SEALs to manage this operation so successfully.

May 1, 2011

Saudi Bloggers Face Stringent Restrictions

In a country like Saudi Arabia in which media is controlled by the Kingdom, blogs have become an alternative source of news and opinion in recent years. Saudi is ranked second in the Arab world for having the most bloggers, trailing only behind Egypt. According to BBC, the number of Saudi bloggers (both male and female) was between 500-600 in both English and Arabic.

Like many other Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia is restrictive in its blogosphere. In 2008, Fouad Al-Farhan, a well-known blogger was arrested for his criticism of the government’s corruption and his call for political reform. In 2011, in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, Saudi government enacted stringent new regulations forcing bloggers to register and obtain government licenses in order to publish online. According to this law, all Saudi news blogs and electronic news sites now must be strictly licensed, and are required to “include the call to the religion of Islam” and to strictly abide by Islamic sharia law.

Human rights activists and bloggers have reacted to government’s decision on limiting freedom of expression. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) is already concerned about the new regulation, which was issued at the beginning of 2011. The CJP has voiced its concerned and has asked the Saudi government to listen to its bloggers and respect their freedom of speech.