US Assured of Action Against ‘Sanctuaries’

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: A flurry of activity of Monday provided hope that the Pak-US marriage of convenience was not over despite the recent bellowing and booming of the Pakistani leadership.

2011-05-16T133358Z_1323651652_GM1E75G1FO201_RTRMADP_3_BINLADEN

U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) (L) meets with Pakistan’s PM Yusuf Raza Gilani at the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad May 16, 2011.

REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

By the end of Senator John Kerry’s day-long stay in Islamabad it appeared that the US had convinced Pakistan to undertake several steps for proving its commitment to the fight against terrorism. These included returning the wreckage of the helicopter which had malfunctioned during the May 2 raid in Abbotabad and eliminating terrorist sanctuaries in tribal areas.

In exchange Washington has committed itself to a process, which if successful, will lead to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Islamabad for reviving the strategic dialogue which has been stalled since the arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis and subsequent events such as drone attacks and the unilateral US operation killing Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

John Kerry, who heads the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, extracted these promises from the Pakistani leadership; he warned them that “if the relationship is to fall apart …. US will always reserve the right to protect its national security”.

Senator Kerry’s tough love message was reinforced, Dawn has learnt, by the telephone calls Secretary Clinton made to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Ms Clinton rang up Mr Gilani when he, the president and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were meeting Senator Kerry. The call is reported to have lasted about 20 minutes.

The secretary of state had called Mr Zardari on Sunday.

“I think we made serious progress. Pakistan has agreed to do a number of things immediately to demonstrate its further seriousness of purpose and we agreed to have several officials from the US to come here in the middle of the week or sometime soon to carry on this discussion and prepare the ground for Secretary Clinton,” a visibly fatigued Kerry told a selected group of journalists after his meetings with Pakistani civil and military leaders.

Having met the army chief on Sunday night, Mr Kerry spent most of Monday in meetings. As he noted: “We worked harder today to talk about ways in which we can be better partners, work cooperatively and open doors to joint cooperation to fight terrorism.”

Senator Kerry met President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and Army Chief Gen Kayani, individually and collectively, before a joint declaration was issued by the two sides expressing the willingness to carry on with their relationship.

“In furtherance of its existing commitment to fight terrorism, Pakistan has agreed to take several immediate steps to underscore its seriousness in renewing the full cooperative effort with the United States,” the joint communiqué said.

Senator Kerry avoided divulging details of the steps agreed upon, but vaguely described it as including cooperation on counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and targeting terrorist sanctuaries. The latter is hardly surprising; having been high on the American wish list for a long time, action against the havens in tribal areas was one of the major demands Mr Kerry brought to Islamabad.

He said: “We need Pakistan’s cooperation, we need Pakistan’s help against sanctuaries in this country from where people are destabilising Afghanistan and frankly killing … all of (those who) are trying to provide for a stable Afghanistan.”

However, he stopped of claiming that Pakistani leaders had agreed to go after the Haqqani network, one of the core contentious issues in the rocky bilateral ties. He was only willing to say cryptically that both countries had agreed to target “some entity, which is engaged in terrorism … the entity that needs to be taken on one way or the other”.

He also said that other measures to be taken by Pakistan included returning the tail of the helicopter which was left behind by the Navy Seals during the Abbotabad raid.

After it malfunctioned, the Americans exploded the helicopter before they left; this was done, it was reported, to prevent the stealth technology from falling into Pakistani, and possibly other, hands.
However, distrust is still not a thing of the past. Despite Pakistan’s new commitments, which Mr Kerry himself described as “more detailed, more precise and clarified”, he made it clear that Washington was no longer going to be satisfied by mere promises.

“This road ahead will not be defined by words. It will be defined by actions,” he told journalists.

This is why Washington is going to follow a step-by-step approach before confirming that Secretary Clinton will be taking a flight to Islamabad.

Two US officials — Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Mark Morrel — will visit Islamabad to follow up on Mr Kerry’s talks and discuss the agreed measures in details and possibly gauge progress on the commitments made to the senator.

Secretary Clinton’s visit remains contingent on the outcome of Grossman’s discussions. “First a meeting will take place to try to lay the groundwork for that (Clinton’s meeting) and coming out of that meeting the secretary would set the date,” Senator Kerry said. However, in the midst of all the tough talk and the conditions he set, Mr Kerry also made an effort to soothe ruffled feathers, “we are committed to working together with Pakistan — not unilaterally, but together in joint efforts” — contingent once again on Pakistani cooperation.

“But, if we are cooperating and working together there is no reason (for acting unilaterally),” he said.           

From The Newspaper

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Iraqi Widows Marry to Feed Kids

November 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Afif Sarhan, Uruknet

iraq-widow BAGHDAD – Haifa Ahmed Mua’alim, 32, is going to tie the knot in a couple of weeks.

She is marrying a man recommended by her sister-in-law to help feed her two orphan children of a previous marriage.

The young woman lost her husband, the love of her life, two years ago to the violence that has been plaguing her country since the 2003 US invasion.

“When he died I decided never to marry again. We had a stable and lovely relation,” she recalled tearfully.

For the past two years Haifa has been struggling to feed her kids, spending every penny they once had.

But without work or help from any one, she is accepting to remarry at the advice of her deceased husband’s sister.

“I’m being forced to change my mind in exchange for a better life for my sons.”

Haifa only saw the future husband once and never spoke with him, insisting it’s a marriage of convenience for both of them.

“My sister-in-law told me that he also lost his wife and he is a good man who carries four children in his baggage,” she said.

“Maybe it is too precipitated and latter on, I might regret, however, it is better to take care of six children than see your two sons hungry and unable to go to school,” Haifa reasoned.

“I’m glad to find someone willing to take care of them but being happy is another issue that I prefer to keep for my own.”

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs estimates there are nearly two million widows and five times kids living without fathers in the country.

“Widows are a serious case in Iraq. Our ministry is trying to help but the lack of proper budget is seriously affecting our work,” said a senior officer, requesting anonymity for not being allowed to speak to the press.

“More widows will be added to this group and to help them the parliament should focus on their problem, create enough conditions for them to work and feed their children.”

Debate

Haifa represents a new trend in Iraq which is encouraged by religious leaders who have been advising single and widower men to marry widows as a way to help them.

“Those women are victims of the violence in our country,” Sheikh Abdul-Kareem Rafel, a religious leader at Sadr City, told IOL.

“The government isn’t offering them enough help to raise their kids alone and advising Iraqis to marry them is a nice way to prevent millions of kids from being raised without a father and prevent women from becoming prostitutes to support them.”

Rana Lattif, a local woman activist, opposes such second marriage arrangements.

“Instead of encouraging women to remarry, we have to force the government to help them, offer stable living conditions and open job places as the majority became widows because of the unfair war in the country,” she told IOL.

“Of course there are women who prefer to be in such unacceptable situation but they are few and the majority is marrying again because it was the only choice found,” she contends.

“If the government takes responsibility towards them, I’m sure this number would decrease impressively.”

Sara al-Azza, a member of a charity that has nearly 1,200 widows registered with more than half willing to remarry, disagrees.

“We cannot keep waiting for the government to take an action,” she told IOL.

“The women come to us after deciding to remarry and what we do is just look for men who have a good background, true good intentions and are able to support her family,” she explains.

“No one is forced to marry but we have made many arrangements with the both sides happy to start a new life together.

“Since we started working on this issue, we never had a complaint from any of the parties. It is a serious matter and we are happy to help.”

Rhim Abdel-Rassoul Rabia’a, a 41-yrea-old mother of three who lost her husband three years in a Baghdad bomb attack, is waiting for a second husband.

“After years of looking for a job, I got desperate and that’s why I started looking for a second marriage even though that was the last thing I would like to do,” she told IOL.

“I was told that women over 40 take more time to find a husband but this is my only hope. I just want a man to look after me and my kids, even if I marry without love.”

Rhim says when she was a young girl she dreamed of a life of happiness, studying and working to become someone important in life.

“I know that none of my dreams can come true but at least I can help my kids become able to support themselves without the need to remarry for that.”

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