Houstonian Corner (V13-I52)

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistani-American Community Peace Rally in Downtown Houston

Office bearers and members of four Pakistani-American organizations did a Peace Rally in downtown Houston in front of the George Thomas “Mickey” Leland Federal Building this past Friday. This rally was called by Pakistani American Council of Texas (PACT), Pakistani American Society of Texas (PAST), Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), and Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA).

“As everyone knows,, the NATO attacks of November 26th, 2011 on the Pakistani soil, resulting in senseless loss of 24 brave Pakistani soldiers, is not only a tragedy for the families of the dead soldiers, but a violation of sovereignty of an independent country Pakistan; and a harsh setback to the close friendly relationships between the United States and Pakistan. Several days have passed since November 26th, and no appropriate steps and measures have been taken by NATO / USA, to restore this relationship of USA with Pakistan. It is in the national interest of USA that this relationship between USA & Pakistan must be salvaged, so that peace and stability may come to the strategic region of South Asia, which is tied with the tranquility & prosperity of our world. For this purpose, this “Peace Rally” has been called by the Pakistani-American Community in Houston, where we have invited members of the community and all other communities & people of conscience, to come out for the sake of peace in the world”, said one of the press statement of the Peace Rally.

A resolution was passed; read on the occasion by Sajjad Burki (PACT) & Taslim Siddiqui (PAGH); and then given to the representatives of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, so that they can take this message of the Pakistani-American Community to the Congress.

Sajjad Burki (PACT), Taslim Siddiqui (PAGH), Saeed Gaddi (PAST), Pervez Khan Swati (PCC-USA), and Khalid Khan (People’s Party) lead the rally in saying the various slogans. Each participant was holding message cards and banners with appropriate messages; like

“Strong US-Pakistan Friendship is in the National Interest of USA”;
“We Strongly Condemn the Senseless Killing of Pakistani Soldiers By NATO Forces – Peace Rally Organized by the Pakistani-American Community”;
“Let’s Be Friends – Not Masters”;
“Pakistan Needs Friends – Not Masters”;
“World Needs Peace – No Wars”;
“No Wars Mean The Prosperity of USA”;
“Senseless Killings of Friends – Not in Our Interest”;
“Pakistan: The Best Ally of USA”;
“Cost of War against Terrorism – Pakistan Has Lost 36,000+ Lives, including 3,000+ Soldiers”;
“Cost of War against Terrorism:
Pakistan Has Lost $80-Billion+”
“Brown University August 2011: US will have spent a total $3.7 trillion on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, & Pakistan, costing 225,000 lives & creating 7.8 million refugees, by the time the conflicts end…”;
“Drones are Killing Many Innocent”;
“Lets’ make Friends & Not Foes – Stop the Mindless Killings”;
“President Obama: Lets’ Be Champions of Peace – Yes: We Can !!!”;
“Pakistan: The True Friend of USA – Treat Her Like One…”;
“Another American for Peace – Another Patriot for Peace”;
“Have the Right to Remain Silent – But Not on Senseless Killings”;
“Make Soup & Tea – Not War”;
“War Is Expensive – Peace Is Priceless”.

Resolution Presented at Peace Rally:

Strong Condemnation of the Senseless Killing of Pakistani Soldiers by NATO Forces

We, the people, gathered here this day, Friday, December 16th, 2011, in front of the Federal Building at 1919 Smith Street in downtown Houston, do hereby RESOLVE,

* That November 26th, 2011, was one of the darkest days in the war on terror, when NATO forces attacked the soil of Pakistan, resulting in a senseless loss of 24 brave Pakistani soldiers;
* That this is an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan; a harsh setback to the relationship between these two important allies; and a tragedy for the families of these soldiers;
* That the United States and NATO must offer an immediate and explicit apology to Pakistan for the loss of life and injuries that have been inflicted;
* That the United States and NATO must demonstrate that they are taking concrete and transparent steps to ensure, such an incident will never occur again;
* That appropriate reparations must be made to the families of the dead and wounded;

The events of November 26th, 2011, in a matter of moments, obliterated months of careful and promising work towards improving U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Yet, we the Citizens of USA, are confident that if swift actions (as resolved and mentioned above) are taken, we can indeed rebuild a relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

Tasleem Siddiqui, President, Pakistani American Association of Greater Houston
Sajjad Burki, President, Pakistani American Council of Texas
Saeed Bashir Gaddi, President, Pakistani American Society of Texas
P. J. Khan Swati, President, Pakistan Chamber of Commerce, USA

This resolution hand delivered in Houston on Fri, Dec 16th, 2011to State Department and Congressional Office of Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee; and copies be mailed to Congresspersons of Texas & some other States – Contact for this Resolution: Sajjad Burki 281-236-9492 / Tasleem Siddiqui 281-236-7597 / Saeed Bashir Gaddi 832-277-6699 / P. J. Khan Swati 832-754-1464.

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COPAA Statement on the Killing of Pakistani Soldiers

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

COPAA Press Release

The Council of Pakistan American Affairs strongly condemns the NATO cross-border air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. COPAA also extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of the Pakistan Armed Forces who lost their lives in a air strike by NATO forces.

COPAA has sent a letter to President Obama expressing deep concerns over the NATO attack and of the worrisome oscillations in the crucial relationship between the two allies. COPAA also asked the White House for a full and fair investigation. Moreover, COPAA  has also sent letters of concern at this tragedy to Congresswoman Judy Chu, who is in the Pakistan Caucus of the House among other lawmakers.

On the night of November 27th, NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two Pakistan military outposts, killing 24 and injuring 13 soldiers in what Pakistan said was an unprovoked assault. An army source told COPAA that the attack came between 1:00 and 2:00 A.M. The first outpost attacked was  identified as Volcano and then Boulder outpost came under attack in the Baezai area of Mohmand Agency. The official confirmed that 24 soldiers among them two officers, a major and captain, were killed in the attack. The officers were identified as Major Mujahid and Captain Usman. Pakistan buried the troops killed in the attack Sunday. In a prayer ceremony at the headquarters of the regional command in Peshawar, attended by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by telephone early Sunday to convey “the deep sense of rage felt across Pakistan” and warned that the incident could undermine efforts to improve relations, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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US Anger at Election Claims Prompt Karzai Call

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Agencies

2010-04-07T124306Z_01_BTRE63417OR00_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-AFGHANISTAN-KARZAI

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a shura, or meeting, in Kandahar city April 4, 2010.

REUTERS/Golnar Motevalli

The United States has rejected President Hamid Karzai’s anti-foreigner outburst as “troubling” and “preposterous”, prompting a hurried effort by the Afghan leader to make amends, Agence France-Presse reported.

Officials said Karzai did not specifically apologise during a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, but expressed “surprise” at the furor over his claim that foreigners orchestrated election fraud.

The row came just a few days after President Barack Obama made an unannounced trip to Kabul to press Karzai on tackling corruption and to demand progress on good governance, as Washington’s troop surge strategy unfolds against the Taliban.

The new confrontation will only raise doubts about the fragile relationship between the Obama administration and Karzai, whom Washington is forced to consider a partner despite distaste for his political record.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs called Karzai’s comments “troubling” and “cause for real and genuine concern”. Gibbs noted the huge US military and political resources – and sacrifices – committed to Afghanistan.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, meanwhile, described Karzai’s intervention as “preposterous”. US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry also met with Karzai in person to seek clarification on his comments on Thursday.

The Afghan leader then initiated the call to Clinton and expressed “surprise that his comments had created what he called a stir,” a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Generally we were happy with the call and we’re moving on,” the official added.

Crowley called the conversation a “constructive” one as Washington and Kabul seek to defuse tense relations.

“President Karzai reaffirmed his commitment to the partnership between our two countries, and expressed his appreciation for the contributions and sacrifices of the international community,” he said, adding that Karzai and Clinton “pledged to continue working together in a spirit of partnership”. But the Obama administration scrapped a planned Karzai visit to Washington last month after he gave himself full control over the electoral commission. In another snub to the United States, he then invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Afghanistan.

The Afghan leader drew fierce global condemnation for his speech on Thursday.

“There was fraud in presidential and provincial council elections – no doubt that there was a very widespread fraud, very widespread,” Karzai told Afghan election commission workers in Kabul.

“But Afghans did not do this fraud. The foreigners did this fraud,” he added, accusing other countries of interfering in his country’s domestic affairs.

He also claimed that such moves risked the 126,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan being seen as “invaders” – terminology used by the Taliban – and the nine-year insurgency as “a national resistance”. Afghan analysts suggested Karzai had lost control after being criticised by Obama and angered by the Afghan parliament, and noted the statements could signal a shift in foreign policy.

Afghan soldiers killed

German troops based in north Afghanistan mistakenly killed at least five Afghan soldiers, NATO forces said on Saturday, hours after the Germans lost three of their own soldiers in a gunfight with insurgents, Reuters reported.

A statement from NATO said that on Friday evening a unit of German soldiers was approached by two unmarked civilian vehicles which failed to stop when troops signalled them “using a variety of methods” in the northern province of Kunduz.

“The force eventually fired on the vehicles killing at least five Afghan soldiers … Initial reports indicate that the two civilian cars were part of an Afghan national army patrol en route to Kunduz,” NATO-led forces said in a statement.

A NATO spokesman later said it was unclear if the vehicles were civilian and the alliance was investigating the matter.

Hours before the incident, three German soldiers were killed in a gunfight with insurgents. The unit of German troops that killed the Afghan soldiers were on their way to the scene of that gunfight, when they came across the Afghan soldiers, NATO said.

Earlier, the governor of Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar, said he had been to a hospital in the province and saw the bodies of six Afghan soldiers who had been killed in the incident, which happened near Char Dara district.

Opinion polls show most Germans oppose Berlin’s involvement in the Afghan war.

Opposition spiked after a German-ordered US air strike in a village in Kunduz in September killed scores of people, at least 30 of them civilians according to the Afghan government, the deadliest incident involving German troops since World War II.

Germany is the third-largest NATO contributor to the war with some 4,300 troops in Afghanistan, most in northern Kunduz where Taliban attacks and strength have increased over the past year. Germany’s parliament has agreed to send a further 850 soldiers.

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NATO Seeks Russian Help in Afghanistan

October 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By David Brunnstrom

2009-10-07T135141Z_148940011_GM1E5A71OQP01_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN

An Afghan man heads home at the end of a day’s work in Kabul October 7, 2009.

REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO urged Russia on Wednesday to expand its role in Afghanistan, including by equipping and training Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban.

While reiterating a call on European allies to step up their commitments in the country as the United States weighs a further boost in forces, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it was also in Russia’s interests to do more.

He said agreements allowing transit of military supplies to Afghanistan via Russia could be expanded.

“Next, Russia could provide equipment for the Afghan security forces. Thirdly, Russia could provide training. These are just some examples. I think we should explore in a joint effort how we could further Russian engagement,” Rasmussen said.

“I know from the Russians that they are interested in a stronger engagement and we have to find ways and means because basically Afghanistan is one of the areas in which we share interests with Russia,” he told a monthly news conference.

Russia has said it fully backs U.S.-led efforts against the Taliban although it would not send its own soldiers to fight in the country where Moscow lost a 10-year war in the 1980s.

Rasmussen said he was pleased by the improvement in relations between NATO and Russia since a freeze imposed by the alliance after last year’s war between Georgia and Russia, even if there were still “fundamental areas on which we disagree.”

“But we can create a web of cooperation that is strong enough to survive these differences. We have to make NATO-Russia cooperation too good to lose,” he said.

EU CHIDED ON POLICE TRAINING

Rasmussen again called on European NATO allies to step up commitments in Afghanistan, chiding them for failing to provide all the 400 police trainers they had promised. “It is a bit embarrassing,” he said. “I would encourage all members of the European Union to do their utmost to ensure full deployment.”

Rasmussen urged the Netherlands to reconsider plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year, asking them to stay and help train Afghan forces.

“I would regret a Dutch withdrawal,” he said. “We are at a critical juncture, where there should be no doubt about our firm commitment. Any such doubts will simply play into the hands of those who want us to fail … we need all allies contributing.”

Rasmussen said it was essential there was a fair balance between the contributions of the United States and its partners, and for that non-U.S. allies needed to do more. He said this was important not just for Afghanistan but for the future of NATO.

“I am afraid many in the U.S. will wonder about Europe as a real partner in security,” he said. “That would be damaging over the long term for NATO and the transatlantic relationship.”

NATO is looking to an expanded effort to beef up the Afghan police and army as the route to eventual withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, where they have been since toppling the Taliban after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

There are more than 100,000 foreign troops in the country, but they have struggled to contain a widening Islamist insurgency while mounting casualties have made the mission increasingly unpopular with Western public opinion.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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