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Banned Pakistani Journalists Appear on Air

On November 3, 2007, Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule and deposed the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. He also effectively deposed a set of independent television journalists, two of whom are Nusrat Javed and Mushtaq Minhas. The pair hosted a debate and call-in show, Bolta Pakistan (Pakistan Speaks), that clearly was disliked by Musharraf & Co.

Javed had not appeared on television till last week, when he was a guest on Aaj Television’s [not] Live with Talat [Hussain]. The satellite transmission of AAJ TV was suspended for a few hours upon Javed appearing.

Today, Live with Talat is broadcasting live again with none other than Nusrat Javed and Mushtaq Minhas as guests. The program’s audio faded several times during the show’s first half, including once when Javed was speaking. My suspicions were confirmed when, in the show’s second half, Talat made an articulate appeal to Pakistan’s cable operators to stop interfering with the voice of Javed, who noted that the people of Pakistan, ironically, were given their right to voice themselves in Monday’s elections, but he’s still being gagged.

Pakistan’s private media, particularly Aaj TV, will continue to push back for a restoration of press freedoms as they sense the tide turning against Musharraf.

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Baitullah Mehsud’s First Television Interview

Ahmad Zaidan, al-Jazeera’s Islamabad bureau chief, interviewed Baitullah Mehsud in December. The video, provided above, was aired on the station a few days ago. It’s Mehsud’s first television interview.

The leader of Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) speaks in Pashto (translated by AJ into Arabic) while Zaidan presents the questions in Arabic.

[Note: I am also an Arabic speaker.]

Some key points are below.

On the Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan

  • The alliance took so long to form because of several challenges, including the assistance needed by the Arabs and Uzbeks and the attempts of the Pakistani government to divide the population. The biggest losers of the Taliban alliance, says Mehsud, will be Washington, Britain, and the other countries of disbelief.

Relations with the original Taliban and al-Qaeda

  • He and his group members have given their bayah, or oath of allegiance, to Mullah Omar, the amir ul mumineen. Omar leads not only Afghanistan, but the entire Muslim world. The Muslims, even in America, are “our” brothers.
  • Skirts issue of relations with AQ, particularly bin Laden and Zawahiri. Simply says a Muslim is a brother of a Muslim. Does mention that Zarqawi was among Mehsud & Co. prior to heading to Iraq.

Goals

  • First priority is the conducting of a defensive jihad. He says the Pakistani army attacks their homes on the orders of George W. Bush. Would like Pakistani forces out b/c of their displayed ‘barbarism’.
  • Secondary goal is the application of Islamic law throughout Pakistan. The movement will not just be in the northwest, but spread throughout Pakistan into Punjab and Sindh.

The Pakistani Army

  • It plays the different tribes and regions off of one another. In area X it is in peace talks or has a truce in place, and then in area Y it is in a state of war. Then the roles change, and it is in combat against area X and talking peace with area Y. He calls this a “policy of deception.”
  • The Pakistani army’s war in the tribal areas is an American war. He quotes the Qur’anic prohibition on taking Jews and Christians (5:51) as one’s protectors several times.
  • Musharraf is a slave of Bush, the West, and the disbelievers. He’s declared a war against them and the Arab and Uzbek migrants, who have come to defend Islam and Pakistan, under American pressure. He submitted them to the Americans, killed women and children.

Nuclear Weapons

  • Islam doesn’t permit the killing of women and children, which nukes would inevitably do. Don’t have thoughts about the use of nuclear weapons. America killed innocents in Japan–Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fear right now is the use of American bombs against the Muslims as they used against the Japanese. Says, we fear the American bombs, not the Pakistani bombs. At least the Pakistani bombs are controlled by Muslims.

Beyond Pakistan

  • “Yes, we send and will send our boys into Afghanistan for jihad.”
  • Denied links to India, Iran, etc. Says his successes are due to the grace of God.  Skirts issue of funding source.  Says their arsenal comes from booty taken from opponents.
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Filling in the Blanks: Nat_____ Recon_________

Let’s Continue Our Conversation…in London
Shahbaz Sharif, president of the Muslim League-Nawaz, tells BBC Urdu that “If Musharraf becomes neutral and promises to hold the polls in a free and fair manner, talks can be held with him.” This is a major break with precedent. Previously the Sharif brothers have publicly ruled out any compromise with Musharraf.

It’s unclear whether Shahbaz’s statement has his brother’s endorsement, though this is highly likely. It could be that Shahbaz is playing good cop, while Nawaz plays bad cop. Additionally, Shahbaz is seen as more conciliatory than his older brother, which would provide Nawaz with some cover (i.e. creating the impression that his brother talked him down from the ledge). A less likely alternative is that Musharraf could be successfully playing one Sharif brother off of the other by offering Shahbaz, not Nawaz, a major position in the national unity government (perhaps prime minister).

Shahbaz has extended his stay in London, where he’ll meet with retired Brigadier Niaz Ahmed (they met in Islamabad over a week ago) and could meet with Pervez Musharraf, who has begun a four nation tour of Europe.

Musharraf will eventually make his way to London, but there are no meetings with government officials slated. Gordon Brown is currently in India, where he called for New Delhi’s addition to the UN Security Council. Musharraf could be avoiding Brown’s snub of Pakistan, but his trip is also designed to temper European opposition. Musharraf will also meet Niaz Ahmed. Prior to leaving Pakistan, Musharraf met with the emir of Abu Dhabi on Saturday. The emirate played host to a Bhutto-Musharraf meeting in July.

Zardari and Malik Qayyum Meet in Dubai
National reconciliation talks must, apparently, occur outside of Pakistan, and so Attorney General Malik Qayyum met with Asif Ali Zardari in Dubai on Saturday. Both left Pakistan in a curiously furtive fashion. The PPP has publicly remained open to dealing with Musharraf after the elections and strongly resist the idea of a national reconciliation government prior to the elections, as they’d delay the polls.

It’s a positive development if Musharraf is negotiating with both the Sharifs and Zardari in earnest. If he’s playing them off of each other, then Musharraf is playing with fire.

Opposition Tours the U.S.
Several opposition figures are on a tour of the United States. Sherry Rehman and Javaid Laghari, both of the People’s Party, will be speaking at the Brookings Institution tomorrow. Imran Khan will be on a multi-city tour, speaking at organizations such as Amnesty International and CSIS and in Pakistani community events, which seem to be fund raisers for his Tehreek-e Insaaf Party.

Fazlur Rahman: Saudi Challo
Maulana Fazlur Rahman was noticeably absent from the public since the news reporting serious threats against him. And he’s done what he seems to do often in challenging moments, go to Saudi Arabia.

Geo Back
Earlier last week, Talat Hussain returned to AAJ television to host his weeknightly public affairs program. In his first show back on air, Talat said he’s back with no strings attached. But it seems as if the show (Live with Talat) is now taped, not live (in accordance with the new media control rules). There is also little mention of the judiciary issue. Nonetheless, the show remains engaging and informative.

GEO News also returned to the air waves today sans their most popular political talk show hosts, Hamid Mir and Shahid Masood. Kashif Abbasi, another prominent television journalist, remains off of ARY One World.

Back to the Barracks
Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani has recalled a number of active military officers from cushy positions within the civilian bureaucracy. This follows his earlier move barring senior officers from meeting with politicians.

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Editor:

Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

For Media and Consulting Inquiries:
E-mail // Tel: +1(202) 713-5897

On Twitter:
@PakistanPolicy

On the Radio:
Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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