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Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: Pakistan

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Jimmy Orr, the Los Angeles Times managing editor in charge of, discussed our online comments and the Facebook system in a March entry to the Readers' Representative Journal.

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-- The Foreign Staff of the Los Angeles Times

PAKISTAN: Osama bin Laden's wife questioned, scrutinized in wake of raid

Lkq0renc Amal Sadah, 29, became Osama bin Laden's fifth wife a year before the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, according to CNN. The Yemeni bride was 18; the Al Qaeda leader was 43.

Sheikh Rashed Mohammed Saeed Ismail, an Al Qaeda leader in Yemen, told the Yemen Post in 2008 that he arranged the marriage.

“I was the match-maker for his wife Amal al-Sadah, who was one of my students," Ismail said.

He said he accompanied the young bride-to-be to Afghanistan in July 2000.

Last year, Ismail described Sadah to journalist Hala Jaber as pious.

“Even at her young age, she was religious and spiritual enough, and believed in the things that Bin Laden -- a very religious, pious and spiritual man -- believed in," he said.

Continue reading »

EGYPT: Islamic leader condemns Osama bin Laden's sea burial

The head of Cairo's Al Azhar institution, the most influential seat of Sunni Muslim learning, said that the burial of Osama bin Laden at sea was a violation of Islamic tradition.

The action “runs contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs," Sheik Ahmed Tayeb was quoted as saying by Associated Press.

The customary Muslim practice is to place the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Sea burials are permitted only when death occurs on a ship, and the body cannot be quickly brought to shore, religious scholars said.

U.S. officials said a burial at sea was chosen after Bin Laden was killed in a firefight in Pakistan because no country would accept the remains. They said Muslim tradition was followed, with the body washed, wrapped in a white sheet and buried within 24 hours.

— Alexandra Zavis


Osama bin Laden: From privilege to pariah

Timeline of Bin Laden raid

Photos: Death of Bin Laden

Full coverage of Bin Laden death

PAKISTAN: Short on natural gas, locals are shivering and angry


Pakistan always seems to be short of something. Not long ago, a dearth of flour and sugar sent prices for those staples sky high. Farm fields parched by the country's severe water-supply shortage were submerged and silted over in last summer's catastrophic floods, but with floodwaters receding, the water-supply crisis looms once more. Electricity is always in short supply, so much so that rolling blackouts, known here as "loadshedding," are a daily scourge during the summer that cripples the economy.

In winter, Pakistanis cope with a different, though equally irksome, brand of loadshedding. The country relies on natural gas to heat homes and offices. When natural-gas supplies dwindle, the government resorts to rationing gas to equitably distribute the hardship of no heat and no fuel for cooking. This winter, episodes of gas loadshedding have been more frequent and have lasted longer than in years past.

As a result, Pakistanis rich and poor have been collectively shivering -- and getting increasingly rankled. In the capital, Islamabad, the average low temperature in January is 36 degrees. It's not Siberia, but without heat, the air inside households can get pretty frosty. Pakistanis have been flocking to appliance stores to snatch up electric heaters, but those heaters can't match the heat produced by the gas heaters relied on by most Pakistani families.

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AFGHANISTAN, IRAN: Pressure mounts in row over fuel shipments


As the deadlock between Iran and Afghanistan over fuel imports enters its second month, pressure is mounting in Kabul to sever economic relations with Iran unless it eases its clampdown on fuel tankers attempting to cross into the country.

Iran claims it is holding up the shipments as it investigates reports that the fuel crossing its border is used by North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops fighting in Afghanistan, a claim Kabul denies.

Afghanistan is upset over the blocked shipments, which has led to skyrocketing energy prices across Afghanistan.

Some have pointed out that the clampdown coincided with the Afghan president signing the agreement to build the American-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, otherwise known as TAPI, of which Iran was left out.

Continue reading »

PAKISTAN: Trucks supplying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan torched


The roads connecting Pakistan to Afghanistan continue to be dangerous as the Taliban tries to hamper supply lines for United States-led forces.  

On Saturday in the northwestern city of Peshawar, insurgents didn't even wait for the supply trucks to leave the depot.  Two dozen gunmen reportedly torched at least eight trucks used to supply fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan, police said.

No casualties were reported.

-- Los Angeles Times

Photo: Owners stand next to their trucks, used for supplying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan, after they were attacked in the outskirts of Peshawar. Credit: Fayaz Aziz / Reuters

PAKISTAN: Fatima Bhutto on her memoir, 'Songs of Blood and Sword'

Fatima and her father

We recently interviewed Fatima Bhutto about her new memoir, “Songs of Blood and Sword.”

In the book, Bhutto traces her late father’s life and the history of her political family in Pakistan.

In two podcasts, we talked with her about the book, her research, her late aunt Benazir -- the  first female prime minister of Pakistan -- Muslim women in politics, and the massive flooding that Pakistan faces now.

Check out the full interview here: Fatima Bhutto's love-hate affair with her native Pakistan.

Pacific Time podcastListen to the podcasts here:

Podcast: Fatima Bhutto on "Songs of Blood and Sword"

Podcast: Fatima Bhutto on Pakistan's floods

-- Lori Kozlowski

 Photo (left): Author Fatima Bhutto. Credit: Benjamin Loyseau. Photo (right): Fatima writes, “Papa and I in Geneva.  He had broken his arm and I insisted on being fitted with a cast too, which I wore until his came off.” Credit: Fatima Bhutto.

PAKISTAN: Zardari's Katrina

The Pakistani media are calling it "Zardari's Katrina."

President Asif Ali Zardari has become the lightning rod for the Pakistani public's fury with the government's handling of catastrophic floods that so far have killed 1,500 people across Pakistan, left hundreds of thousands homeless and ravaged an already fragile economy. Pakistanis from the Swat Valley in the north to submerged villages along the Indus River in southern Pakistan have criticized the government's relief efforts as slow and disorganized.

As the country's chief executive, Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani has the responsibility of overseeing rescue and relief efforts. But it's Zardari who has been singled out as the poster child for flood relief mismanagement. The reason? As floodwaters were washing away whole villages and obliterating roads, bridges, hospitals and schools in northwest Pakistan, Zardari went ahead with a planned trip to Europe, where he met with French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Paris and later headed to London to patch up relations with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had recently enraged Pakistanis by accusing them of not doing enough in the fight against terrorism.

Continue reading »

PAKISTAN: Christian brothers slain in another attack on a minority


Two brothers, members of Pakistan’s beleaguered Christian minority, walked out of the Faisalabad courthouse in shackles and escorted by a local police officer. In seconds, two gunmen opened fire on the brothers, killing them and seriously wounding the officer.

The July 19 slayings of Rashid and Sajjad Emmanuel were the latest in a long line of attacks on Pakistan’s religious and ethnic minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Shia Muslims, Ahmadis and Sikhs. In the case of Christians, the common link often is the country’s controversial blasphemy law, which makes it a crime to make derogatory remarks about Islam or desecrate the Koran.

In the past, false allegations of blasphemy-law violations have been lodged against Christians; the allegations were then used by extremist groups to justify attacking the Christian community. Pakistanis locked in land or business disputes with Christians often file false blasphemy-law cases as a means of score-settling.

Continue reading »

IRAN: In televised appearance, rebel leader confirms Tehran hardliners' narrative of U.S. support for opposition

Three days after he was allegedly captured by Iranians in a still cloudy operation, Baluchi rebel leader Abdulmalek Rigi was shown on Iranian television and appeared to confess to ties to the Obama administration.

Rigi, 27-year-old leader of Jundallah, the ethnic Baluchi separatist group, appeared in good health, but at times seemed to be reading his confession, which lacked any dates or names of individual Americans he was supposedly in touch with through an unnamed third person.

The confession neatly matched the narrative touted by Iran's hard-liners, who have long alleged that the United States has been covertly funding groups seeking to undermine the Islamic Republic.

"He came and said that they have asked for a meeting," Rigi said. "'Come and cooperate with us and we will put financial resources at your disposal. We will supply you with military facilities and arms and ammunition and we will also give you a base in Afghanistan on the border with Iran."

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IRAN, PAKISTAN: Death of consular official in Peshawar raises stakes


He was leaving his home in Peshawar on his way to work this morning. That's when the motorcycles zipped by. A hail of gunfire ensued. Left behind by the gunmen were shell casings and the bullet-riddled body of Abul Hassan Jaffry, an employee at Iran's consulate in Peshawar.

The Pakistani citizen, the consul's public affairs chief, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Jaffry was shot at least four times. Local police in Peshawar said no one spotted the attackers, who, according to witnesses, disappeared on their motorcycles after opening fire on Jaffry. 

Continue reading »

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