|Asia News Digest
Pakistan: Will Interference Never Stop?
Feb. 22 (EIRNS)Despite the fact that Washington's ruthless use of Islamabad in its phony "war on terror" has brought Pakistan to the verge of civil war, and a possible breakup, reports indicate that Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari was brought under full court pressure by the "experts" at Foggy Bottom not to form a coalition with the PML (N), the second-largest winner in the Feb. 18 elections, and, instead, to align with President Pervez Musharraf's party, the PML (Q) and the coalition of six Islamist parties, the MMA. The PML(Q) and MMA, the ruling coalition, were crushed in the last election, losing at least 120 of the 160-odd seats they previously held.
The PPP won the largest number of seats, and the latest reports indicate that it has withstood U.S. pressure and is forming a coalition government with the PML (N) as its main partner.
The reason behind the U.S. pressure on the PPP is obvious: PML (N) chief Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in a coup by General Musharraf in 1999, is the most vocal opponent of the U.S. armed presence in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), bordering Afghanistan. The FATA is where a large number of anti-U.S. militants are based, and the Pakistani Army is most unwilling to fight its own people.
In addition, Sharif had questioned the U.S. usage of Pakistan's Karachi port for bringing in weapons, among other requirements, for its own troops and the NATO, who are fighting and killing Afghans. (See InDepth for more.)
Thailand: Lesson on How To Destroy Food Production
Feb. 20 (EIRNS)Thailand has hitherto been characterized by its abundant food supply. People in the rural area did not have much, but they could eat. Now, it seems the attempt to resolve the energy shortfall in the country, will hurt the agricultural community deeply.
Thailand imports oil and gas. Since Feb. 1, it has imposed a law whereby diesel vehicles are required to run on a blend that includes 2% biodiesel, which comes from palm oilan agricultural productand is considering raising that to 5% within five years. This has sent prices for palm oil soaring, leading to shortages of the commodity, which is widely used for cooking by the poor, and in the food industry. When producers and consumers demanded a ban on export of Thai palm oil, the Commerce Ministry allowed a one-time import of 30,000 tons to boost supplies until March, when production enters its peak season. It also allowed a four baht increase in cooking oil prices, to 47.60 baht ($1.44) per liter. A liter of cooking oil cost 36.32 baht in December 2007, up from 28.05 one year earlier.
But, the "experts" have an answer to that, too. Apichart Jongskul, head of the government's office of agricultural economics, said Thailand is planning a 16% increase this year in land use to cultivate palm oil, expanding plantations to cover 1.4 million acres (566,000 hectares). By 2012, that will grow to 2.2 million acres (890,000 hectares). Apichart also pointed out that 2.2 million acres of palm oil cultivation would only meet Thailand's domestic cooking oil demand, and warned that the country would have to grow even more palm oil to have all diesel vehicles meet the 5% requirement.
Muslim Rebel Cleric Calls for Referendum in Thailand
Feb. 23 (EIRNS)A Muslim rebel cleric, Lukman B. Lima, who heads the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) and lives in exile in Sweden, has urged the newly elected Thai premier, Samak Sundaravej, to allow a referendum on the autonomy of a southern Muslim state. This could very well be fallout from Kosovo's declaration of independence. "If, in a referendum sanctioned by Bangkok, Pattani chooses independence, there will be one less border in the world marked by endemic conflict," Lima said.
Past governments have failed to quell the insurgency, despite the presence of 40,000 troops and police officers in the region. Lukman's organization is one of several groups involved in a violent struggle for independence in the south. More than 2,900 people have died since violence flared in 2004. Drive-by shootings and small-scale bombings occur almost daily.
Meanwhile, Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, the 40-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), has said it will invite religious leaders from Kosovo to the third International Conference of Islamic Scholars, to be held in Jakarta in July. NU Chairman Hasyim Muzadi stated that the NU welcomed the creation of the new republic, which, he said, is the only one in Western Europe with a predominantly Muslim population.
Pakistan's Gul: NATO Will Be Defeated in Afghanistan
Feb. 20 (EIRNS)Close to the CIA and MI6 when Washington and London were involved in handing out a military defeat to the Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, former Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul has now switched to the other side, but his ear is still close to the ground and his eyes as sharp as ever. He told Canadian CBC-TV, in a Feb. 13 interview, that the Iraq and Afghanistan crises cannot be solved by the use of force, and that policymakers from the West should start considering political solutions.
"Musharraf is absolutely right when he says, 'Look, we have been defeated, we can't do anything more.' Just like the Russians who used 120,000 troops for over a decade in Afghanistan, Pakistan now has deployed 80,000 troops while the Western countries have contributed 31,000 (including Canada's 2,500). There is nothing more that NATO or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or the Americans can do in Afghanistan. NATO will be defeated," he said.
Gul termed the bombing of a madrassa (Islamic religious school) by U.S. forces, "a watershed, because this was done by the Americans, there were no terrorists there. Nobody here is surprised that the U.S. was behind it."
U.S. Envoy Hill, North Korea Counter Cheney Sabotage
Feb. 20 (EIRNS)Christopher Hill, the head U.S. negotiator to the Six Party Talks on Korea, met with North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan in Beijing yesterday, announcing afterwards that the North is trying to show that the Pakistani equipment it had purchased was not for uranium enrichment, and "wanted to make clear that they are not at present having any nuclear cooperation with any other country, and they will not in the future." The most recent effort by the Cheneyacs in the U.S. Administration to undermine a peaceful settlement in Korea, has been the demand that the North "come clean" on their uranium enrichment program, which the Bush Administration claims they know exists, because it has evidence of sales from Pakistan's A.Q. Khan, who has admitted to other illegal international nuclear sales.
Hill told the press, "We know the activities have existed," but as the North "takes steps to show us that they are not using the equipment for uranium enrichment, those will be considered positive steps."
Sources told EIR that Hill read the transcripts of the 2002 talks between his predecessor, James Kelly, and the North Koreans, in which, supposedly, the North admitted to having an enrichment program (in addition to the plutonium program they had at the Yongbyon nuclear facility); he concluded that the North had not, in fact, admitted to such a program.