|Asia News Digest
Afghan Drugs: A $150 Billion International Business
July 13 (EIRNS)Zaid Hamid, security expert and head of the Pakistani think-tank, BrassTacks, told Turkish news agency Adnkronos International (AKI), that several players were involved in the game of drug trafficking, and that the collusion of Afghan officials was crucial. "The total drug economy of Afghanistan is estimated to be $150 billion out of which only $1 billion returns to Afghanistan," Hamid told AKI. "The rest is laundered through the international banking system which indicates that several other players are involved in the game of drug trafficking and the receipts to the Afghan insurgency are very small."
Hamid said that Russian and Chinese anti-narcotics forces had recently told their colleagues in Pakistan that the flow of drugs from Afghanistan into their respective countries had reached a crisis. "They are facing a crisis-like situation. The figures provided to Pakistan suggested the majority of the drug smuggling is taking place through northern corridors" a non-Taliban area.
"These routes linked Afghanistan to Central Asian states, Afghanistan to Russia and from the Afghan province of Badakshan to Tajikistan and to China. The third route is coming from Afghanistan to Pakistan to the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates) through the Arabian Sea," Hamid said.
Has Britain Reactivated the Independent Kashmir Agenda?
July 18 (EIRNS)Having met with a great deal of success in energizing a separatist movement, with the help of a faction of Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), in the western wing of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, there are reasons to suspect that another agenda of the British for the Subcontinentan independent Kashmirhas also been re-activated. In this effort the Pakistani ISI has extended a helping hand. New Delhi and Islamabad launched a peace process in 2004 to resolve all pending disputes, including the one on Kashmir, but with the weakening of Islamabad's authority, due to the Afghan War and the MI6-ISI led efforts to break up Pakistan, the peace process has lost its way.
Twenty people, including three security personnel, were injured by a blast at a busy bus station in Indian-administered Kashmir, police said on July 18. The incident took place in the town of Banihal, about 120 kilometers (74 miles) south of Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, a police spokesman said.
Meanwhile, on July 18, veteran Kashmiri leader and British asset, Syed Ali Gilani said that Kashmiri Muslims will continue their freedom struggle against India at all costs, whether Pakistan supports them or not. The Kashmiris have said they will not accept any solution to the dispute without having the right to self-determination as guaranteed by UN resolutions.
Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Situation Worsens
July 18 (EIRNS)On July 17, the front person of the British MI6-Pakistani ISI-led efforts to create an independent nation as a buffer between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and leader of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), Baitullah Mehsud, told a provincial government to resign within five days or "prepare to face the consequences".
"The NWFP government is not sincere about restoring peace; rather it is responsible for lawlessness in the tribal areas, Hangu and Swat, TTP spokesman Maulvi Umar quoted Baitullah as saying on July 17. The TTP spokesman told the Pakistani daily The Dawn that the Taliban reserved the right to take action against the provincial government if it did not resign in five days.
At the same time, Pakistan's Aaj TV said that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has warned that the U.S. can conduct unilateral strikes inside Pakistan if it [Pakistan] does not take measures to stop Taliban activities. It is widely acknowledged that if the U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan deal with Pakistan as an enemy, the entire region will become engaged in wide ranging conflict.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is scheduled to visit Washington next week. While there is no doubt that border violations and build-up of NATO forces along the frontier will be discussed with U.S. authorities during the Prime Minister's visit, some observers believe that President Bush will read him riot act, and ask him to allow U.S./NATO-led attacks inside Pakistan.
Karzai Accuses ISI of Role in Kabul Terrorism
July 16 (EIRNS)Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused the Pakistani ISI of involvement in the recent terror attacks in Afghanistan, including on the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Karzai made the statement July 14, the same day that Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan had said that India has "pretty good evidence" of ISI involvement in the bombing. Karzai said that the attacks in Afghanistan were "carried out by the intelligence administration of Pakistan, its military intelligence institutions." The Press Trust of India reports today that cable TV operators in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province are now blocking Afghan channels, including the state-run TV, after Karzai's statement. The Afghan channels are watched by the some 2 million Afghan refugees in the NWFP.
President George Bush said that the U.S. will "investigate" Karzai's allegations about the ISI. "First of all, we'll investigate his charge and we'll work with his service ... to get to the bottom of his allegation," Bush told reporters in Washington.
Pakistani Military 'Ready for Anything'
July 16 (EIRNS)The independent Pakistan Daily Times today reported that the Pakistan Army was gearing up for "any eventuality" in the Northwest Frontier Province, amidst reports that hundreds of NATO troops had been airlifted to the region and are massing on the border from Afghanistan. The Daily Times published a detailed map of the area, showing the point of the reported NATO buildup.
The daily quotes "officials" saying that, "The coalition troops have started to strengthen their positions after setting up camp in the border areas adjacent to the Pak-Afghan border and U.S. helicopters have been spotted hovering over target areas as support." It also quotes villagers who had seen helicopters transporting NATO troops and equipment. The Daily Times cites officials who report that the Pakistan Army deployed along the Pak-Afghan border has been placed on high alert. However, NATO spokesmen said that there is no question of troops entering Pakistan. "Our mandate stops at the border," Capt. Mike Finney said, saying there is some "extra activity" on the border after the deadly battle on July 13.
More Basic Production Cutbacks in China and Japan
July 14 (EIRNS)China has now ordered zinc and lead smelters to cut output by 10%, as they did with aluminum last week. This is intended to save energy and avoid shortages, especially through the Olympics, which starts early August and is to last through September. China is the largest producer of these metals.
In Japan, chemical makers are reducing output to stop a drop in profits caused by the out-of-control crude oil prices. Mitsui Chemicals, which has already closed one of three plants that makes the raw material for synthetic fiber, has decided to suspend operations at another one intermittently for a total drop in production of 40%. Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. has cut the production of vinyl chloride by 305. And, Asahi Chemical has cut the production of polyethylene resin used in plastic bags by 5%.