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Pakistan

The Takeaway

An American Drone Strike Kills 50 in Pakistan

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A U.S. drone killed more than 50 people in missile strikes on a Taliban stronghold area of Pakistan. The strike happened in South Waziristan, where the people were attending the funeral of a militant commander who had been killed in an earlier strike. The attack came as the Pakistani army prepared a new offensive in the area. We turn to Rob Watson, the BBC's defense correspondent, for more of the story.

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The Takeaway

In Pakistan, a Secret Hostage Makes His Escape

Monday, June 22, 2009

In Pakistan on Friday, a hostage made an extraordinary escape from his Taliban captors. The hostage was a reporter for our partner The New York Times. David Rohde, a Pulitzer Prize winner, had been held by the Taliban since last November, when he was captured outside Kabul while working on a book about the region. On Friday, Mr. Rohde and an Afghan journalist being held with him climbed over a wall on the second floor of a compound in North Waziristan; their driver, also a prisoner, did not escape. If you didn't know that David Rohde was being held hostage, you aren't alone: The New York Times decided to keep it secret in an effort to protect Mr. Rohde. Bill Keller is the executive editor of The New York Times, and he joins us.

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The Takeaway

Pakistani-Americans Keeping an Eye on the Swat Valley

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pakistan's Swat Valley has gone from a popular summer vacation destination to a place of horror. An estimated two million people have been displaced as the Pakistani army battles Taliban militants in Swat, while Pakistani immigrants in America watch the situation anxiously. The Takeaway is taking the pulse of the Pakistani-American community with Mohammed Razvi. He’s the Executive Director of the Council of People’s Organization, a nonprofit organization serving the South Asian Community.

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The Takeaway

Taking on the Taliban

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Yesterday a suicide bombing at a luxury hotel in northwestern Pakistan killed 11 people in what the U.N. condemned as a "heinous terrorist attack." In response to such acts, Pakistani villagers are taking up arms against the Taliban in what's being described as a grassroots rebellion. Yesterday the Pakistani army launched a major offensive to support the grassroots rebellion. Joining us now from Pakistan is Chris Morris, the BBC's South Asia correspondent Islamabad who has been covering this ongoing fight.

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The Takeaway

Weapons of Mass Instruction: The Madrassa Myth

Monday, June 08, 2009

With Pakistan’s public education in shambles, many families struggle to find decent schools for their children. One option is the local madrassa, or religious school. Some Westerners see these schools as incubators of Islamic extremists, or so-called “weapons of mass instruction.” Our next guest argues that the problem is not one of religious education but of law enforcement, and that U.S. money would be better spent on revamping the more globally-minded private school system. Christine Fair is a senior political scientist at the RAND corporation and an expert in Pakistan security issues. She co-wrote an article about madrassas in this month's Foreign Policy.

""We don't want to give the illusion that all madrassas are innocent, but we also want to say very clearly that they're a very small number. And of that small number, a smaller number yet are actually involved in the production of terrorism."
— Christine Fair of the RAND Corporation on Pakistani madrassas.

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The Takeaway

Violence in Pakistan

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A huge explosion outside a police building in the Pakistani city of Lahore has killed at least 23 people and injured about 250. Officials said gunmen opened fire from a car which drove up to the building, near the provincial headquarters of Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the ISI. After police returned fire, the car exploded, damaging buildings over a wide radius. Rescue workers are digging through the rubble for survivors. While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Taliban militants have threatened retaliation for the government's current offensive in the northwest of the country. For more, we turn to Rob Watson, defense correspondent for the BBC World Service, who is following the story.

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The Takeaway

Inside a Pakistani Madrassa

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why is the Taliban resurgent in Pakistan? Some observers point to the influence of the madrassa, or Islamic religious school, as a factor in developing Islamic radicals. Javed Soomro, a senior producer for the BBC's Urdu Service, has heard from people who say a madrassa is simply a religious school and those who see them as incubators for terrorists. He decided to see for himself, so he got permission to spend two weeks at the largest madrassa in Pakistan’s capital, Karachi. He joins The Takeaway with his view from the inside.

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The Takeaway

Pakistan: Life in the Refugee Camps

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday announced more than $100 million in aid to help with the refugee situation in Pakistan. Some two million people have been displaced by anti-Taliban fighting in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, according to the BBC. The government has encouraged refugees to return to their homes and lifted curfews in order to help them, but continuing artillery fire has kept the refugees pinned down. The Takeaway talks with the BBC’s Owen Bennett-Jones in Pakistan, who has interviewed some of the displaced people in the camps.

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The Takeaway

Trying to Help Pakistani Refugees

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thousands of people are fleeing the SWAT valley in northwest Pakistan today. The government temporarily lifted a curfew to allow the civilians to flee the intense fighting between government troops and Taliban militants. Thousands of internally displaced civilians — as many as 800,000, says the U.N.— have been living in makeshift refugee camps, where reports say that conditions are harsh. To get the latest on this ongoing crisis, we're joined by Nazes Afroz, South Asia Editor at our partners the BBC.

Our partners at the BBC have a revealing map of the Pakistan conflict. Research by the BBC into the growing strength of Taliban militants in north-western Pakistan shows that only around one-third of the area remains under full government control.

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The Takeaway

Secret Intel: Pakistan's New Era in Drone Warfare

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The LA Times reported this week that the U.S. and Pakistan are beginning a new joint operation that allows Pakistan to get substantial control over U.S. drone targets, flight routes, and air strikes. The U.S. military disputed many of those claims but conceded that for the first time, it's providing Pakistan with a broad array of surveillance information collected by American drones flying along Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Is this a new era of military cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan? Will it last? To help answer these questions, The Takeaway is joined byChristine Fair, senior political scientist for the RAND Corporation.
"We have this idea that it's only the sophisticated Americans that have this technology, but the reality is anyone can stick a camera on a plane and then do something bad with that information."
—Christine Fair, senior political scientist for RAND corporation, on drone technology

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The Takeaway

In Pakistan, Thousands of New Refugees

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thousands of Pakistanis are fleeing the Swat valley, where the government is intensifying its fight against Taliban militants. The fighting has displaced tens of thousands of civilians who have fled the embattled areas and officials are struggling to deal with the refugee crisis. More civilians took advantage of the lifting of a curfew in parts of the valley on Sunday to escape the fighting and join those already flooding refugee camps. For more we turn to the BBC's reporter in Islamabad Mark Dummett.

To see the BBC's report on the refugee situation in Pakistan, click here.

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The Takeaway

Between the Taliban and A Hard Place

Friday, May 08, 2009

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis are fleeing clashes between Taliban militants and the army, adding a humanitarian crisis to the list of daunting challenges facing the nation. While the U.S. has praised the added military forces fighting Taliban militants in the Swat Valley and Buner province bordering Islamabad, the International Committee of the Red Cross said fighting had cut access to places where civilians were most in need. The Takeaway speaks with Ron Redmond, chief spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Mark Dummit, a BBC reporter in Islamabad, who are monitoring the situation.
"Our main concern is that the people who were displaced, uprooted or who wish to flee are able to get to safety and get the assistance that they need."
—Ron Redmond of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Pakistanis fleeing the Swat Valley

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The Takeaway

Pakistan Takes on the Taliban

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Yesterday, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari met with President Barack Obama and Afghani President Hamid Karzai at the White House, determined to convey his commitment to fighting the Taliban and terrorism. Today President Zardari appeared to deliver on his promise. Pakistan began large-scale attacks against Taliban militants in the Swat Valley and the area surrounding Islamabad. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing the region to escape the conflict.

To discuss the implications of Zardari's stand, joining The Takeaway is Sherry Rehman, the former Information Minister under Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Mira Kamdar, Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute, Associate Fellow of the Asia Society, and author of Planet India: the Turbulent Rise of The Largest Democracy and the Future of Our World.

In case you missed President Obama's remarks after his meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, here they are:

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The Takeaway

A Refugee Crisis Unfolds in Pakistan

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Pakistani government began a large air and ground assault yesterday, launching attacks against close to 7,000 Taliban militants in the Swat Valley. The fighting came just hours ahead of meetings between President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Washington to explore ways to boost Islamabad's fight against terror. Now, close to 40,000 Pakistanis are fleeing the battles unfolding in Pakistan's Swat Valley and areas surrounding the Pakistani capital. The mass exodus may spark the biggest refugee crisis Pakistan has ever seen, particularly as reports come in saying the Taliban is blocking exits routes to try to keep civilians in place. Joining The Takeaway from Islamabad is Mark Dummet of the BBC who is covering the refugee situation. Also joining the conversation is Ron Redmond, the chief spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland.

For more, read Dexter Filkins' article, Pakistan Strife Fills a Hospital With Refugees, in today's New York Times.

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The Takeaway

Other Countries Don't Share U.S. Fears about Pakistan

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pakistan is one of the Obama administration's top priorities. The country has its own special envoy, the President has made speeches on its future, and Americans officials have only debated whether Pakistan is a failed state. Concerns over security in the country run so deep that President Obama is meeting with the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan today at the White House. But the rest of the world may have more confidence in Pakistan. Jonathan Marcus is diplomatic correspondent for our partner the BBC, and he joins us from London to discuss the global view of Pakistan from the rest of the world.
"There are certainly very strong concerns about stability in Pakistan, but as yet no real alarm bells ringing that Pakistan is likely to go under. But that, of course, isn't to underestimate the scale of the problems involved."
—BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus on U.S. diplomacy in Pakistan

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The Takeaway

The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan

Monday, May 04, 2009

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari have plans to visit Washington this week to engage in some tri-party talks about the region. And with the Taliban possibly threatening Pakistan's nuclear arms arsenal, stability the region is of the utmost importance. As part of the strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that President Obama unveiled last month, he requested that Congress approve billions in additional military and civilian assistance for the volatile nations. In these challenging economic times, is financial aid the only way to stabilize the countries? Before she testifies before the House Foreign Affairs committee, Christine Fair, a senior political scientist for the Rand Corporation, stops by The Takeaway to discuss Pakistan, the Taliban, and the need for U.S. aid.
"If Nawaz Sharif were to come out even more strongly than he has against the Taliban, that would actually be very helpful in trying to get Pakistanis to understand the threat that, quite frankly, really does potentially undermine the security of their state."
—Christine Fair, senior political scientist for the Rand Corporation, on violence in Pakistan

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The Takeaway

A review of President Obama's prime-time 100-days press conference

Thursday, April 30, 2009

President Barack Obama marked his first 100 days in office last night with a prime-time news conference. It was the third of Obama's presidency, and the first not dominated by the recession. April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Julie Mason, White House Correspondent for The Washington Examiner, join The Takeaway to review the press conference.

In case you missed it, watch Obama's comments about waterboarding in the video below.

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The Takeaway

State Department critical of Pakistani response to Taliban

Friday, April 24, 2009

In another indication of the gathering strength of the insurgency, Taliban militants have taken control of a gateway district close to the Pakistani capital. The district of Buner, home to almost one million, is just seventy miles from Islamabad and leads to speculation that the Taliban could be making plans for a move on the city. This increases concern that the government is unprepared to fend off the strategic advances of the Taliban. Now, U.S. officials are questioning the government's willingness to take on the insurgents. Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have warned of the consequences, Secretary Clinton went so far as to call it an "existential threat". So is Pakistan fighting for its very existence?

To help us understand the Pakistani point of view of the Taliban insurgency and the government's reaction, we turn to Ambassador Munir Akram. Ambassador Akram was Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations from 2002-2008.

**UPDATE: Pakistani officials and international press outlets are reporting that Taliban militants have begun withdrawing from the Buner district.**
"Pakistan can do without American aid. This is my honest opinion. Whatever money is committed, half the aid comes back to the donors."
—Ambassador Munir Akram on U.S. involvement in Pakistan

Watch Secretary of State Clinton's comments on the situation in Pakistan below.

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The Takeaway

Taliban militants take control of more of Pakistan

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In another indication of the gathering strength of the insurgency, Taliban militants have taken control of a district close to the Pakistani capital. The district of Buner, home to almost one million, is just seventy miles from Islamabad and leads to speculation that the Taliban could be making plans for a move on the city. This increases concern that the government is unprepared to fend off the strategic advances of the Taliban. The bold move comes ten days after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari agreed that strict Islamic law, or Shariah, would be the law of the land in the Swat region of Pakistan, as part of a deal to appease the Taliban. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provocatively said she was concerned that Pakistan’s government was making too many concessions to the Taliban and emboldening the militants. For more on this story we turn to the BBC's Jonathan Marcus.

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The Takeaway

In fight for democracy in Afghanistan, rights of women take back seat

Monday, April 20, 2009

Last week, hundreds of women marched in the streets of Afghanistan to condemn a new law that critics say legalizes marital rape. Outrage from both Afghan women and the international community over the passing of this law has been well-documented and President Karzai is reconsidering signing the law. But what does this indicate about the push to democratize Afghanistan? Are we seeing growing signs that some Afghan women have finally had enough of restrictive laws? The Takeaway talks to Gretchen Peters, former Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent for ABC news and author of the forthcoming book, Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda.
"Many women in Afghanistan itself object to this type of legislation and want to see change in their country."
—ABC News correspondent Gretchen Peters on the protests in Afghanistan

Our partners at the New York Times have footage of the protests in Kabul:

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