Welcome to my blog. I may write copy here that I would not present elsewhere. This blog allows me to comment while reporting for clients which can include subscription-only platforms. I use it to take a sideways look at running stories, and all views presented here are my own.

Interested parties are invited to comment.

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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

PM's Letter to Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi


We were informed by Downing Street that the Prime Minister wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi today, "as part of his continuing efforts to support her and engage with the Burmese people. The letter was passed to the Burmese authorities (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) by the British Embassy in Rangoon; this is the formal channel by which messages to her are passed.

In his letter the PM:

- reiterated his strong personal support for Aung San Suu Kyi, her courage and her selflessness;
- called for free and inclusive elections in Burma next year, warning of the consequences for the Burmese regime if the election is not free;
- called on the Burmese regime to engage with Aung San Suu Kyi as part of a genuine dialogue which allows a transition to democracy in Burma, and
- assured Aung San Suu Kyi that the UK will continue to do everything possible to advance change in Burma"

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's New year Message; Extracts

Comments from the text the PM is expected to deliver tomorrow;

“As we enter a new decade, I will continue to do what is necessary to protect and improve this great country in the interests of all the people of Britain”.

On Britain, and the British people

“In my life, I have learnt that there are only really two kinds of people. Those who think things can never change, and those who believe they have to.... And I think the vast majority of British people are in the second camp. We are a nation that combines responsibility with fairness, compassion with aspiration - always reaching higher, dreaming bigger, aiming for ever greater things”.

On our economic future

“There are some who say we must plan for a decade of austerity and unfairness where the majority lose out while the privileged few protect themselves. I believe we can create a decade of shared prosperity – with opportunities fairly shared among all those who work hard and play by the rules”.

“We can be incredibly proud that Britain’s dynamic entrepreneurs have defied the recession to start up nearly half a million new businesses. There are now 3 million British businesses – more than at any point since records began in the 1980s, and fewer businesses closed in 2009, than in 2008”.

“And I am confident that, if we continue with the tough decisions we have made, unemployment will start to drop this year, and more small businesses will open and flourish”.

“That wasn’t inevitable; it was the change we chose. And so my message today is simple: don’t wreck the recovery. The recovery is still fragile, and it needs to be nurtured in the interests of those who were hit hardest by the recession – the people on middle and modest incomes who don’t want any special favours – they simply want a bit of help to own their own home, set up their own business, and give their children the best start in life”.

On priorities for 2010

“And so let me talk to you about my key priorities for the coming year – about how we will secure the recovery and make the new decisions of this new decade.

My first priority is securing the recovery while cutting the deficit in a sensible and fair way.

The second is radical reform of our public services while protecting frontline spending on schools, hospitals and the police.

The third is a new, cleaned up politics.

And the fourth is maintaining Britain’s global strength and fulfilling our responsibilities against the terrorist threat from Afghanistan and the wider world.

Britain is too great a country with so much potential - and people with such high aspirations - that in the coming decade we must not settle for anything less than big ambitions.

We are determined to reduce the deficit at a responsible pace, without choking off the recovery or damaging the frontline services the mainstream majority rely on. And so our strategy is to go for growth, because we want to build our country up not talk Britain down. Later this week we will be publishing the first part of our prosperity plan for a successful, fairer and more responsible Britain: a plan detailing how we will invest in the industries and jobs of the future. From high speed rail to aerospace to the digital economy to clean energy to advanced manufacturing, 2010 is when we will really get Britain moving forward again”.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Analyst discusses Congress's Strengthening Position in 2009

Amulya Gangula has written a discourse on how Indian opposition parties have not managed to maintain their strength through 2009, while the Congres party is quietly maintaining a growing lead.

Given that the Left has generally been vocal and active, and India's democratic process gives freedom for a strong and healthy opposition, the shift is interesting for sociologial as well as for political reasons.

Geo News Reporter's Child Relatives Killed in Monday's Suicide Attack

Geo News Senior Reporter Faim Siddiqui is in hospital after beng injured in Monday's suicide attack in Karachi,which took place during the Ashura procession on the main Jinnah Road. His yound niece and nephew who were also in the procession were killed in the attack.

Statement by PM Gordon Brown concerning Execution in China of Akmal Shaikh


"I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted. I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken.

At this time our thoughts are with Mr Shaikh’s family and friends and I send them our sincere condolences".

Monday, 28 December 2009

Latest Comment from PM Gordon Brown on Akmal Shaikh

On the case of Akmal Shaikh, a Downing Street spokesman said:

"The British Government has been doing and will continue to do everything within its power to secure a fair trial and clemency on the death penalty for Akmal Shaikh. The Prime Minister has intervened personally on a number of occasions: he has raised the case with Premier Wen, most recently at the Copenhagen summit; and has written several times to President Hu. At every level - including at Ministerial level today, in a phone call from FCO Minister Ivan Lewis to his Chinese counterpart - the Government has raised its concerns, made clear our opposition to the death penalty, and requested a full mental health assessment. We will remain engaged in the coming hours".

The death penalty is due for this individual within less than 12 hours now. His relations, who have flown to China to plead on his behalf, have informed him of the penalty (reportedly he had no knowledge that he had been awarded an execution by the Chinese authorities).

How the US is working on Counter-terrorism in Yemen

The New York Times reports that the US has opened up a covert front in Yemen in the war against extremism, training the military and working closely with the President. General Patreus and John Brennan, Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, have already made separate secret visits into the territory.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Nigerian Attacker Story for Television

Al Jazeera English took some fresh angles for me to examine on the story Saturday which has been headlining now since Thursday evening, when I got a tip off from America that it was not a firework which had been exploded but something far more sinister.

Al Jazeera London asked me to talk on security implications in the wake of the failed attempt, probable new strategies being deployed by Al Qaeda, and we discussed off-camera the politicization of this security issue in Washington.

An excellent Deputy News Editor called Awad Joumaa in London from Al Jazeera HQ in Doha conducted the interview having spent much of the day in central London outside the suspect's flat. Awad had examined the electoral roll, finding several members with the same family surname registered to the luxury flat.

ABC News published an excellent write up describing how Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab was connected with Al Qaeda leaders after making an internet approach and taken to a village North of Yemen capital Sanaa.

American born imam Anwar Awlaki who survived a US backed air attack this week is a major Al Qaeda recruiter. Abdulmutallab lived with him in Yemen for about a month.

The device, according to ABC News, was made at the village in Yemen, and consisted of a six-inch packet of powder and a syringe with a liquid. Both were sewn into the student's underwear.
On the subject of security measures, given the location of the device this time, I'm not sure that even a "pat down" would detect something like this. The body scan I mentioned on Al Jazeera might work better, but my American aviation security source told me, "Magnetometers and puffer machines don't always catch everything.Screening doesn't always work."

I think Yemen is going to play a major role in training militants and launching anti-US attacks in future as Afghan camps reduce somewhat, though the Afghan Pakistan border remains highly porous and militant leaders adopt smaller, more mobile methods of training and operations.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Second Peshawar Attack in Days

Dawn notes

The attack occurred at a security checkpoint in one of Peshawar's busiest areas in an army cantonment outside a government office and a church, where Pakistan's Christian minority were preparing to celebrate Christmas.

Unusually, this attacker appeared to be on his own and on foot, when he was stopped passing through a sceurity checkpoint which is where he blew himself up. He had nails in his vest to cause maximum damage. The use of the lone attacker marks a return to older techniques of attack, rather than the contemporary team-operations of forced entry at high speed, mostly in vehicles.

The blast which killed at least five occurred near an airlines office and and Shia mosque. Peshawar has been very much a focus for attacks over the past six weeks or so.

On Tuesday, as noted in this Dawn editorial, there was an attack on the Peshawar Press Club in which a head constable was killed trying to protect the premises and those who were in it.

Dawn writes of the inadequate protection, training and protection of ordinary policemen;

in spite of their inadequate training, insufficient equipment and facilities and poor monetary status, the police continue to perform their duty as best as they can.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Headley Planned Attacks on Indian Jewish Centres with LeT

The Hindustan Times has some remarkable findings about the suspect charged by the FBI over the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Essentially, he had more targets planned, and they appear to be Jewish centres of various types, according to the newspaper.

The last visit of American terror suspect David Headley, before being arrested by the FBI, to India in March this year was to finalise synchronised terror strikes on Jewish houses located in five cities at the instance of terror outfit Lashker-e-Taiba.

Piecing together the travel trail of Headley during his visit to India in March this year, security agencies, who were briefed by FBI and US Department of Justice officials in New Delhi recently, are understood to have concluded that the US terror suspect was scouting only the Jewish targets including the El Al airlines office in Mumbai.

...The Chabad House in Pahargunj, Delhi is located in narrow lanes and is frequented generally by backpackers from Israel while either going to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh or to western parts of the country.

The sources said Headley also visited the house and posed as Jew while carrying out his reconnaissance mission for terror group Lashker.

From Delhi, Headley travelled to Pushkar in the outskirts of Ajmer in Rajasthan where he insisted on a room opposite a Jewish prayer centre claiming he was a Jew and wanted "holy sight"....

After staying there for three days, Headley moved to Goa where he stayed at a guest house located in Anjuna village along the coast of Arabian sea before proceeding towards Pune where he recced the area around Koregaon Park.

Though initially it was believed that he wanted to target the foreigners coming to the Osho Ashram, it was found later that he had scouted the area for targeting the Jewish prayer centre in the area.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Pakistani Taliban, TTP, Claim Rawal Pindi Mosque Attacks

The TTP have claimed repsonsibility for the Rawal Pindi mosque attacks by email CNN said.

"We reconfirmed it, that the TTP has done it, and will do more which are already planned," the group said.

"We once again mention that we are not against the innocent people and the state of Pakistan but we against those officers and ministers who are American by hearts and minds and Pakistani just by faces," the e-mail message said.

CNN said "The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan took responsibility for the action on Friday but reiterated its claim in an e-mail to CNN on Saturday because media outlets quoted analysts and some officials who doubted the group's participation."

Hakimullah's Deputy,Waliur Rehman Mehsud, told the BBC separately, according to The Hindu,

the Taliban’s primary target was the Pakistan Army, and they would continue to carry out such attacks. The civilians killed in the attack, including the 17 children and aged people, he said, were family members of army officials, and therefore their deaths “did not matter”.

The News stated,

PESHAWAR: The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) once again followed its selective policy of claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks on security forces installations and denying those targetting public places when it claimed having attacked the Parade Lane Mosque in Rawalpindi on Friday.

Waliur Rahman, the TTP commander of South Waziristan, phoned a BBC reporter late Friday to claim responsibility for the mosque attack in which up to 40 worshippers including senior army officers were killed. He said the attack was launched because this was a military area.

Normally Waliur Rahman doesn’t interact much with the media. Azam Tariq and occasionally Hakimullah Mahsud and Qari Hussain contact journalists to provide their version of events. But it seems Waliur Rahman wanted to claim credit for the Rawalpindi mosque attack as it killed a number of serving army personnel and enabled him to claim revenge for the military operation in South Waziristan.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The BBC News Channel and Al Jazeera International on the same day with the Rawal Pindi attacks

Talking about the audacious attacks on Parade Lane Mosque in my father's home town of Rawal Pindi in the afternoon, with the BBC repeating my interview on subsequent bulletins, followed by the Al Jazeera Newshour from London.

I look forward to seeing if the angle will be different.

Anchor Louise Mincham's outfit was unusual and I'm afraid I couldn't resist leaning across Julian Worriker and asking her where she had bought it from. So that Julian didn't feel left out of the conversation I complimented him on his suit too. As it happens we were all wearing different shades of gray.

Monday, 30 November 2009

President Barack Obama Video - conferenced with PM Gordon Brown

A Downing Street spokesman said:

"The Prime Minister and President Obama had a 45 minute video-conference this evening, focused on Afghanistan and climate change.

On Afghanistan, the two leaders took stock on overall strategy, and this week's US/UK announcements. They agreed on the importance of combining military and political strategies in Afghanistan, as well as on the need for continued action by Pakistan. They acknowledged good progress on burden sharing, and agreed that they would continue to encourage ISAF allies to do more. The US welcomed plans for a conference on Afghanistan in London on 28 January.

On climate change, they both expressed a commitment to securing a comprehensive accord that has immediate operational effect at the Copenhagen Summit, and agreed to coordinate closely on preparations."

US and UK Criticise Pakistan

Hot on the heels of Gordon Brown's public statement that more needs to be done in Pakistan concerning Al Qaeda, lengthy diatribes appear in two prominent American papers. Geo News reports.

So - Called Terror Experts

It is curious, this world of terrorism and security analysis. I have reported from all over Pakistan, India and Kashmir for the BBC and am familiar with militant terrain as well as army operations. I have interviewed extensively on the ground and got some great exclusives. So when a client asks me to conduct anlysis, many times I have actually been into the area and spoken with key players involved.

But the armchair "terror experts" seem to come from nowhere. One mystifying case is the outfit of the grandson of Thatcher friend Jay Gohel.

Sourcewatch states

"Essentially, the Asia-Pacific Foundation is a family business led by MJ Gohel and supported by his son, Sajjan."

No information appears to have ever been published detailing the Foundation's funding sources. The Foundation does not appear
to publish accounts.

There does not appear to be an "Asia-Pacific Foundation" registered either at Companies House or at the UK Charity Commission. Attempting to ascertain whether and how the organisation has been formally registered is not made easier by the fact it has never published a postal address.

The net is mystified as to the qualifications and experience of S Gohel, and some commentators wonder if he has even been to Pakistan, about which he pontificates as an authority.

Newshoggers.com lays into "untrustworthy sources."Of Sajjan Gohel, it says,

"An LSE postgrad student working for a "Foundation" with absolutely no bona fides and run by his dad? That's ABC's "expert"? I could have named them 5 or 6 better qualified experts off the top of my head - all bloggers!"

It is dangerous for the profession of security analysis, which by definition deals with danger and murder, to be carrying those without depth of experience who may just have started up little groups of their own in order to self-project, make a bob or two out of unresearched and superficial opinion, and perhaps to carry certain messages on behalf of others.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

One Year Anniversary of Mumbai Attacks; Security Update

One year on from 26/11 the public in and out of India wants to know about security and intelligence improvements. A writer for the Hindu has compiled this update.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Al Jazeera International Story Switched to Incendiary Ayodhya Report

A report into the 1992 destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya which sparked hindu-muslim riots in the state of Uttar Pradesh was leaked yesterday so Al Jazeera Int switched to that story. I was prepping in the car on the way into the studio but since I actually covered the aftermath of the story in the 90s and interviewed Ashok Singhal, I could adjust and deliver.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Analysis of the Indian PM's state visit to the US for Al Jazeera International

Getting in ahead of the networks as usual, Al Jazeera International will be setting up a crucial day for PM Manmohan Singh and President Obama and I will be discussing what they are likely to talk about in Washington in the 9am Newshour show.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

With Al Jazeera International on the Deadly Bomb Blasts in Assam, India

Though several broadcasters ran the story on the ticker that today Sunday bomb blasts have gone off in Assam India, Al Jazeera Doha called for a live two-way from London on the subject as to the likely culprits and the reasoning.

The United Liberation Front of Assam has been waging one of the oldest insurgencies in India, since 1979.

Approaching the date in the year, 27 November, when the Indian military launched an offensive on the group and the UFLA was declared a banned outfit,and since two UFLA leaders were taken in for questioning in Dhaka Bangladesh, insurgent action was to be expected.

The ULFA history has also shown that one batallion is pro-talks and prepared to lay down arms, while two more batallions want to maintain armed militancy.

The ULFA traditionally attacks oil and gas pipelines, transport and telecommunications facilities, and security partols/installations. It claims responsbility occasionally but has denied involvement in today's attacks on a police station in Nalbari.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Pakistani Administration admits Blackwater presence in country

Well, alongside a comment from the TTP blaming Blackwater for some recent attacks in Pakistan, Geo News has this admission from an administration official.

TTP Vows to continue fighting but denies some of recent attacks

Dawn has an interesting comment from Pakistani Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq. He said yesterday that

Tariq revealed that the Taliban only target government installations and people who are against them. Schools, universities, public places and markets that were targeted in the past few months were not done so by the Taliban, Tariq said.

Responding to queries in which the TTP was blamed for terrorist attacks across the country, the spokesman said the Taliban were not involved in these activities and neither did Shariat-i-Mohammadi allowed them to do so.

Tariq said intelligence agencies, Blackwater and the present government were involved in widespread terrorism. ‘The government is doing this for political purposes and to bring a bad name to the TTP,’ he added.

Journalists were taken blindfolded to a mountain top to hear the spokesman.

Here is some analysis on the TTP regrouping in Orakzai Agency.

Meanwhile, this Dawn editorial discusses Al Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban franchise.

Monday, 16 November 2009

PM Gordon Brown's Foreign Policy Speech at Lord Mayor's Banquet Guildhall Preview

In a short while, PM Gordon Brown will lay out a detailed analysis of Britain's position with respect to key areas such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, here are some preview extracts;

On Britain’s role in the world:

"At every point in our history where we have looked outwards, we have become stronger. And now, more than ever, there is no future in what was once called 'splendid isolation'”.

"When Britain is bold, when Britain is engaged, when Britain is confident and outward-looking, we have shown time and again that Britain has a power and an energy that far exceeds the limits of our geography, our population, and our means".

"As a nation we have every reason to be optimistic about our prospects: confident in our alliances, faithful to our values and determined as progressive pioneers to shape the world to come".

"And that is why I say our foreign policy must be both patriotic and internationalist: a foreign policy that recognises and exploits Britain's unique strengths, and defends Britain’s national interests strongly – not by retreating into isolation, but by advancing in international co-operation".

"I believe that Britain can inspire the world. I believe that Britain can challenge the world. But most importantly of all I believe that Britain can and must play its full part in changing the world..."

"...and to do so we must have confidence in our distinctive strengths: our global values, global alliances and global actions; because with conviction in our values and confidence in our alliances, Britain can lead in the construction of a new global order".

On the threat from Al Qaeda:

“Make no mistake, Al Qaeda has an extensive recruitment network across Africa the Middle East, Western Europe - and in the UK. We know that there are still several hundred foreign fighters based in the FATA area of Pakistan travelling to training camps to learn bomb making and weapons skills. Al Qaeda also has links to the Afghan and Pakistan Taleban.”

“Since 2001, nearly 200 persons have been convicted of terrorist or terrorist-related offences in Britain. And to those who say this threat is not real, I ask them to consider that almost half of those convicted pleaded guilty”.

And what this means for the campaign in Afghanistan and our support to Pakistan:

“Vigilance in defence of national security will never be sacrificed to expediency. Necessary resolution will never succumb to appeasement. The greater international good will never be subordinated to the mood of the passing moment.”

“So I vigorously defend our action in Afghanistan and Pakistan because Al Qaeda is today the biggest source of threat to our national security - and to the security of peoples lives in Britain… and tonight I can report that more has been planned and enacted with greater success in this one year to disable Al Qaeda than in any year since the original invasion in 2001.”

“Tonight I want to leave you with a clear summary of Britain’s case, and that of the coalition as a whole. We are in Afghanistan because we judge that if the Taleban regained power Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups would once more have an environment in which they could operate. We are there because action in Afghanistan is not an alternative to action in Pakistan, but an inseparable support to it”.

Another suicide attack in Peshawar

The fabled suicide attack trainer and cousin of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain Mehsud, is carrying out his promise of making sure suicide attack is followed by suicide attack. In fact, Qari Hussain has promised that there will be "similar attacks in all parts of the country."

Meanwhile, the fifth attack in eight days in Peshawar has taken place, killing four.
The city of 2.5 million has mounted anti-Taliban militia of its own, and one of the five anti-Taliban leaders was killed last week.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

CIA thinks it gets value for money from ISI

The American press these days is coming out with some entertaining and innovative material on Pakistan, especially compared with the British media.

I have just watched Fareed Bokharia on CNN introduce his HBO documentary on the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, with audio of "controllers" instructing their foot soldier attackers in Mumbai. I was interested to hear quite localised, simple, Punjabi/Urdu spoken, and the footage is gripping.

Now, the Los Angeles Times details how the CIA pays for arrested or killed militants in Pakistan and discusses the delicate relationship it has with the Inter Services Intelligence Agency, which it does not completely trust.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Into the Studio; More Attacks in Peshawar

Al Jazeera English ran with today's attack in Peshawar as their top story and invited me in to talk about the reasons why Peshawar is the main target of the Taliban at the moment. This network tends to come out with important, different angles on topics so I enjoy the challenges that it sets me - get something wrong or make a mistake and I could spark a riot of complaints so I am always careful in what I say.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Suggestion; Taliban Opening up New Fronts in North West; "Helped" During Offensive

Saad Khan, writing for Huffington, quotes a BBC Urdu piece and has put forward the theory that

"The Pakistani military tipped off the Taliban before the offensive...it appears that the Pakistani military entered a deal with the Taliban...Pakistani military recaptured the territories while the Taliban retained their carde, ammunition and organizational structure."

Khan also posits that the Haqqanis in North Waziristan are getting support from "some elements of the Pakistani military."

A Dawn writer has some more interesting thoughts, and says that perhaps the Taliban is opening up a new front in the North West to distract security forces. He says the the Taliban has likely moved to North Waziristan and the Orakzai Agency. The Sunday attack, in Adezai village on Abdul Malik, he suggests, was in retaliation for Malik's setting up of an anti-Taliban outfit in conjunction with police and security personnel.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Another blast Kills 30 near Peshawar; Market Attack Example

Dawn writes that the third market suicide attack in three days tore through a crowded street in Charsadda near Peshawar killing 30 and wounding 100. The previous two attacks have also been in the NWFP region. Market places are being targeted now.

It is week four of the South Waziristan offensive. We see army approved photos of weaponry captured and hear of hideouts and strongholds taken by the Pakistani military, but with an alleged 200 militants killed, according to ISPR, where is the rest of the alleged 10,000 militants from the region?

Friday, 6 November 2009

JUI Chief comments Afghan situation linked to Pakistan

Dawn.com comments that rightist religious group JUI chief Fazlur Rehman has made a speech about Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He said that peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan are inter-linked; unrest in one country leads to unrest in the other.
He also said thait was the US and the Pakistanis who had initially groomed the jihadis to fight against the Russians, a fact that many choose to ignore.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

How are Pakistani civilians coping with the conflict?

Dawn has an outline of how ordinary Pakistanis are reacting to the ongoing conflict in the country. Whereas some time ago Pakistanis were telling me that city life was normal, now, it seems, urban dwellers are fearful and worried. In extreme conditions like Kashmir I have found lots of psychological problems ranging from depression to hysteria and feinting, it appears that the ongoing battles and blasts are affecting the civilian population adversely.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Interview with Lord Mandelson

I asked Lord Mandelson last week,
"What is the key to unlocking the Doha stalemate?"

He thoughfully and slowly replied,
"Well, its very important indeed in my view that we take what was agreed last year as the continuation point. If you start to try to unpick and renogotiate, I think that's a recipe for trouble. I would appeal to all the main negotiators, stick with what we've got, move on from there and find necessary compromise.

The recovery of the global economy is not yet embedded - it's fragile, and what a wrold trade breakthrough would give us is a major new stimulus package for the whole of the global economy from which all of us would benefit."

Interview with Business Secretary Lord Mandelson or Parliamentary Reception with the President of India?

This was the conundrum facing me last week on the last day of the state visit of Mrs Pratibha Patil, President of India, at the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11.

I had bid for Lord Mandelson, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, two months ago when I knew that he would likely be addressing the UK India Business Council of which he is Lord President, during the President's visit.

So on the day, at the imposing Lancaster House by the Mall, I reminded the UKIBC I was there for the interview, and they directed me to Lord Mandelson's press secretary. The press secretary, who was softly spoken and Irish, directed me to two press aides. I was told to stay close to one of them, a pleasant chap called Ben, who told me that I could walk and talk alongside the Business Secretary after he had given his speech as he was leaving. We were to wait at the bottom of the grand staircase after his speech.

The Irish press secretary then advised us the Lord M would be seeing off the President to her car, or rather the Queen's car, so we should wait outside nearby.

Meanwhile, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office official called David said that he was directed to take me to Parliament if I wanted to attend a reception with the Indian President and hear her address there. I said that I would attend after my interview.

Lord M was still not around, and David was about to leave for Westminster. Lord M arrived, waving to the President as she got into her car. Lord M was chatting on the steps of Lancaster House. David looked at me, and I decided in that moment to fulfill my mission and do my interview. David walked speedily off to his car, and the Business Secretary got to his car door (which he opened himself) while I strode purposefully towards him, my voice recorder outstretched. He stared at my stomach, where my ID card was displayed from a strap round my neck, and waited for my question.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Pakistani Blasts and Hakimullah Mehsud $5m Bounty for BBC News

With a further motorbike suicide attack in Pakistan's Rawal Pindi today, close to Army HQ where a near 22-hr siege took place just a few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to be the first to say on air at the BBC that a $5m bounty had been placed on information leading to or the capture of TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain Mehsud, described as the trainer of suicide bombers, and senior militant Wali ur-Rehman Mehsud.

Today more attacks have taken place at a police checkpoint in Lahore and the UN has pulled out of the NWFP and FATA. What does that say about confidence in Pakistani security?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Afghan Blasts for BBC News

Today the President of India who is on a state visit to the UK, not that you would know anything about it from the media, was being presented with some items belonging to Mahatma Gandhi at the Indian High Commission. The President is going to take them back to India.

As I was getting ready to go, I was called to go into the BBC about the attack on a private guest house in Kabul often used by UN personnel. Here was a dilemma. Be in time for a ceremony with the President of India, or go and do my job delivering analysis. I struck a deal and hoped to reach the High Commission in time, after my appearance.

President Patil herself was running late, having got quite intrigued on her fist stop, a visit to the Natural History Museum.

Anyway, I got to India House before the outriders, the helicopter, and the Bentley arrived -one of three belonging to Her Majesty the Queen which she lends to certain visiting Heads of State. The security guys at the High Commission dashed out after the President entered to have their photos taken with the vehicle.

Monday, 26 October 2009

MI5 Book Releasing in the US; Huffington Post

"Defence of the Realm" by Christopher Andrew took several years to write, and the author is very interesting, but I was more fascinated by the former M15 Director General Sir Stephen Lander who spoke sparsely and to the point at the launch in London earlier this month.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Pak Military advance with Kotkai taken

Dawn discusses army news of three soldiers dead and the advance into militant territory now that Kotkai is taken.

Meanwhile, Geo News has something approaching an editorial - here is an extract;

Troops overran Kotkai, in South Waziristan, on two previous occasions only to retreat after signing the kind of peace deals that Western critics have savaged for granting sanctuary to Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Witnesses among more than 120,000 civilians displaced by the conflict speak of heavy bombing and long-distance artillery, tactics that maximise collateral damage and undercut modern counter-insurgency doctrine.

While the army says more than 160 militants and 23 troops have been killed, it is impossible to assess the advance, resistance or casualties -- civilian or otherwise -- because the area is cut off to journalists and aid workers.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Two Punjabi Talib leaders arrested

The surviving militant of the Army HQ attack in Lahore on 10/10 has sung, and the army, using intercepted calls according to Dawn, has arrested two more senior ranking Punjabi Taliban leaders.

Sub-Inspector dies in Pakistan after suicide blast at motorway interchange

And so it continues. Geo News said that a suicide bomber blew himself up and a second individual was apprehended near a motorway interchange on the Islamabad Lahore highway.

Pakistan Military say they have Kotkai, after fierce fighting

Dawn said that the Pakistani army has announced that it's bombardments and attacks on Kotkai have been successful. The psychological victory is that it is the former home of Hakimullah Mehsud and one of his main aides, who trained suicide bombers.

What is not being trumpeted quite so loudly is that the two men departed some time ago.

The Pakistani army said that many houses had been converted into bunkers and that there was also a training camp for suicide bombers in Kotkai.

While attacks from the Taliban and Talib sub-committees will likely continue in other areas of Pakistan, it seems that the authorities, though stepping up security and trying to fight rearguard on those, will not be deterred from their main objective in South Waziristan.

A Pakistani defence chief has decsribed the typical militant compound in the area; a large one might contain a watchtower, courtyards, separate quarters for guests, men, women and animals, and would be surrounded by caves and bunkers in the mountains. This ex-army man commented, "Mehsuds don't fight in the plains."

Friday, 23 October 2009

Hillary Clinton to travel to Pakistan

the US State Department has announced that Secretary Clinton will be travelling to Pakistan "soon" but the exact date will not be announced "due to security reasons."

Brigadier and Driver gunned down in Islamabad

Motorbike riders opened fire on army officers in Islamabad.

Bomb Blast in Peshawar's Hayatabad District

15 have been injured, in this blast just outside the Swan restaurant used for weddings and functions. The Hayatabad area is a residential district.

Meanwhile, SSP Peshawar said 50-60 kilograms of explosives was used in the blast.

On Tuesday, two bombs were found by police by a girls' school in Peshawar.

Elsewhere, in Mohmand Agency, Geo News reports

Updated at: 1420 PST, Friday, October 23, 2009 MOHMAND AGENCY: Eighteen people have been killed when a bus hit a landmine in tehsil Lakro of Mohmand Agency, FC sources said. Women and children are also among the deceased.

Air Force Complex Attack at Attock Kills Seven

Dawn has this report about a suicide bomber attack near Attock on the Air Force complex which has killed seven people including two air force personnel.

The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra is the country's major air force maintenance and research hub...

A lone suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself at a check point on a road leading to the complex, around 30 miles from Islamabad.

Television is reporting that PM Gilani is holding a security review meeting. The Interior Minister and all four Chief Ministers are present.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Editorial in Pakistan Daily The Nation; "A Confused Government"

The English language dailies of Pakistan can often be looked to for analysis and objectivity; today's editorial in The Nation is quite damning;

WITH an ongoing military operation and rampant terrorism across the country, the first priority for the government should have been to establish clarity of purpose and strategy. Unfortunately, that is still missing and this weakness stands exposed today as never before. A mere glance at the babble of statements coming forth from government personnel, shows the confusion and panic gripping those who should be allaying people’s fears and providing credible leadership. After the Islamic University (IIU) blast, the Interior Minister declared that it was a security lapse. However, by evening he had altered his mind and declared that there had been no security lapse at the IIU because it was out of the “security zone”. Was he implying that only certain elite areas, “the security zone”, was meant to get extra security, while the rest of the country remains a soft target for terrorists?

A Note of Caution on some Fickle Taliban Leaders

This Dawn editorial serves as a cautionary note to an op-ed I published yesterday by a retired army colonel. Basically the latest piece talks of the sometime changing loyalties of various Taliban leaders.

Gul Bahadur and Nazir, who formed the United Mujahideen Council with Baitullah Mehsud earlier this year, are unpredictable characters who have periodically attacked the security forces. Their ultimate objective appears to be to secure their quasi-kingdoms and rule with little or no ‘interference’ from the state. So the idea that Gul Bahadur, for example, is a ‘good’ Taliban does not really stand up to scrutiny. In early June, the kidnapping of students from the Razmak Cadet College in North Waziristan was apparently facilitated by Gul Bahadur...

the state must be careful and ensure that it is not effectively replacing one menace with another — just like Baitullah Mehsud arose to torment the state after a rival Mehsud group fell out of favour, so may other groups create more problems for Pakistan in the not-too-distant future.

Al - Qaeda Operative Either Killed Himself Accidentally or was Blown Up

We were reading reports of an explosion in Spalga village in the mountains and this is the latest Dawn report.

PESHAWAR: In the first drone strikes since the Pakistan military began its operation in South Waziristan a top al-Qaeda operative Abu Al-Masri is reported to have been killed in a strike from a US unmanned aircraft.

However, conflicting reports earlier suggested that Al-Masri may have been killed preparing suicide jackets in the village of Spalga.

Known as Mustafa Al-Yazid, he was urported to have links with Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi, whom US authorities arrested in an alleged plot to use homemade backpack bombs, he served three years in an Egyptian prison, in the 1980s, for supposed links to the group responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Rest assured, if the operative has been killed, the US will claim the credit - even if he did accidentally blow himself up while tending to the suicide vests he produced.

Kotkai Battle Continues, Hakimullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain said to be in Area

Dawn. com said that the battle for Kotwai continues and that Hakimullah Mehsud's home there has been pulverised. Surprisingly, both he and Qari Hussain, described as a chief mentor to suicide bombers, are said not to be in Kotwai but are rumoured to be in the area directing their teams.

the military believed that Hakimullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain remain in the region under fire, directing the militants' defences. That information is based on local informants and communications intercepts.

Meanwhile, following yesterday's attack on a university in Islamabad, the government has closed educational institutions across the country "indefinitely" though some may open next week if the security situation improves, it says.

US Provides Bomb Disposal Training to NWFP Police in Pakistan

Geo News discussed bomb disposal training and equipment provided by the US.

PESHAWAR: As part of its continuing collaboration with Pakistani authorities to protect people in Pakistan from terrorist bombings, the United States Government today provided$150,000 in bomb disposal equipment to the NWFP Police in Peshawar.This contribution is in addition to the $1.6 million in ATA training and equipment furnished to the NWFP Bomb Disposal Squad previously this year.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Pakistani Troops Battling for Control of Kotkai

Overnight, Pakistani army and Taliban fighters have been battling for control of Kotkai.

Ground forces have massed on the western, eastern and northwestern flanks of Kotkai, the hometown of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud and key Taliban leader Qari Hussain, readying for an assault.
"The high-level targets are the leadership. We hope to get the leadership," said Major General Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman.
"The forces have taken over the heights, features around Kotkai. Kotkai is the home town of Qari Hussain, formerly known as the mentor of suicide bombers," said Abbas, referring to "stiff resistance" at Sherwangi.

According to reports, Kotkai has not yet fallen.

Islamic University Blast; Two Simultaneous Explosions

The attack on the International Islamic University in Islamabad today should come as no surprise to the authorities since Hakimullah Mehsud had promised that reprisal attacks would continue apace around Pakistan.

The key point is that, just as the Taliban closed or blew up girls' schools in the NWFP, the university which was attacked today has a 50% female student population and so came under the same 'female education' umbrella that the Taliban wish to target.

Another point is that Islamabad is probably the most protected of the big cities since government and diplomatic headquarters are situated here. Attacks here demonstrate the skill of the militants.

Unfortunately, Pakistan, like India and Bangladesh, is not in a position to lock down it's cities the way that London and New York can now be locked down since they have co-ordinated security systems in place.

Pakistan's city security personnel are still in reactive rather than preparatory mode, though they are better placed now than before.

Retired Colonel Writes on Waziristan Op

Dawn has quite a good overview of his take on army strategy for this offensive which he decsribes as "The mother of all battles."

Retired Colonel Sayed Bokhari mentions the Uzbek element;

Figures vary, but it is estimated that Waziristan is home to more than 5,000 hardened militants besides some 2,000 Uzbek fighters. The total strength of the enemy in the area is said to be 10,000. The reported death of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) leader Tahir Yuldashev in a drone attack in South Waziristan in August was a big blow to the violent foreign militant group that was waging a fierce campaign against Pakistan and its state agencies.

Isolating Baitullah’s group from other militant organisations active in the area was an important strategic consideration and perhaps the government has managed to do that vis-à-vis the Maulvi Nazir group in the Wana area in South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan. Past events reveal that some militants of the Nazir group were killed by pro-Baitullah fighters inside Mehsud territory, resulting in a bitter feud between the two groups. Hence winning over the Nazir group would not have been too difficult.

Another commander, Misbahuddin, leads the anti-Baitullah group. This group has assisted the law-enforcement agencies in pointing out militants belonging to the Baitullah group even in Islamabad and Karachi. All this is of course countered by what the military will be up against. There are two major forces which are likely to support the Baitullah group against the army — the Haqqani network, which is mostly active in Afghanistan fighting Nato forces, and the IMU.

To take care of this contingency, additional troops are said to have been deployed to occupy the strategic heights along the Mehsud territory’s border with North Waziristan besides the sealing of four access points in the battle zone from Razmak-Makeen, Wana-Ludda, Jandola-Sararogha and Kanigoram-Jandola. The Shawal mountains would thus be the only escape route available to the militants, but would effectively prove a dangerous one for them because of air and ground firepower.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Working the Tribals

The Pakistani army is using the strategy of attacking militant strongholds while working to make alliances across South and North Waziristan.

Geo News reports that a letter has gone out from Army Chief of Staff General Kayani;

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Monday clarified that the objective of the operation in South Waziristan is not to target peace and country loving people of Mehsud tribes, instead the aim is to eliminate Uzbek, local and foreign terrorists.

Dawn.com stated,

According to government officials, militant commander Maulvi Nazir and his Ahmadi Wazir tribe in the Wana region had publicly dissociated themselves from the Mehsuds. And they were confident that commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, based in North Waziristan, would stay neutral.

Two thirds of South Waziristan is made up of Mehsud tribes, the rest are Wazirs.

There has been concern amongst analysts that tribes in North Waziristan, at present focused on supporting, training and engaging with the Afghan Taliban, might turn to supporting Hakimullah Mehsud and his network in South Waziristan if the conflict continues for too long, so it would seem that the Pakistani army is engaging in preventative action.

General Patraeus in Pakistan just after Cancer Op

In a sign of how important Pakistan is to Washington, the Head of US Central Command, General David Patraeus, was sent to Pakistan for two days barely a week after being treated for prostate cancer. He is in Pakistan for two days for talks with Pakistani commanders concerned with the South Waziristan Operation.

Dawn reports; "The US is rushing in equipment that would help with mobility, night fighting and precision bombing."

The Pentagon said that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff, has also called Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to emphasise continued US support.

Went to See "Up," Missed a TV Appearance

With it being a festive weekend, and my sons who are normally phenominally busy having some time to share, we three decided to see Pixar's "UP" Sunday once I had waited a suitable amount of time to make sure that I was not needed in studio for the afternoon.

As luck would have it, one of my television clients called me on my mobile half way through the film; since I try to respect whichever situation I am in, I had switched my phone off.

But the film was really good, made with great craft and care to the Pixar standard. We appreciated and enjoyed our time together. Precious family moments enrich and nourish. A stable and peaceful home is the bedrock we need to work at our best on the international stage.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

With the BBC News Channel as the Pakistani Military Offensive into South Waziristan Starts

As the attack got under way, I was into Television Centre to discuss what could ensue.
The interesting point in this offensive is that the Pakistani army has used a different strategy to SWAT; soften up with air raids and amass on the outskirts of the tribal region. An HQ was set up in 2004.

Will the militants resist as we expect, using booby traps and tunnels, or will they disperse?

And what will happen to the civilians left behind, with the army blocking the roads and no NGOs/refugee relief agencies able to function in South Waziristan?

Friday, 16 October 2009

With the BBC News Channel on the Latest Pakistan Attacks

With less than half an hour's notice I got my notes together and went in to talk to Chris Eakin on the implications of the latest attacks in Peshawar and on security establishments in Lahore and Kohat.

What Hakimullah Mehsud said would happen in his recent statements, that there would be attacks on security bases, is happening.

The link up with Punjab based groups is noteworthy; it points to the relaxation of law enforcement on them since 2007.

Most interesting is the fact that for the first time, women militants are working alongside their male counterparts; reports say that three were involved in the attack on the police commando training academy, scaling the walls of the compound with backpacks and weapons. I didn't get time to mention this point, and so far none of the UK news channels have mentioned it though it is in the public domain.

Two attackers have been arrested, Geo reported. They are being "interrogated." Rehman Malik, Interior Minister, said that they revealed that the attacks were planned before Eid. Of course. These are not spontaneous outings; they clearly involve highly sophisticated planning and intelligence.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

China Versus India; Border Dispute in Arunachal Pradesh

I have been blogging on Indian concerns over Chinese incursions along the Sino-Indian border but the matter came to a head when Indian PM Manmohan Singh made a visit to the border state of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory China also lays claim to, during state election campaigning.
The Telegraph has some background.

With the background of rising tension, both Chinese Premier and the Indian PM are due to meet October 23rd in Thailand at the Association of South East Nations Summit.

Set against this, Pakistan has been noted racheting up relations with China with President Zardari saying recently that he would like to visit China on a regular basis.

No presaging here, but the Sino-Pakistan partnership could strengthen the latter's position. There has been assistance rendered already across many fields by the stronger nation, and so in the Hindu a report states that Chinese development help in Pakistani Kashmir is strongly being objected to in Delhi.

What can Delhi actually do about this apart from protest?

As the South Waziristan battle Commences, 90,000 Flee

Reports are coming out of Pakistan that 90,000 civilians have fled the region in anticipation of a bloody winter battle between the army and militants. The BBC has a background piece with maps.

If the military goes in with full force, the militants are likely to disperse rather than attempt to hold territory, analysts say.
They will almost certainly engage in guerrilla warfare. With their knowledge of the terrain they are likely to launch ambushes as has been the case in previous years.
But a lot depends on military tactics. Previously, the military has not had a clear strategy when venturing into Waziristan.
This time round - after the success in Swat - troop morale is likely to be high.
For the army's part it would have to hold the roads and the main towns. Currently the Mehsud-dominated centres of Ladha, Makeen and Sararogha are virtual no-go areas.
A primary military target would be to take control of the heights and put up outposts. They will also go after mid- and high-ranking Taliban commanders.

In 2004 the Pakistani army suffered heavily at the hands of Wazir-affiliated militants.
There is a possibility that a military offensive against the Mehsud group in South Waziristan could draw in to the conflict militant groups based in the Wazir tribal areas of South and North Waziristan.
These groups are currently part of an al-Qaeda-affiliated network who have so far concentrated on fighting inside Afghanistan. They have "peace agreements" with the Pakistani army.

Who is lead Pakistan Army HQ Attacker Aqeel?

Al Jazeera English has an interesting background piece on the alleged leader on the ground of the Army HQ attack Saturday in Rawal Pindi, "Aqeel, " who is in custody though seriously injured. It looks into the Punjab connection.

Aqeel was recruited into Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, armed groups based in Punjab province.

Jaish and Lashkar have long been blamed for attacks on Western targets in Pakistan, as well as on minority Shia populations.
Both groups are believed to have had links with Pakistan security agencies, which used their members to fight proxy wars in Afghanistan and India before 2001.
The Punjab connection is significant because ethnic Punjabis dominate the army and the major institutions of the Pakistani state, Shuja Nawaz, head of the South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council in Washington, has been quoted as saying.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Maoists Surround Polling Station in India

30 polling station officials have been surrounded by Naxal Maoists in Khamtala village in the state of Maharashtra.
Two helicopters and 50 commandos are on their way to deal with the problem.
In Gadchiroli, naxalites have been firing at security personnel much of the day.

The Hindu reported yesterday that a wave of Maoist violence has been unleashed in West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar.

In Jharkhand, Maoists blew up rail tracks at Jharandih in Dhanbad, resulting in the Shaktipunj Express and some local trains being held up at various points, Senior Public Relations Officer of Dhanbad Rail Division Amrendra Das said adding a light engine derailed after a one-and-half metre section of the track was blown up.
A group of 12 Maoists set three trucks ablaze in Giridih district’s Isri area and blocked the Dumri-Giridih road with felled trees. Maoists also partially blasted a road bridge connecting Dumri to the Grand Trunk Road and gunshots were heard, Giridih Superintendent of Police Ravi Kant Dhan said.
Hazaribagh Superintendent of Police Pankaj Kamboj said Maoists partially damaged a road with explosives at Sardalo, bordering Bokaro district.
In Bihar, Maoists blasted the telecom tower at Salaiya village. Maoists also dug up a 15-metre stretch of a road at Chanda village, disrupting traffic between Deo and Dhibra. They left behind pamphlets, claiming responsibility for the action, official sources said.

Just last week, the naxals killed 17 policemen in Gadchiroli. This is Maoist heartland, forested and highly rural.
Polling is under way in Maharashtra and two other states.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Overnight in the BBC studio on the Pakistani Army HQ Attack

As soon as the rescue attempt began Saturday night GMT, I went into the BBC News Studio to cover unfolding events. The overnight anchor was Alistair Yates, and the editor in charge was Peter Simmonds, who is one of the nicest editors I have ever met. (The sensitive, highly intelligent ones stand out and can be counted on the fingers of one hand.)

Peter made sure that I had a computer to go to inbetween the live studio appearances and spent some time making sure that I was properly logged in and able to access the information I needed for updates. He reminded me about the BBC Newsfeed ENPS system that I had been trained to use.

On the hour, with the BBC leading on the Pakistan attacks and rescue mission as the top story, I gave updates and analysis after we had an overview of events from Pakistan.

Peter was solicitious and concerned that I was comfortable at all times during the all-night session and took me for a cup of tea into the fresh air for a chat and a break from the newsroom. In addition, it was Peter who saw me into my seat and off set each time, a duty normally delegated to someone else. All members of the team greeted me as they passed my desk, making sure that I was OK and ready for the next hourly appearance.

My rigorous BBC training has inoculated me with the need to always say something new and fresh, so as the story unfolded I was able to add more information and background to give colour to quite a complex situation. The porous Afpak border, changing militant strategies, drone attacks, all factor into this situation. Covering the story continuously for so many hours meant that I could take ownership of the material and I felt that everyone was working well together; anchor, editors, and me.

Newsrooms are busy places, with people hard focused on their computers, often working. It is rare for editors and senior staff to take time out to look after folk, especially over many hours, and Peter Simmonds's care made the whole experience so much more pleasant than the already pleasant experience of covering a breaking news story.

Overnight, and with major events, the BBC News Channel and BBC World merge, providing the biggest television audience in the world. This experience reminded me of the best elements of being part of a BBC team and why, on occasions like this, the Corporation has no parallel.

Tehrik E- Taliban Pakistan Claim Responsibility for Army HQ Attack

As I mentioned over the weekend, the TTP have claimed responsibility for the Army HQ attack in a call to Geo News and Dawn has published the same information today. The TTP is working in conjunction with other groups and apparently a punjabi faction provided the foot soldiers who carried out the attack.

Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan were planning attack on GHQ in collaboration with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Watchers should not be surprised that the TTP and other groups link up in the same way that NATO forces join hands to cover different locations.

The Guardian today discusses the only surviving attacker who is seriously injured. He is a former member of the Pakistani army.

Aqeel, the only surviving attacker, was being treated for serious injuries, (army spokesman )Abbas said. He confirmed that the militant was a former army medical corps soldier from Kahuta, a town in the army's Punjabi recruitment heartland that is home to a major nuclear weapons facility.
Aqeel deserted the army in 2004, he said, and joined Jaish-e-Muhammad, a notorious militant group that in recent years has spawned splinter groups which have become allied to al-Qaida.

Today's blast targeting a military convoy in Shangla by the SWAT valley killing over 41 is part of the same deadly protest promised by the TTP and its cohorts.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Attack on Pakistani Army HQ; Comparing the Coverage

6.0am GMT AP news started flashing up on the Sky News ticker about the shoot out in Rawal Pindi, with gunmen driving up to Gate No 1 at army HQ in my parents' home town.

Recently, since gunmen know that they will eventually be stopped, though it appears this group managed to get through a first police check, the tactic has been to use gunfire and hand grenades in attacks. This time the attackers were in army uniform, AP said this may have confused the army security guards, and used a white van.

A full half hour after Sky News flagged up the story, the BBC News channel had no word on the topic and were gaily continuing their other subjects of the day, seemingly oblivious to the dramatic and highly significant attack.

Four hours later, a shoot out had resulted in six army personnel and four attackers being killed. Sky was saying that two gunmnen were still on the loose in the compound, and on Radio 4, the BBC's Aleem Maqbool was saying that the shoot out was over, with everything under control. He was quoting an army spokesman.

Over on Radio 5, the bulletin said that "sources were saying that there were still gunmen on the loose" - a clear example of how un-joined up the BBC is.

Now, nearly eight hours since the attack began, there has just been more shooting in the compound but we have not yet been told if the gunmen have been killed or captured.

The Pakistani administration took Geo News and Sama TV off the air during this episode, they are often objective in their coverage.

Apparently in a telephone call to Geo News the Tahreek-e-Taliban, the group headed by Hakimullah, has claimed responsibility.

Latest information from Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder is that three attackers, not two, got into the compound, and one has been shot, one captured.

Update; Geo News reported that up to 15 security and civilian personnel are being held hostage at a second checkpost in the army HQ by four to five attackers, and the checkpost has been surrounded by Pakistani security. The militants are said to be asking for the release of some of their compatriots.

This episode demonstrates not that the Taliban are on the back foot but that they are as audacious and determined as they have ever been- and that they can wreak damage if they wish.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Peshawar Attack Kills 41, Second Within Two Weeks

AP has details of a fatal attack in Peshawar;

A suicide bomber detonated his vehicle near a crowded market in Pakistan's northwest city of Peshawar on Friday, killing 41 people. The government responded by saying it had "no other option" but to launch an offensive in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan along the Afghan border.
The attack in the Khyber Bazaar area also wounded more than 100 people and demonstrated the ability of insurgents to strike in Pakistan's major cities despite ongoing operations pressuring their networks and the death of their leader in a U.S. missile strike.

There was another fatal attack in Peshawar barely two weeks ago. The new Taliban leader, Hakimullah, is flexing his muscles and these attacks prove that whichever Taliban chief gets killed, there are always others waiting to pick up his gun. Baitullah Mehsud's death was hailed as a propaganda coup, but the facts show that it made no difference to lives on the ground, whatever the US or the Pakistani authorities might say.

What is slightly puzzling is that the government response is to say that "it has no other option" but to launch an offensive in South Waziristan along the Afghan border. This operation has been in the planning for weeks and has involved the visible mobilisation of troops to the region. The AP report seems to indicate that the latest Peshawar attack is being used as a raison d'etre for the massive deployment of Pakistani troops into South Waziristan.

Al Jazeera made the following point;

"What is surprising everyone is that immediately after the attack the provincial information minister came out and said that he knew where the attack came from, and started saying that people should be united against the Taliban even though the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for this particular attack."

OECD Composite Leading Indicators Show Signs of Recovery

From Paris,

OECD composite leading indicators (CLIs) for August 2009 continue to point to recovery in all major economies with CLIs for France and Italy pointing to a potential expansion; however these expansion signals should be interpreted with some care as the CLIs are less precise in differentiating between expansion and recovery than in identifying turning points.
The CLI for the OECD area increased by 1.5 point in August 2009 and was 0.6 point higher than in August 2008. The CLI for the United States increased by 1.6 point in August, 1.6 point lower than a year ago. The Euro area’s CLI increased by 1.7 point in August, 4.1 points higher than a year ago. The CLI for Japan increased by 1.3 point in August, 3.9 points lower than a year ago.
The CLI for the United Kingdom increased by 1.6 point in August 2009 and was 1.7 point higher than a year ago. The CLI for Canada increased by 1.7 point in August, 1.5 point higher than a year ago. The CLI for France increased by 1.3 point in August, 6.6 points higher than a year ago. The CLI for Germany increased by 2.4 points in August, 2.1 points higher than a year ago. The CLI for Italy increased by 2.0 points in August, 10.4 points higher than a year ago.
The CLI for China increased 1.5 point in July 2009, 0.7 point lower than a year ago (unchanged). The CLI for India increased by 0.9 point in August, 0.1 point higher than a year ago. The CLI for Russia increased by 1.1 point in August, 10.2 points lower than a year ago. The CLI for Brazil increased by 0.4 point in August, 8.5 points lower than a year ago.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Prime Minister Brown Talks Afpak with President Obama

A couple of moments ago a Downing Street Spokesman said :

"The Prime Minister and President Obama spoke today as part of regular and ongoing consultations on their shared strategic agenda.
The two leaders discussed their ongoing review of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They agreed to remain in close consultation going forward and on the importance of continued discussion with NATO allies.
The PM and the President discussed the global economy where they noted the successful outcome of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. They covered climate change where they agreed on the importance of a deal at the Copenhagen Summit in December. They also discussed Iran, where they agreed on the need of a continued, strong international approach to tackling Iran's nuclear ambitions".

Indian Embassy Attack in Kabul

This story broke in the early hours of this morning and has some interesting aspects.

AP said,
A suicide attack against the Indian Embassy on July 7, 2008, killed more than 60 people. The road in front of the embassy has been barricaded since then.

Before that AP posited;
The Taliban did not say why it targeted the Indian Embassy but the attack is likely to raise questions about a link to Pakistan, India's archrival. Extremist groups once supported by Pakistan's intelligence service have struck at Indian targets for years, and the two countries are competing for influence among different ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

The Al Jazeera website, quoting their own correspondent speaking, noted that the vehicle used was said to be "foreign;"
Afghan government and intelligence sources have made clear to Al Jazeera that they believe that foreign hands were involved. This was an operation which was planned by a state and not - I quote - a group of bandits.
Sayyid Abdul Gafoor, the head of the interior ministry's anti-crime unit, said special kind of explosives were used during the explosion and the vehicle used in the suicide attack was not registered in Afghanistan, indicating possible foreign involvement.

Voice of America has a paragraph on the Indo-Pak rivalry in Aghanistan.

The most detailed examination of Indian involvement in Afghanistan comes, as expected, from an Indian paper, The Hindu.

A BBC newsroom editor told me that "on a normal day" we would have done some studio analysis on the story instead of just having the anchors mention it in a list of headlines with some local footage; but today, the major UK broadcasters wanted to focus on the party conference speech of Conservative Party Leader David Cameron.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Query Concerning Afpak border

While working on the Baluchistan/Quetta story yesterday for Al Jazeera English, I read a Dawn editorial which stated that 50,000 to 60,000 people were crossing the Afghanistan/Pakistan border every day. I wonder of anyone can shed any further light on this notion and back it up with some evidence please?

Saturday, 3 October 2009

US Targeting Baluchistan Story for Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera, ever on the button, is on the story of the US placing Quetta in Baluchistan in it's sightline. I'm working on it and will be on the live Newshour programme 10.00 pm GMT tonight.

Sonia Gandhi's Austerity Drive in India

Thinking about the drive towards austerity initiated by the Congress Party's Chair Sonia Gandhi which I have explored for Huffington Post, it is interesting to read the level of scepticism generated by my piece.

It seems very hard for people to consider that Rahul Gandhi might actually be quite genuine in his mission to explore the lives of the common man at this stage in his career, and that Sonia Gandhi may be interested in the feelings of the majority of Indians, those living outside the gilded cages of luxury.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

OECD; Better News on Consumer Prices for August 2009

Organisation for Economic Development figures published today show a slower fall in consumer prices for August 2009 than for the previous month. Consumer Prices in the OECD area fell 0.3% in the year to August 2009, compared with a fall of 0.6% in the year to July.

Month-on-month, prices rose by 0.2% in August, compared with a fall of 0.2% in July 2009.

Consumer prices for energy were down by 14.4% in the year to August 2009, following a fall of 18.1% in July. Consumer prices for food were up by 0.1% in the year to August, compared with 0.6% in July. Excluding food and energy, consumer prices rose by 1.5% in the year to August 2009, compared with 1.6% in July 2009.

In the euro area, annual inflation (HICP) was -0.2% in August 2009, up from -0.6% in July. Month-on-month, the HICP increased by 0.3% in August, compared with a fall of 0.7% in July. Excluding food and energy, the year-on-year rise in the HICP amounted to 1.3% in August, unchanged from July.
In the United States, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell by 1.5% over the year to August 2009, compared with a decline of 2.1% in the year to July.
In Japan, consumer prices fell by 2.2% in the year to August, unchanged from July 2009.
Over the year to August, annual inflation was 1.6% in the United Kingdom, 0.1% in Italy, 0.0% in Germany, -0.2% in France, and -0.8% in Canada.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

New York Times on Lashkar-E-Toiba

While President Zardari and his cohorts accumulate billions of dollars in international "aid" for Pakistan, it is clear from this lengthy article in the New York Times that the militant group behind the Mumbai attacks ten months ago, the Lashkar - E - Toiba, is flourishing and still poses a tangible threat in the region.

The NYT estimates that the group can muster around 150,000 soldiers, and as has been tragically demonstrated, only a handful are needed for maximum destruction.

The LET claims that it fights on behalf of oppressed Muslims in Indian Kashmir, and the issues over that state are likely to remain on the table for the foreseeable future. Given that the LET recruits mostly in Pakistan, and many Pakistanis feel aggrieved that Kashmir remains unresolved, I feel that the LET will find fertile breeding ground and training officers from different parts of society for some time to come.

Meawhile, Hafiz Saeed, said to be the Mumbai mastermind, remains relatively free, according to his lawyers, to move around in Pakistan.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Statement on Friends of Democratic Pakistan Meeting in USA 24 September

It isn't that the US and GB are wanting to make Pakistan feel as though it belongs in the rich G20 club or anything, or that President Zardari wants to have some limelight, no, of course not, Pakistan is definitely in the playground with the big boys - here is the statement after a joint Brown-Obama-Zardari summit 24th September.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Col Gaddafi urges Independent Kashmir at UN General Assembly

Disrespectfully going way over his allotted fifteen minutes to talk and pontificating for ninety minutes in New York today, causing walkouts by many in the audience, the Libyan leader brought South Asia into his speech and said that Kashmir should be an independent buffer state between India and Pakistan, the Times of India reports.

Somehow I think he'd find that idea a hard one to move in any arena.

British Prime Minister phoned Indian PM ahead of G20 and UN General Assembly

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a “Busy week” ahead of him, flying to New York from London for the UN General Assembly. In an individual email, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told me that Gordon Brown is expected to remain in New York until Thursday, according to the planning schedule.

Number 10 said that the UK Premier “Is very focused on the Climate at the moment, with less than 77 days to the Copenhagen Summit.”

Not everyone may be aware, for only selected journalists were briefed, that, preparing for the UN General Assembly and the G20 in Pittsburgh, Prime Minister Brown telephoned his Indian counterpart and Prime Minister of the world’s second largest growing economy, Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister's Spokesman intimated that the call “would cover a range of issues, including climate change and the global economy.”

India, a key player on the world stage and the world’s largest democracy, is being courted by both the UK as well as the US, and the steady, calm, Indian leader Manmohan Singh is held in high esteem by both his British as well as his American counterparts. The Indian Premier, who, as finance minister, was the architect of India’s financial reform, is a quieter public performer than both Brown and Obama, yet his counsel and his words are taken very seriously and he appears to get on well with the two leaders despite being eighteen years older than Brown and twenty-eight years older than Obama. The average Indian politician tends to be in his late seventies.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that Gordon Brown will be co-chairing an international meeting on climate change with Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, designed to build consensus ahead of Copenhagen. He also said that Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, will be in New York too for climate change meetings.

On Wednesday the British PM will be at the UN General Assembly and chairing a meeting of leaders on the issue of healthcare provision in poor countries. Thursday the Prime Minister will be at the UN General Assembly, attending meeting of the UN Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation and a meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, before travelling to Pittsburgh where on Friday he and the Chancellor Alistair Darling will be at the G20 summit. Gordon Brown has been highly active within the G20, and is continuing to hold a leadership role within the arena of the world’s 20 most significant countries.

Monday, 21 September 2009

President Zardari is Going to be Very Busy in the US This Week

President Asif Ali Zardari has back to back meetings lined up for his delegation in the US this week. They include the UN General Assembly and the Clinton Foundation. There is also a three-way summit with Obama and Brown lined up. Geo News has the full, extensive itinery.

The President fitted in official visits in London en route at the back end of last week and met with David Miliband. Two of the Zardari children were in attendance at his meetings.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Analysis on Chinese Incursions into India for Al Jazeera English

There has been some activity, allegedly, around the Ladhakh region along the Sino-Indian border and while in a briefing meeting this morning I got a call from Doha asking for some analysis on the situation. The incursions are being played down in both countries, But Al Jazeera English had some correspondence between Indian military leaders in the border area giving rise to this news item. I told the audience I didn't think war was going to happen any time soon.

Here is Al Jazeera's introductory report and copy on the subject.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Encounter with Secretary Tim Geithner at G20 for Huffington

Here is my account of the G20 summit in London for Huffington, I enjoyed the recent summit and was quite taken with watching Dominque Strauss-Kahn, IMF chief, and Tim Geithner conducting their press conferences.

Strauss-Kahn was positively chatty and seemed very approachable.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Going Inside the G20 Finance Ministers' Summit

Gaining my accreditation for this summit was much shorter and easier than the April G20, but, hey, these are the finance ministers and central bankers, after all. Still, I'm looking forward to it and the various press conferences....as before, we are kept in one building and the men and women handling the economies of the world's richest nations will be brought to us for the press meets this afternoon.

Friday, 4 September 2009

PM Gordon Brown on Afghanistan

Lobby correspondents have been given this information in advance of the PM's speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in about half an hour. This is a big deal, clearly, as we have been given two indications of what will be said, and also Brown will be accompanied by the Defence Secretary and the new Chief of General Staff.

In his speech the Prime Minister will answer directly the critics of the campaign in Afghanistan, he will defend the UK’s involvement in this NATO operation; will reaffirm his personal commitment to the armed forces; and will reiterate the importance of public support for the mission.

He will:
explain once more the core mission: to end the use of the region by terrorists to launch attacks on the international community, including the UK. To do this, we need an Afghan Government with strong security forces and a credible, durable political settlement.
set out what Afghanistan means for the Afghan troops being trained, and for British troop operation.
debunk the myths about under-resourcing on the front line.
update the UK's strategy around Helmand, in line with General McCrystal's thinking.

The PM will say:
On his personal commitment to the mission:
"Each time I ask myself if we are doing the right thing by being in Afghanistan and if we can justify sending our young men and women to fight for this cause, my answer has always been yes. For when the security of our country is at stake we cannot walk away".
"So today I want to take head on the arguments that suggest our strategy in Afghanistan is wrong and to answer those who question whether we should be in Afghanistan at all".
On the purpose of the mission:
"This remains, above all, not just a mission to protect the British people from the threat of terrorism but an international mission involving over 40 countries – with the full support of the UN, the G8, NATO and the EU – because we all face the same threat".
On success, and Afghanisation:
"People ask what success in Afghanistan would look like. The answer is that we will have succeeded when our troops are coming home because the Afghans are doing the job themselves".
On giving our troops what they need to do their jobs:
"Military spending in Afghanistan - the spending that comes from the Treasury reserve over and above the defence budget - is going up far in excess of the increase in troop numbers: it was around £180,000 per year to support each soldier fighting in 2006 but is now over twice that, £390,000 for each soldier".
"So be in no doubt: we are giving our service men and women the additional resources they need to keep themselves safe, to fight and succeed in their operations and to bring security to Afghanistan".
His speech will cover the tough messages the next Afghan Government must take on board: to develop political credibility and stability. It will cover winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan, as well as the importance of support from the public in the UK.

Following his visit at the weekend, he will reiterate that the mission is justified, vital, realistic and achievable.

The British government has been facing criticism of its deployment to Afghanistan in the face of British troop casualties and other outspoken expressions of discontent from within the military establishment, so I see this as an effort to counter those voices.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Pakistan's Minister for Religious Affairs Shot and Injured

Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi was shot in the leg, his security guard injured and his driver shot dead as he left for work in Islamabad. His attackers, who had been on a motorbike, escaped.

The Minister is an outspoken critic of the Taliban.

Shagufta Jumani, State Minister for Religious Affairs, told Geo News that there was a police station nearby but "the police personnel did not show up" even though the station was well manned.

This raises the thorny issue highlighted in a CSD paper about "preparedness" training, adequate ammunition and what to do in case of such crises. The Lahore attack in March was a dramatic case in point.

It also tells us that Pakistan's drive to push back insurgency is an uphill struggle, when those from the religious arena who condemn suicide bombings and the extremist Taliban are targeted in this way.

It is important for analysts to note that the attack was in the most fortified of Pakistan's three major cities, Islamabad, it was on a minister himself who seemingly was not adequately protected. And the post-attack reaction is something which needs adressing in both India and Pakistan, since the political situation means that more attacks from different quarters are likely.

Business with India for Huffington Post

A story I wrote for Huffington from an interview that the Chief Executive of the UK India Business Council gave me was published last night. Sharon Bamford is attractive, blonde, great on the macro as well as the micro view and gave me her full attention at her office in Millbank overlooking the Thames. What is happening with India often goes under the radar, but it is a growth area for business both ways - in and out. Sharon is at the forefront of that, so is interesting to interview as she is objective.

Towards the end of October, Indian and British CEOs will gather in London for a UKIBC summit and at the same time the President of India Pratibha Patil will make a state visit. The Commonwealth Games will launch from Buckingham Palace, and at a black-tie evening gala Dame Kelly Holmes will be a guest speaker alongside Lalit Modi of the Indian Premier League.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Indian Anti-Pak rhetoric over Nuclear Build-Up

Indian Express.com is outraged that, according to unnamed US reports, it has been

"shockingly revealed... that Pakistan is enhancing its nuclear weapons and production capabilities...Pakistan is readying a new nuclear capable ballistic missile for deployment and two nuclear capable cruise missiles. It also says that Pakistan is building two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility at Chasma, Khushab and Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab.
Pakistan is also renewing work on a partially built separation plant at Chasma. It is believed that this secretive and substantial arsenal build-up is targeted at India."

There are vested, backward-looking parties in both India and Pakistan who maintain the rhetoric, when there are much more important issues in both countries to address. Rhetoric plays to a constituency and has some political use, but it is now past its sell-by date.

CNN-IBN gives a fuller explanation and manages to keep calm at the same time.

"An American scientist has claimed that Pakistan has increased the number of its nuclear warheads from 60 to 90 and has kept them ready for use at any time.
Hans M Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists in an article on the federation's website has also put up a picture of possible Pakistani nuclear weapons storage area about 12 km from Karachi.
The scientists say Pakistan is keeping its missiles with nuclear warheads in a completely assembled form and can launch them at a very short notice.
According to them a satellite picture shows that the Masroor Air Base near Karachi is where missiles like the medium range Shaheen maybe stored."

Monday, 31 August 2009

Gordon Brown on the Japanese Elections Results

British PM Gordon Brown has issued these words on the election results, after coyly avoiding comment in his last press conference at Downing Street before recess when several Japanese journalists asked him about his predictions and thoughts on the elections.

"The Prime Minister has congratulated the Democratic Party of Japan on their victory in elections in Japan. He looks forward to working closely with Japan on the packed international agenda in the months ahead - including on the world economy, climate change, non-proliferation and North Korea."

Friday, 28 August 2009

Whom Zardari met with in London; Daughter and US Envoy also present

Geo News reports the teams that met during President Zardari's visit.
Zardari met with poerful MQM leader Altaf Hussain, as earlier reported, and in addition to the UK Pakistani High Commissioner, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's envoy to the US, the very articulate and urbane Hudson Fellow Husain Haqqani.

Also accompanying Zardari in his London meetings is his daughter Asifa, as well as the Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

President Zardari is in Meeting with PM Gordon Brown

The meeting is happening now, perhaps we will hear later on about what was discussed. I was told by the Pakistani High Commission that Zardari is not giving any press conferences this visit.

Update 13.00 GMT 28.8.2009; a joint statement has been issued.
Downing Street Spokesman:

"At the meeting both the Prime Minister and President Zardari reinforced that Britain and Pakistan are close friends and partners. Between our two countries there is a strong bond, both in terms of our people and cooperation between our governments.

"The Prime Minister and President Zardari agreed that our two countries continued to face the shared threat of extremism and terrorism. As we have said before our highest priority in Pakistan is to work with the Pakistani government to tackle the threat of violent extremism in its border areas with Afghanistan – a threat which affects both Pakistan’s security and that of the UK. The Pakistan government and the Pakistan army are already taking intensified action against the Taliban and the Prime Minister made clear his support.

"The Prime Minister and the President agreed the need to tackle the underlying causes of extremism. The Prime Minister reiterated our support for Pakistani efforts and repeated the UK’s commitment, £665m over 4 years. Our development programme in Pakistan is our second largest in the world; we aim to spend around half of this in the critical border areas.

"There requires a comprehensive approach including better governance, economic development such as a single financing mechanism, and when necessary appropriate military pressure.

"There was discussion and support expressed for our education programme. A programme announced back in April that focuses on the border area of Pakistan. In particular we announced that we will provide textbooks in the border areas for school children and that we would support 300,000 girls from poor families attending secondary school. More does need to be done and we have asked our international partners to step up and do more and follow up on the Tokyo Donors’ Conference which delivered $5 billion of pledges over the next two years."

While the statements sound good, there is concern about accountability and about how the money is being spent. Who is measuring the results of the monetary donations, when GB and US interests rest mainly in counter-insurgency? ie Pakistan fighting back the Taliban.

PM Gordon Brown on Senator Edward Kennedy; for the Boston Globe Today

"Across America today Senator Edward Kennedy is rightly mourned as one of America’s greatest advocates of social justice. Around the world he is mourned as a great internationalist who inspired social progress in every country.

Northern Ireland is today at peace; South Africa is free of apartheid; more children not only in his nation, but in the poorest nations, are going to school and have health care. We owe a great debt to the vision and courage of Ted Kennedy.

I was fortunate to get to know Ted years ago. He invited me to visit him on Cape Cod during a number of summers in the 1990s. Almost immediately, even as he masterfully navigated us around the Cape in his boat, our discussions focused on what America and Britain could do together to tackle the scandal of child poverty. At the dinner table where he had sat with his father, brothers, and sisters and been interrogated himself, he interrogated me about current events — as I suspect his father had done with him.

He asked in detail what Britain was doing on health care, welfare, and education, about our international engagement on disarmament and later, terror. His abiding interest in an Irish settlement helped the United Kingdom enormously. He was a massive force in bringing the factions together to make peace in Northern Ireland possible. This was one of the many reasons why this year Her Majesty The Queen awarded Senator Kennedy an honorary British knighthood.

He is remembered in America for a record as a lawmaker that surpasses those of many presidents. He inspired us in Britain when he pioneered Head Start to give children a better chance in life and fought on to extend internet access to students in their classrooms. Of course, the cause of his life has been universal health care for all American citizens. He knew what America did would have an influence on the progress of health care in every part of the globe. He pioneered and won the fight for children’s health, from the children’s nutrition program in 1972 to passing the children’s health insurance plan in 1997. He never ceased fighting for universal health care. As he said only last month, “we’re almost there.” He did this not only for America but for the world. He knew that if a system of universal health care as a right and not a privilege could be achieved in the United States, others everywhere would be encouraged to take it up.

I found that Ted had very strong connections with Britain; he remembered how he lived here during his father’s period as ambassador. He was a young boy, and his brother Bobby 12 or 13, when they performed the opening ceremony for London’s famous zoo — only a stone’s throw from the ambassador’s residence.

A few years ago, Ted came back to host a luncheon of Kennedy Fellows in the conference room of the zoo. On that occasion, I asked him to meet churches and nongovernmental organizations in Britain. He played a powerful part in building a global coalition to confront child poverty in every country. As he said, the cause of those children shall be our cause — for as long as one child in one country still lacks basic health provision, basic education, basic human rights, our fight must go on.

This is how I will remember Ted Kennedy: ‘‘The pursuit of the presidency is not my life; public service is,’’Ted once said to his great friend Bob Shrum. And his work teaches timeless lessons about serving the public — the need to reach out beyond ancient loyalties and old enmities, the need to unite rather than divide, our capacity to master the great issues. Kennedy’s family inspired a whole generation of people into public service. In his inaugural, President Kennedy told of how the “trumpet summons us again” to join in a “struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.” In Cape Town six years later, Robert Kennedy spoke against apartheid and said that the world could be made anew because we could “sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

In the way his brothers did in their time, Senator Kennedy’s speech at the 1980 Democratic convention set the tone for radical politics for the next two decades. It was a great speech that had a great influence on me — one of the great speeches of our generation. It laid out his life’s work, and ours.

“It is the glory and the greatness of our tradition,’’ he said then, ‘‘to speak for those who have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land.” He said: ‘‘The dream shall never die.’’

Last year after he was struck by illness, he spoke at another Democratic convention and said something even more powerful: that we are entering “a season of new hope.” The dream lives on, he said — and it will, because of his achievements and inspiration."