Houstonian Corner (V10-I42)

World Affairs Council Organizes Seminar On Challenges In Pakistan

The World Affairs Council of Houston (WAC-H) invited Bruce Riedel for their Speaker Series Program of October 2008. Mr. Riedel is a senior fellow in the Saban Center of Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC. He has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and has traveled with several Presidents on overseas trips. He is the author of the book: The Search for Al Qaeda.

The topic of Bruce Riedel’s 45 minutes long presentation at WAC-H was: “Pakistan – A Storm on the Horizon”. He informed the various challenges being faced in and around Pakistan, including the existence of porous borders of Pakistan, where Durand Line specified by British early last century has never been accepted by Afghanistan. He said without a border, it is not possible to have border controls; as such Afghan Government under Karzai should be asked to accept the Duran Line as the border.

Bruce Riedel said that Kashmir is again boiling and that it is time USA take more interest to resolve this complex issue between Pakistan and India. What the Government of USA can do is to leverage the influence from the recent passing of USA-India Civilian Nuclear Deal and use the friendly atmosphere to ask Indians to solve the Kashmir Issue in an amicable manner, by accepting line of control as a border, which should be permeable for the people of Kashmir.

Mr. Riedel said that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and bombing of the largest five-star Marriott Hotel in the capital of Pakistan are clear indications that the war on terrorism is now a war of Pakistan, which they have to win together with USA. He said USA should give military aid to Pakistan in terms of more helicopters and night visioning facilities to fight against the terrorist, who he said have taken sanctuary in the North Waziristan area in Pakistan. He added because of the influence of Al Qaeda, which has a very strong media and propaganda wing; many individuals inside Pakistan have become what is called Pakistani Talebans.

Mr. Riedel said USA Government is not happy the way General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf handled the war on terror. USA wanted and still wants the Government of Pakistan to keep checks on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, while there is need to take actions against Dr. A. Q. Khan. USA Government should continue to pursue the present Government of Mr. Zardari to cooperate in these issues for the better running of the war on terror. But it should not mean that USA should disrupt this, the fourth time political process, which has just started in Pakistan. Any disruption would mean catastrophic consequences for Pakistan and the ongoing USA war on terror.

Answering a question, he said many Pakistanis feel General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf be given the same treatment as was given to President Nixon in USA (which is that Musharraf has got enough punishment in being removed from the helm of affairs), while there are people in the opposition, who say why politicians have to be always punished, why not rebuke a Military Dictator. He said it is for Pakistanis to decide and America should not intervene. However if a case is brought against Musharraf and it reaches a capital punishment stage, then that will not be fruitful, since remember Nawaz Sharif was not assassinated, while Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s wrongful assassination did not lead to stability in Pakistan.

On an another question about Nuclear Proliferation, Mr. Riedel said that before USA asks other countries to sign on Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), it should be first ratified by US Congress and then we would have a face to say to the world to do the same.

Bruce Riedel added that US Congress using some of the provisions of Biden-Lugar Legislation to formulate a comprehensive package of assistance for Pakistan, which should go towards health an education, since at present, the religious schools bringing out people of extreme ideas which are alien to Islam, are providing the best option of eating and lodging facilities for the down trodden. This package calls for $15 Billion spent in Pakistan over the next 10 years. “The Rubber meets the road at the grassroots levels in Pakistan: We should put our money, where is the horse’s mouth”, said Mr. Riedel.

Fed Spending Bill Sends Billions to Bases, Colleges

Money For Disaster Assistance, Defense, Construction, Security

The Federal Appropriations Bill, signed recently by the President, directs billions in federal funds to Texas military bases and universities to spend on disaster assistance, defense spending, military construction, veteran’s affairs and homeland security funding. Included in the Fiscal Year 2009 Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance and Continuing Appropriations bill are the following:
– $1.3 million to Sheppard Air Force Base to begin planning and design of a proposed $14.6 million, 36,000-square-foot Technical Support Facility to consolidate nine services now scattered across 20 different locations at the base;
– $4 million to Stephen F. Austin University, Texas Tech University, Lamar University and The University of Texas at El Paso for the Columbia Regional Geospatial Service Center System to continue its role in delivering the most up-to-date geospatial information and tools for regional support such as the Texas State Guard;
– $29 million to the Armed Forces Reserve Center facility in San Marcos and centers in Abilene, Lewisville, Round Rock and Amarillo;
– $701.8 million for Fort Sam Houston to pay for a new medical Education Training Campus expected to be the nation’s largest military medical education and training institution. Also included were $298.8 million for dormitories and facilities at the Medical Education Training Campus at Fort Sam Houston and $294 million for the San Antonio Military Medical Center;
– $127 million for Lackland AFB, with $75.5 million for construction of a basic military training recruitment dormitory and $51.9 for renovation of an ambulatory care center; and
– $2.3 million for Randolph AFB, including $1.3 million to relocate an auditing agency and almost $1 million for a fire and rescue station.
The federal spending bill included a total of $2.7 billion to Texas for military construction and for Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) projects. Of that $2.7 billion, $1.3 billion will fund construction projects for Texas military bases.

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