Reading the Middle Eastern and South Asian Press

Bin Laden: "Just Shoot Me"

Osama bin Laden has told people close to him that he is living his last weeks. But he doesn't want Americans or members of the Northern Alliance to capture him. Instead, he has instructed aides to shoot him if there is no escape. Bin Laden believes it is better to die at the hands of his aides or his son, and has taped his last statement to be broadcast after his death. --Al Watan, Muscat, Oman

Bin Laden Nuclear Threat?

A five-hour journey on bumpy roads from Kabul led a blindfolded Hamid Mir, editor of the Ausaf newspaper in Pakistan, to Osama bin Laden in early November. Many reports on the visit buried what Mir learned from bin Laden. Bin Laden warned, "if the U.S. is going to use nuclear or chemical weapons against us, we will respond in the same way. But we will not use these weapons first." He called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a traitor to Islam, but tempered his stance toward America, saying he was against "American policies," not all Americans. Bin Laden talked about his death more than once during the interview. "I may be killed in American bombing, but they will not have peace even after my death," he said. --The Week, Kochy, India

Sudan: It Isn't So

A high official in Sudan's ruling party responded to reports that the United States was going to expand the war against terrorism to camps in countries such as Sudan, Yemen and Somalia. Ibrahim Ahmad Amr, the Secretary General of the National Conference Party, said there were no terrorist training camps in Sudan. He said that in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Sudan had started a positive dialogue with Washington around the issue of lifting of international sanctions imposed in 1996. --Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Turban-Making Downturn

Turban makers in a small village in West Bengal, India, find their only source of livelihood has dried up since the war in Afghanistan. Their main customers were buyers in Afghanistan, who stopped purchasing turbans when the chaos of the war brought trade to a halt. --Rediff.com, Mumbai, India

Hindus' New War Plank

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in India came to power by galvanizing its vote bank around the controversial project of building a Hindu temple in Ayodhya on the ruins of an ancient mosque. Since Sept. 11 the party has found a much more effective electoral platform in pushing for passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance. Since terrorists are commonly thought of as Muslim, observers say that the party can disguise its Hindu-centric agenda by labeling anyone opposed to the ordinance as unpatriotic. --Outlook, New Delhi, India.

Smack Down

Following the U.S. attacks, the value of pure-quality heroin in Pakistan has fallen from Rs32,500 ($530) a kilo to 10-15,000 ($170-245) a kilo. In the areas bordering Afghanistan, 95 percent pure heroin is down to Rs5,000 ($85) per kilo. Dealers who had started hoarding opium after Taliban leader Mullah Omar banned poppy cultivation last year sold their stocks, fearing it would be destroyed in U.S. bombings. --The Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan.

Dangerous Intelligence

In an interview in Australia, exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto warned that the ISI (the Pakistani intelligence services) is a state within a state in Pakistan and is not to be trusted. --Rediff.com, Mumbai, India.

Russian Bear in Kabul?

Who will control Kabul: Washington or Moscow? It seems the Russians kept America in the dark while supplying the Northern Alliance with fresh munitions, enabling it to occupy Kabul. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee apparently encouraged Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the hopes that India would play a key role in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Now, with the Northern Alliance in Kabul, the Russian-Indian-Iranian axis has stronger bargaining power with the Americans in its efforts to minimize Pakistan's role in the region. --Tehelka.com, New Delhi, India.
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