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World Protests Death Sentence for a Christian in Pakistan; Does Ireland Need A Bailout?; Things Looking Up in Mumbai

Aired November 18, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Plans to put this Christian woman to death in Pakistan for insulting Islam sparks criticism from the pope, with the head of the world's Catholics demanding her release. We've seen this type of controversy before.

Remember outrage at the cartoonist depicting the Prophet Mohammed?

Well, tonight, can a strict interpretation of Islam live side-by-side with freedom of speech?

Going beyond borders on the day's biggest stories, on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

The death sentence has been welcomed by local clerics, but has left the family of Asia Bibi devastated.

I'm Max Foster in London with how the story is resonating across the world.

To join in the debate, just head to our Web site,

Also tonight, accepting the inevitable -- Ireland admits it will need a helping hand.

But will Germany decide what strings are attached?

Going into battle -- NATO's secretary-general tells us how the alliance can remain a force to be reckoned with in an age of austerity.



FOSTER: Peter Gabriel on his mission to help Pakistan's flood victims. The rock legend will be answering your questions as our Connector of the Day.

First, the world watches as a Pakistani woman waits to hear whether an appeals court will save her from the gallows. Asia Bibi, a Christian, was sentenced under a law that critics say should have no part in any modern democracy.

Let's begin with Reza Sayah.

He's in Islamabad -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Max, this has become a lightning rod of a case. Nowhere in the Koran or Mohammed's teachings in the Hadith does it say if you commit blasphemy, you should be executed. Even so, this is a law that has been passed down by Islamic jurists and scholars for generations. And it's a law that has one Pakistani family going through unimaginable grief.


SAYAH (voice-over): The grief and agony of two young girls who wait to see if the Pakistani government will execute their jailed mother. "Whenever I see her picture, I cry," says 12-year-old Isham.

This month, a Pakistani court sentenced Isham and Asia's mother, Asia Bibi, to death, not because she killed, injured or stole, but simply because she said something.

(on camera): Prosecutors say Asia Bibi insulted Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. They say the alleged incident happened when she was picking berries in this field in the town of Itan Wali, just about two hours west of Lahore.

(voice-over): Court records show Asia was sharing a bucket of drinking water with fellow workers. But when she dipped her cup, her fellow workers refused the water, saying it had been touched by a non- Muslim woman.

Asia Bibi is a Christian. The women argued. Mafia Satar (ph) and her sisters say they were there and heard Asia's insults.

"She said your Mohammed had worms in his mouth before he died," Satar told us, "a crude way of saying Mohammed was no Prophet."

The town cleric, Qari Salam (ph), reported the incident to police, who arrested Bibi. After nearly 15 months in this jail came the conviction and the death sentence. Per Section 295C of Pakistan's penal code: "Whoever defiles the name of the Prophet Mohammed shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life."

ASHIQ MASIH, ASIA BIBI'S HUSBAND: When I heard the decision, my hearts ached," says Asia's husband, who denies she ever insulted Mohammed. He says death threats forced him and his daughters, one of them disabled, to flee their village.

Human rights groups have long blamed Pakistan's blasphemy laws for the prosecution and violence against religious minorities, like this attack last year on a Christian village and recent bombings of minority Muslim mosques.

Activists say the government has refused to amend the law for fear of a backlash from Islamist groups and their followers, who deem scrapping the law as un-Islamic.

Pakistan's law minister did not respond to our requests for an interview.

Should Asia Bibi be hanged?

In her hometown, the verdict -- a unanimous yes. The town cleric called Asia's death sentence one of the happiest moments of his life. "Tears of joy poured from my eyes," he said.

The cleric's tears in stark contrast to those shed by two girls who want their mother to live.


SAYAH: Isham is crying for her mother. But this is a tremendously resilient little girl who's full of life. And, obviously, she's hoping for this death sentence to be overturned. Asia has appealed her case. Pakistan's law minister has yet to respond to our requests for an interview. But the religious minorities minister came out today and reportedly called for a fair appeal for Asia's case.

We also spoke to the chief prosecutor of Punjab Province, where this case was unfolding.

Here's how he defended this controversial law.


CHAUDHRY MUHAMMAD JAHANGIR, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, PUNJAB PROVINCE: In the Islamic law, so many things which is forgiven by the -- by the -- the jurisprudence of Islam says that, forgive the person, because -- because...

SAYAH: But in this case, this person was sentenced to death.

JAHANGIR: No. This is a -- this is a law. This is -- this is not -- there is no interlink with this case with the Islam. This is -- this is lie -- not Islamic law, this is Pakistani law.


SAYAH: The chief prosecutor says this is the law of the land. Human rights groups say it's a bad law, Max, and they want it repealed. But if history is any indication, that's not going to happen.

FOSTER: Reza, thank you so much, indeed, for that fascinating stuff.

Plans to execute Asia Bibi for blasphemy are leading to calls around the world for her to be released, though, from the grassroots level all the way up to the Vatican. Pope Benedict used his weekly address at St. Peter's Square to urge Pakistani authorities to act. He said, quote: "The international community is following with great concern the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan, often victims of violence or discrimination."

Well, no one has ever been executed under Pakistan's blasphemy law, it's worth noting.

But why is it still on the books, even?

Can a country that calls itself a democracy really punish speech that supports one faith over another?

I talked earlier with Ali Dayan Hasan.

He's a researcher with Human Rights Watch.


ALI DAYAN HASAN, RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Pakistan's legal system is a bit like the Inquisition, when it comes to religious minorities. And the fact of the matter is that these laws are used -- essentially, they are designed and used as instruments of prosecution. That is essentially what has happened. The police felt it expedient to file a case against this lady under Section 295B, instead of actually holding the people who were threatening her accountable for threatening her life and harassment.

Once they had filed that case, the judge -- the lower level judge -- lower level judges in Pakistan are very poorly trained. Pakistan's judiciary, I would -- I want you to know, is not independent of the government. It's one of the few countries in -- in -- in the developing world where that is actually the case.

But the judiciary has done absolutely nothing to actually train these judges. And these judges often bring their own prejudices into legal proceedings.

The fact is that it is entirely likely that the judge subscribed to the mixed -- the Medieval idea that the Christians are, in fact, unclean and therefore he felt that this woman was unfit to -- unreasonable to argue that she wasn't.

So when this -- when this entire case and its record goes to the higher levels of the judiciary, they are likely to just throw it out of court, as they should.

FOSTER: But what's your concern here, then?

If you're pretty confident that this appeal will get through, is your concern, then, that all the lower levels of the judiciary, the police, even the community level regulation is all fundamentally flawed?

HASAN: Absolutely. That is my concern. And you -- you see, the fact of the matter is that Pakistan has the -- all of these laws that target religious minorities. They were introduced in -- in the late -- in the early '80s by General Zia-ul-Haq, a dictator. And these laws are used as an ongoing instrument of political coercion and social discrimination and legal discrimination. And the issue is not whether you are, in fact, convicted of -- of blasphemy and sentenced to death. That has happened. The conviction will, we hope, be overturned on appeal.

But the fact is that these laws are used to coerce minorities and vulnerable sections of society, which include heterodox Muslims and the poor in general, on an ongoing basis.

So the problem with the law is that it is an instrument of coercion and prosecution. And that is the problem.

And -- and -- and the sentence of death will be overturned, we hope. But that does not bring back this particular woman's -- the year of her life she has spent in prison. And it does not deal with the issue of hundreds of other people who languish in jails every year and were charged every year under these very heinous laws.


FOSTER: Sanctioned by the state or not, outspoken critics of Islam can find themselves in hot water or worse.

Remember the fatwa against Salman Rushdie?

Well, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini called on Muslims to kill the British author after he wrote "The Satanic Verses," a book that was considered blasphemous to Islam. It took nearly a decade for the fatwa to be lifted.

More recently, cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammed triggered outrage across the Muslim world. The demonstrations turned deadly in several countries, including in Afghanistan.

One Swedish cartoonist who has sketched Mohammed as a dog is marked for death by al Qaeda. Lars Vilks says he sleeps with an ax by his bed and has booby-trapped his house, but says he'll continue taking a stand for artistic freedom and the right to free speech.

Well, that brings us to the question, can freedom of speech coexist with strict interpretations of Islam?

Our next guest has been a critic of Pakistan's blasphemy law for years, saying Islam requires justice, compassion and mercy.

Akbar Ahmed, a chair of Islamic studies at American University in Washington. He's also a Pakistani -- a former Pakistani ambassador to the U.K.

Thank you so much for joining us on the...


FOSTER: -- on the program.

First of all, I just want to talk about the case of Asia that we've been talking about so far.

Is it your view that it will be overturned on appeal?

AHMED: It is my view, it will be overturned. In the meantime, of course, Pakistan is getting a lot of very negative publicity it can ill afford. Pakistan already has such bad press, that I am shocked how this case has been allowed to develop. It's blatantly a false case. A mother of five being accused of blaspheming against the Holy Prophet Mohammed, to my mind, is unimaginable.

We will put it in context. These cases appear again and again, unfortunately, targeting the Christian minority. Very often, it's a case of the neighbor wanting a car or a buffalo of a Christian family or a piece of land and they then involve them in this blasphemy accusation.

So I think we need to be conscious that if we, as Pakistanis like me, living abroad in the West, in the United States or Pakistanis in the U.K., want and constantly complain about their treatment by Christians or majority populations and to say that we treat our minorities very well, they need to be conscious that in Pakistan, the Christian minority has many, many reasons to complain.

We cannot avoid the fact that there is a global community and a global community right now watching Pakistan and being very critical of a case like this or other cases like this.

FOSTER: And we've talked a bit about the disconnect between the -- the local judiciary level, as it were, and the national judiciary level, as everyone seems agreed that this will be overturned on appeal.

But hasn't the local level got it right, because the law is very, very clear on blasphemy and it leads to a death sentence or life in prison. So taking away all of the discussion around this, actually, the local judiciary have made a very clear ruling and it's within the law.

AHMED: Max, you are right. In fact, I've been what's called a first class magistrate. The problem is this, that when evidence is called for in a case like this, the villagers will all unite against the accuser. So that the poor girl or the poor woman, in this case, will have no justice in the end.

The police, the public there, the community, they'll all line up behind the prosecutor. And, in the end, she's convicted, even before she steps into court.

That is why the president of Pakistan, Mr. Zardari, has to intervene immediately, declare a recall for the case and announce, on compassionate grounds, that the woman is to be acquitted because this will make a mockery of Pakistani law and a mockery of the blasphemy law, because we all -- every Muslim respects and reveres the Prophet of Islam. And what we don't want is that his name, ultimately, gets involved with -- with such sham cases and false accusations.

FOSTER: And for Pakistan's legal system to restore credibility, is it your view that they have to take blasphemy out of the legal system, effectively, in order to allow freedom of speech?

AHMED: Exactly, because my own understanding -- and I know many Christians from Pakistan, they respect the Prophet of Islam, they respect Islam. And so it's a very tiny minority in Pakistan. And cultural, they are Pakistani. They're as good or as bad as any other Pakistani.

So for them, the idea -- the concept of a member of the minority community actually abusing the Prophet of Islam, to me, is unimaginable. It is blatantly a cooked up case. And I've been following these cases and with great regret, I say that this law is misused all the time and, therefore, really has no use as such, because it's not, as it were, defending the honor of the Prophet of Islam. In fact, what it is doing is bringing the name of the Prophet of Islam into disrepute both in Pakistan and abroad, where there are so many critics of Islam needing and wanting cases like this to show that Islam is basically a backward and intolerant religion.

And remember, Pakistan itself gets this bad press as a center of terrorism and violence and so on. So the last thing Pakistanis need to do is allow case like this to fester and then become public and international cases.

FOSTER: And we -- we talked a bit about the fact that this -- this whole case started by Muslims not wanting a Christian lady to handle their drinking water. And that's been made a lot of.

But is this actually part of this case, do you think, or is this just a -- a distraction?

AHMED: Max, again, this is a great question. But put it in context. In a lot of village life in South Asia and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, you still have, unfortunately, elements -- and you're seeing it in this case -- of what was called the caste system. So there's someone who thinks they belong to a better caste or a higher caste and will not allow anyone of the lower castes to touch the utensil in which they're drinking water.

And so, therefore, these women -- these Muslim women -- maybe they're from a slightly higher caste, maybe the landowning caste, object to this particular -- Asia in this case -- using that particular utensil.

So we are seeing something that is not really Islamic at all. And then to accuse her, she may have wanted it back. She may have stood up for her rights. In order to accuse her and damn her, they bring in the blasphemy law, which is a very convenient stick to beat the Christian minority in Pakistan.

FOSTER: Akbar Ahmed, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us on the program and explaining this to us.

Don't go away.

After the break, it's accepting the unacceptable -- we look at why Ireland may be ready to pull back from the brink with a loan, not a bailout, worth billions of dollars.


FOSTER: It's the rescue deal Ireland declared it doesn't want and doesn't need. But now the rhetoric has begun to change. Officials from Europe and the IMF are in Dublin to hit the country's books, an issue that's dividing the former Tiger economy, now enduring a deep recession.

Ireland's finance minister says some form of external assistance is needed to address the problems in the banking sector, with the central bank governor insisting it wouldn't be a bailout, but a loan.

Patrick Honohan told state broadcaster, RTE, that a very substantial loan that's worth tens of billions of euros is definitely likely to happen with no question of it's all going into the banks.

This potential rescue deal is also raising concerns for Europe's other highly indebted countries over the possibility of a so-called bad debt domino effect.

Let's take a look at who could be at risk. According to Eurostat, at the end of 2009, Greece had the largest government deficit as a percentage of GDP at 15.4 percent. It received a $146 billion lifeline in May, provided it would continue with austerity measures.

Spain had the fourth highest rating, at more than 11 percent. And just like Ireland, a collapse in the housing market has also been a key factor in its economic problems. And Portugal's government deficit, as a percentage of GDP, came in at 9.3 percent. Its budget deficit may be lower than Ireland's, but its overall debt levels are higher, at 76 percent of GDP.

Another option open to Ireland is to consolidate its budget -- to consolidating its budget could be to raise its ultra low corporate tax rates. That's according to a German member of the European Parliament, Elmar Brok, who says Dublin could afford to raise its 12.5 percent rate, one of the lowest within the EU, without hurting growth.

And Mr. Brok is on the phone for us now from Berlin.

Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Is it your sense that Ireland has gotten off a bit lightly in the past in terms of meeting European standards and at least up its game a bit if it's going to receive this money?

ELMAR BROK, GERMAN MEP: Well, I think we should not mix it up. For sure, Ireland has the lowest rate. And you might be able to have the space of maneuver if much of it has to be consolidated. But we should not forget that is the principal difference between Greece and Ireland.

Ireland has a sound structure overall at low depth in a public (INAUDIBLE). But they have now to spend the money for the banks, which is the crisis. So it's not a structural crisis for the whole state.

But if we have time to tap down the deficit, then you have only (INAUDIBLE) problems possibly a combination of that, save money and, on the other side, to cut spending and on that side increase taxes and you might do the corporate tax. That's one of the possibilities.

FOSTER: the lot -- the rhetoric has been very unclear, let's say, coming out from Ireland recently. They've been saying that they didn't need a bailout. Now they suggest that they do want some money. They're talking now about a loan and not a bailout. I presume your thinking is that they would rather have a loan because it gives them more control on how to send it. A bailout would have conditions attached, wouldn't it?

BROK: That's true. But if they can manage with the loans, then they should be tried. And if they -- if it's enough credibility on the market that they can pay back the loans, then I think Europe ought to be ready with their umbrella to help Ireland. But it's an Irish decision. Nobody is forcing Ireland to do so. It's the Irish decision. And, again, we would like to make clear that this is a different question than Greece, because structurally, Ireland is in order.

FOSTER: and the sense is, though, that Germany gets a bit frustrated with these smaller countries because they've managed to build up these deficits and Germany is having to -- to bail them out.

so what sort of restrictions would Germany like to see in future which would prevent this happening to countries like Ireland?

BROK: Well, I think, first of all, we are now debating and the (INAUDIBLE) are underway to make a new order for the whole financial market.

Secondly, we want to strain the stability and the growth specter (ph) of the European Union, which gives them a better early warning system, but also the possibilities of punishment against countries who violate the 3 percent maximum deficit rate. And in order to hold that, we do not come in such a crisis anymore.

But you have to understand that Germany will have, also, its own problems in this financial crisis. (INAUDIBLE) for Germany, it's a difficult to explain to their citizens that they have to spend money for others.

But if this is only loans and if the loans can be paid back, then I think that it would be a good thing. Until now, Germany has not lost money in that. And if this whole loan question would have a credibility, I think then they can (INAUDIBLE) for the entire population.

FOSTER: Mr. Brok, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us from Berlin.

Well, up next on CONNECT THE WORLD, battling against the daily commute in Mumbai -- why more and more pedestrians are looking toward the sky, as our Urban Planet week continues.

And zero tolerance with FIFA. Football's governing body gets tough, but what does it mean for England's 2018 World Cup bid?


FOSTER: All this week, CNN is looking at what's been done to create better lives for city dwellers. In Mumbai, many commuters walk to work and the journey can often be full of hazards.

But as Mallika Kapur reports, things may be looking up for pedestrians.


MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how millions of Mumbaikers get to work each day -- a local train followed by a taxi or a commute on foot. The most challenging part is walking on Mumbai's roads. A lack of sidewalks, broken roads, chaotic traffic, filthy streets and heavy pollution.

Satan Arahan (ph) now avoids all that by using one of the elevated skywalks city officials are building for pedestrians.

SATAN ARAHAN: If we could walk and have no traffic, nothing, we would really get away and get a fresh air out of it.

KAPUR: Mumbaikers make 14 million trips a day on foot, says the MMRDA, the body building the skywalks across the city. Seventy percent of these journeys are to and from local stations.

ASHWINI BHIDE, MUMBAI METROPOLITAN REGION DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Outside the state, you can see, there is no place to walk, because when people have to take another mode of transport to reach to their respective workplaces, so either there are bus stations or (INAUDIBLE) auto stands. And plus, because so many people walk, there are a lot of (INAUDIBLE).

KAPUR: That's a problem throughout the city.

(on camera): See these food stores behind me?

They've actually been built on the pavement. This is where they stand. That's the pavement right there. Let me take you now to see the bicycle path on the road. These bikes over here, they have no place to park, so they park on the road, taking up a good 10 percent.

If I want to walk on this road, I have no choice but to walk right in the middle of it.

(voice-over): The idea to segregate pedestrians and vehicles is good, but skywalks are not the answer, says this architect, who is campaigning against them. It's meant cutting down trees, they're expensive to build, plus the yellow caterpillars just don't look good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would recommend to have pedestrian plazas. Even you -- if you have a few hours in the morning, you know, a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening, it works. (INAUDIBLE) this works.

So why don't we try it over here?

KAPUR: For Mumbai's 21 million people, finding space to walk is a luxury -- a luxury that Marian (ph) has finally found up in the sky.

Mallika Kapur, CNN, Mumbai.


FOSTER: Well, from Mumbai to Baghdad, where the main concern isn't roads or traffic, but war, pollution. Tomorrow, meet the workers who are involved in clearing 20 million miles -- mines left behind by three decades of conflict.

CONNECT THE WORLD will be right back in just a moment for a look at how football's world governing body, FIFA, is trying to repair its reputation. We'll have more on that damaging corruption scandal, after this.


FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, from corruption to crackdown, football's world governing body tries to wipe the World Cup slate clean.

Charting a new course for NATO, we'll look at what's in store for Afghanistan as an old rival jumps on board.

And Peter Gabriel and Salman Ahmad are in the hot seat as your Connectors of the Day.

All those stories ahead in the show for you but, first, let's check the headlines this hour.

The family of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy in Pakistan awaits her fate. Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for insulting Islam and the prophet Mohammed, a claim she denies. Bibi has filed an appeal. Pope Benedict XVI has called for her release.

IMF and European officials have descended on Dublin to examine the state of the country's banks. The head of Ireland's Central Bank says the talks could lead to a substantial loan to bolster the country's troubled economy.

With Haiti caught in the grip of a cholera outbreak, violent anti-UN protests broke out in the capital today. Chaos reigned in one city over claims UN peacekeepers were responsible for the outbreak. Cholera -- Officials say cholera has claimed more than 1100 lives so far.

The Stockholm criminal court has issued an international arrest warrant for the founder of the WikiLeaks website. The court says Julian Assange is suspected of rape, sexual molestation, and illegal use of force. Assange's lawyer says he can't reveal his client's location.

No cheaters, no doping, and no illicit advances. World football's governing body, FIFA, says it won't be tolerating any violation of its standards after suspending two executive committee members amid allegations of corruption. Nigerian Amos Adamu and Reynald Temari of the -- of Tahiti have been banned from voting in the decision to host the 2018 and 22 World Cup.

Four other officials were also disciplined by the ethics committee. FIFA's general secretary, Jerome Valcke, says the sanctions will serve as a warning to anyone tempted to break the rules.


JEROME VALCKE, FIFA SECRETARY GENERAL: I hope that, again, what's happened these last three days show that there's an ethics committee, and people should be careful by entering into any situation which is both forbidden, either through the bid registration of the ethics committee code.


FOSTER: Let's get more on this now with "World Sports" Pedro Pinto, because there's been some criticism of FIFA over the years. Do you think this somehow confirms things?

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, I have to tell you that at least FIFA is dealing with this promptly, and they are suspending both of the executive committee members accused of selling their votes as a result of an undercover sting operation by an English newspaper.

They needed to do this now. The vote is two weeks away, and the last thing they wanted is for people to continue to talk about the fact that there's alleged corruption within world football's governing body.

Let me give you a little bit more -- a closer look, some background on the two executive committee members who have been suspended.

The first is Amos Adamu. He's 57 years old, from Nigeria. He's the sports development official there, and he allegedly asked for $800,000 in exchange for his vote. He said this money would be used to build four new artificial pitches, but that argument really didn't stand and, as a result, he was suspended for three years from all football activities. Also received a fine of $10,000.

The other man is Reynald Temari. He's from Tahiti, as you mentioned earlier. He's currently a vice president of FIFA, also the president of the Oceania Football Confederation. He asked for around $2.4 million to build, allegedly, a new sports academy. That argument didn't really convince anyone either and, as a result, he's received a one-year ban, also fined $5,000.

FOSTER: So, what does this mean for this vote coming up in December?

PINTO: It means that instead of 24 executive committee members voting for the 2018 and 22 World Cups, we'll have 22. Of course, that could also be a disadvantage, maybe, for a country like Australia, who's bidding for 2022, because surely Temari being someone from Oceania, he would vote for them. That's speculation, obviously, but it could mean that.

FOSTER: Or may lean towards --

PINTO: Exactly.

FOSTER: His region.

PINTO: Exactly. And you would expect that. But it also means that each individual vote has -- carries more weight. And also it means, let's face it, Max, that the activities of every FIFA executive committee member will be scrutinized in a more detailed way leading up to the vote, doesn't it?

FOSTER: OK. And also, FIFA examined this other case, didn't they, as well? The 2018 joint bid of Spain and Portugal and 2022 bidders Qatar had agreed to trade votes. So what did FIFA say about that?

PINTO: Well, what we heard today was the result of a three-day meeting from the ethics committee at FIFA, and they did examine that possibility of collusion, that there were some arrangements behind the scenes between Spain and Portugal bid and the Qatar bid, to vote for each other, let's say. And they didn't find any proof of that, so both bids have been cleared.

I don't know if I have time to quickly wrap up the countries that are bidding for both World Cups, Max, just to bring in some perspective. For 2018 we have four nations, and they're all European, as you can see. England, Belgium/Netherlands, Portugal/Spain, and Russia. The odds right now, betting companies are placing the Russian bid as the favorite.

As far as 2022 is concerned, they're all outside of Europe. Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, and the United States. The vote is on the 2nd of December, and we're having a look at the latest odds concerning 2018.

FOSTER: And you'll have that result on the 2nd.

PINTO: We will. We will be going to Zurich to cover that for CNN.

FOSTER: OK. Pedro, thank you very much, indeed.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Up next, a new strategy for NATO, and Russia is onboard, it seems. We'll tell you what this means for the mission in Afghanistan in particular.


FOSTER: It's been flagged as the most important summit in the history of NATO. Tomorrow, the 28 allies, together with Russia, will meet in Lisbon to sign off on a strategy that will guide the organization for the next decade.

The pace and scale of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan will be a key part of the new agenda. 2014, that's the date Afghan president Hamid Karzai wants full security handed to his country's forces. But will Afghanistan be ready? Barbara Starr put that question to the mission commander.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an exclusive interview with CNN, General David Petraeus made clear he's ready to tell President Obama and other leaders at this week's NATO summit there is progress against the Taliban.

DAVID PETRAEUS, GENERAL, US COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: My assessment is that the momentum that the Taliban enjoyed up until, probably, late summer has broadly been arrested in the country.

STARR (voice-over): And he thinks he will be able to send some US troops home beginning in July of next year.

PETRAEUS: I think that we will be able to conduct transition of various tasks to various Afghan forces. The fact is, we are already doing that in certain areas.

STARR (voice-over): The ultimate goal? Get President Hamid Karzai's government to take over security by 2014. Senior US officials say among the first provinces to be turned over, Parwan, Bamiyan, Panjshir. The violence has been minimal in those areas. Taliban strongholds like Kandahar in the south may take longer. Another stronghold, Helmand province. Petraeus is ready to tell NATO leaders there's already some progress there.

PETRAEUS: The ISAF and Afghan forces have achieved momentum in some very important areas. Have literally reversed the momentum of the Taliban in places like central Helmand province.

STARR (voice-over): But there are skeptics. Bruce Riedel helped devise the current Afghan strategy. He questions if all of this adds up to enduring progress across Afghanistan.

BRUCE RIEDEL, SENIOR FELLOW, SABAN CENTER: We're not going to know how significantly we have really degraded the Taliban until next spring and summer, when we see the replacement parts for those 300 or 400 killed or wounded in the last year come onto the battlefield.

STARR (on camera): General Petraeus is putting the finishing touches on a review due to President Obama next month. Now, he wouldn't tell me how many troops he thinks he might be able to send home next year. He did say, however, that some troops might not be coming home right away. They might just be reassigned to other areas in Afghanistan where they're still needed. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


FOSTER: Talks over withdrawal from Afghanistan come as NATO nations dealing with their own economic battles slashed their defense budgets. The US recently announced it's making cuts of $100 billion over five years. Britain is aiming to reduce its record peacetime military spend by eight percent over four years, a saving of almost $5 billion. And Germany's defense budget is set for a six percent cut over four years, amounting to almost $11 billion, whilst France is making defense cuts that will save $4 billion by 2013.

NATO itself says it needs to trim fat and build muscle itself and, as Matthew Chance explains, some of that might be set to come from Russia.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Afghan war zone, already these former Cold War rivals are working closely together. This joint raid on a drug lab near the Pakistan border last month was led by US troops but, for the first time, Russian drug enforcement agents also took part.

Now, Moscow is set to endorse a raft of measures at the NATO summit aimed at further bolstering ties with the western alliance and assisting with its Afghan war effort.

ALEXANDER GRUSHKO, RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We are interested in seeing Afghanistan as a neutral and democratic country, which poses no threat to its neighbors. It is clear that the Afghan problem can't be resolved by military means alone. Therefore, Russia has proposed some concrete economic projects there.

CHANCE (voice-over): But Russia's increased involvement goes beyond economic projects. Moscow is poised to endorse an expansion of its joint anti-drug efforts with NATO. It would also formalized an agreement to open secure transit routes across Russian territory to NATO military supplies. And Moscow is committing to train and equip more Afghan personnel, like helicopter pilots, in Russia and central Asian states.

It all comes at a crucial time in NATO's war effort. Analysts say Moscow is concerned about what NATO failure in Afghanistan would mean.

CHANCE (on camera): For years, Russia has viewed as Afghanistan as a major national security problem. It's the main source of heroin that floods Russia's streets. There's also concern that a resurgent Taliban could inflame Islamist unrest in the central Asian states to Russia's south. NATO's success in stabilizing Afghanistan is now very much a Russian priority.

CHANCE (voice-over): Russia, of course, has bitter memories of its own Afghan experience. After nine years of combat, exactly the same amount of time NATO has now been involved, Soviet forces in 1989 completed a humiliating withdrawal. Could the renewed Russian involvement in Afghanistan mean a return?

CHANCE (on camera): Given the critical importance for Russia of stability in Afghanistan, do you ever foresee in the future any way in which Russia would consider putting its own troops into Afghanistan to fight alongside NATO troops?

GRUSHKO (through translator): I think that is totally ruled out for many reasons. It is a sovereign decision of Russia, and we don't plan to change it. Nevertheless, we are prepared for the closest possible cooperation, both with the Afghan government and with all those forces who are promoting the improvement of the Afghan situation.

CHANCE (voice-over): So, that's a clear no. But with Russia's new willingness to assist and support NATO, the old graveyard of empires, as Afghanistan is known, appears to be slowly drawing Russia back in. Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


FOSTER: With Russia onboard, the two-day Lisbon summit will herald a new era of cooperation in Afghanistan. I spoke to NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen a little earlier about the future of the mission, and I began by asking about the impact of all the austerity measures amongst the allies.


ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Obviously, all governments are faced with austerity constraints, but they have decided to give priority to the participation in a very important international operation like the one in Afghanistan. And that's very promising for our future.

FOSTER: And describe how you see the partnership with Russia developing going forward, then.

RASMUSSEN: My vision is to see the development of a true strategic partnership with Russia. And at the summit, NATO and Russia will meet, and we will embark on a new stage of cooperation, and also make important decisions on concrete cooperation projects.

First of all, we will invite Russia to cooperate on missile defense. Next, we will agree on an Afghanistan package as to how Russia can strengthen its engagement in our operation in Afghanistan. We will also decide to cooperate on counter-terrorism and counter-piracy. So, all in all, a very comprehensive agenda of cooperation between NATO and Russia.

FOSTER: Due to Russian and Afghan history, you're not going to get Russian boots on the ground, are you? So, give us some more specifics about the role Russia will play in Afghanistan with NATO.

RASMUSSEN: No, we will not see Russian boots on the ground in Afghanistan. The Russians don't want it, the Afghans don't want it. But Russia can contribute in other ways. And at the summit, we will decide on a package with three important elements.

Firstly, to expand the current transit arrangement through Russian territory. Secondly, we will enhance our counter-narcotics cooperation. And thirdly, we will also agree a helicopter package and establish a trust fund to finance parts of a helicopter package to the benefit of the Afghan army. So, it will be very concrete cooperation projects.

FOSTER: Which you need, because the Americans, they're talking about pulling out too early, some think, from Afghanistan. Tell us where we are in terms of troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, and which areas will be affected first.

RASMUSSEN: Actually, the Americans are not speaking about troop withdrawal. What we're speaking about is a gradual handover of lead responsibility for the security to the Afghans themselves. And this transition process will start early next year, and we hope that it will be completed by the end of 2014.

But it's important to stress that we will stay as long as it takes to finish our job in Afghanistan. But I'm quite confident that by the end of 2014, the Afghan security forces will be able to take lead responsibility all over the country.

FOSTER: But the relationship between NATO and Afghanistan isn't great at the moment, is it? President Karzai has been critical of the strategy of the alliance and of the American forces. What are your thoughts on what he's been saying recently about the way you've been conducting yourselves in Afghanistan?

RASMUSSEN: I'm not necessarily 100 percent in agreement with Karzai on all his statements, but the main thrust of his statement is equivalent to ours. Namely, that we should gradually hand over responsibility to the Afghans.


FOSTER: Head of NATO speaking to me a little earlier. Well, from an alliance in Afghanistan to a partnership in Pakistan. Next up, a British rock legend and a celebrated Pakistani musician join forces for flood victims. Peter Gabriel and Salman Ahmad join us as your Connectors of the Day.


FOSTER: The flood that devastated Pakistan in July and August affected some 20 million people. Four months on, the water has receded, but the need remains desperate. Let's get you connected, now, with two stars who have come together to sing so the world doesn't forget.


FOSTER (voice-over): Peter Gabriel is one of rock's greatest legends, and Salman Ahmad has been credited with creating the U2 of Asia. So it's no surprise that the two have captured the world's attention this year by joining forces.

The music giants are working together to raise awareness of and funds for the devastation caused by the Pakistani floods. They've written a song entitled "Open Your Eyes," urging the world to get more involved.

(MUSIC - "Open Your Eyes")

FOSTER (voice-over): For Gabriel, politics have always ruled both his lyrics and his life. He's lent his voice to a number of causes, including his renowned Witness program.

Raised in both New York and Lahore, Ahmad has used his fame to challenge some of the conservative standards of Pakistani society and bring attention to the plight of its most impoverished people. The two spoke to me about their reasons for pairing up, and what they hope to achieve.

SALMAN AHMAD, PAKISTANI MUSICIAN: Three months ago, when the floods hit Pakistan, I spoke to my mother, who's in Karachi, and she told me, she said she'd seen wars, earthquakes, but nothing like this flood.

I didn't know what to do, and so I wrote a song. And I was looking for somebody out there who didn't have compassion fatigue, and Peter Gabriel came as an angel of mercy.

FOSTER: It's been difficult, hasn't it, Peter, this story? Because it everywhere and, then, we've heard less about it in the international media. But it's still going on. Is that what attracted you to this song?

PETER GABRIEL, BRITISH SINGER: Well, I think as Salman says, it's the biggest natural disaster of our time, and yet, the international response from all of us was pitiful. And I don't know why that is, but besides Salman asking, that was the reason that I wanted to get involved.

FOSTER: We've got lots of questions. I'm going to come to you, Salman, with this one from Con Knudston. He says, "As Pakistan rebuilds, what efforts are being made, to your knowledge, to avoid the situation happening in the future? Are they going to rebuild with sturdier materials to withstand future floods?"

AHMAD: Right now, what we're trying to do through organizations like UNHCR, UNICEF, Islamic Relief, is to provide all of the people who have been displaced to be able to go back to their villages and towns. And I would hope that after experiencing this biggest single natural disaster that the Pakistani authorities and also with the UN look towards, yes, building more infrastructure.

You know, 20 million people is the population of Australia. Think about that. To be displaced from your homes, children, women, men. And through Peter's help and of Alison Sudol, of A Fine Frenzy, who also sang on this song. This song is like an ad campaign. Open your eyes. Open your heart. And for $35, you can support a family of seven for two weeks, food and medicine in Pakistan.

FOSTER: Bill D., Peter, asks, "What are some of the challenges in marketing selling a charity single?" You've been involved in others before. It's a tough gig, isn't it?

GABRIEL: Well, I think people are sort of fed up with rock stars coming in about any issue. But truthfully, here, there's not many people out there doing it, and these people are in desperate need. So, that's why I'm here.

Now, I think Salman describes the picture as very bleak because all the bridges and the infrastructure is gone. It's very hard to get aid out there. And winter is moving in. And I think unless a lot of people respond, a lot more people out there are going to die. It's very simple.

(MUSIC - "Open Your Eyes")

FOSTER: In terms of the song, it's a good song, but does it get the message across, do you think, effectively?

GABRIEL: Well, I think it's there to try and open things up and get people thinking about Pakistan and that there are desperate situation and desperate people that really need help. So, I think it does that job, and I think there's some soul being put into it, mainly from Salman, and I did my best. So, hopefully, there'll be some way of connecting.

FOSTER: And Salman, Facebook and Twitter in Pakistan taken by enormous effect. Do you think it's events like this that are really sort of leading that sort of change?

AHMAND: Yes. It's -- look. When somebody's in a bad way, it's like, Facebook and Twitter is like this modern postcard, instantaneous postcard, which tells people, "Look, you're not alone. You're not alone." And that's what songs do, as well. And in this season, now, today, of Haji, Eid, Christmas coming up, Diwali, Thanksgiving. I hope that people will focus their attention and their eyes towards Pakistan.

FOSTER: OK. And finally, Peter, a whole range of questions coming in. You've got the inevitable one, lots of people asked it. Do you have any plans for a Genesis reunion?

GABRIEL: It's funny, I've never been asked that question before.


GABRIEL: Not currently. We did talk about it for a little while, but it was a bigger time commitment required than I was interested in. But --

FOSTER: So, no exclusive for us today.

GABRIEL: No exclusive. Yes, no --


FOSTER: You'll stick with Salman for now.

GABRIEL: Or definitely maybe.


FOSTER: Next time, maybe. That was Peter Gabriel and Salman Ahmad, your Connectors of the Day. I'll be right back with the headlines.