Spearhead Analysis: Elections held hostage

April 22, 2013

By Nida Afaque
SPEARHEAD RESEARCH

As elections draw near, the political climate within Pakistan has turned sober. Contesting parties are working industriously to widen their voter base, the Election Commission is overworked with verifying candidates’ credibility and the interim government is struggling to contain the country’s affairs until the next government is ready to take charge. But there is another kind of force, one that is becoming more elusive than ever, which is busy opposing efforts to a peaceful democratic transition.

These anti-state forces have been involved in harmful activities for quite long. Pakistan has had to pay the price of these terrorist elements through money, blood and an overall loss of security. Since the beginning of this year, the weekly death toll averages 175, with most violence concentrated in Karachi, Baluchistan, KPK and FATA. Various religious extremists like Jundullah, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and most commonly, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been found responsible for the attacks on senior politicians and government and security buildings across the country. Other civil separatist movements like the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) have targeted government officials and security personnel.

Read more…


FP: Standing strong with our Hazara brothers

February 22, 2013

FOR PAKISTAN

Quetta was still recovering from the heart wrenching January attacks when it suffered another tragedy last week. A Sunni militant organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, planned a horrific bomb blast which left at least 80 people dead and more than 200 people injured. Their targets were the Hazaras.

Sectarian violence against the Hazara community goes backs to the late 1970s and even today they continue to be victims of terrorism. Its people live in perpetual fear; staying in their homes would make them the target of bomb attacks and venturing out in the world means they can be taken hostage, dragged out of buses and shot dead.

More than 1000 Hazaras have died and an additional 3000 injured from attacks since 1999. Law enforcement agencies and courts have failed to bring the victims any justice. It is no surprise that around 55000 people have chosen to migrate abroad for their safety. Some say this aggression is the result of Zia’s Islamisation which was supported by Wahabi Muslims. Others believe it is the Hazaras’ superior economic wellbeing in comparison to their Pashtun counterparts that has instigated this violence. Hazaras are known to value education and over time have flourished in businesses and real estate. Together these socio-economic and ethnic tensions have complicated the case against Hazaras.

It is natural to feel frustrated and angry at the government who can’t provide the fundamental right of security to its minority communities. But there is a silver lining in these gloomy days too. In the past two incidents of massacre in Quetta, we saw hundreds of people from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds all around the world stand up for the rights of the Hazaras. Demonstrations were seen in many countries including Canada, UK, and Australia appealing to their governments, human right organizations and the UN for affirmative action.

In Pakistan especially we saw an overwhelming support from non-Shias and the youth. Many included students who advocated for human rights. Others were young employees who chose to take a day off from work or devote their lunch break to help the protesters. Some people chose to express their support in an unconventional yet peaceful way. They collected donations and used it to offer protesters food and refreshments. Police officers were even invited to lunch. One volunteer said he wanted to do this to keep the morale of the protesters high. In Karachi, a group of boys offered to perform security checks of all people entering the protest. The level of commitment shown in ensuring peaceful protests was impressive and must be appreciated. Volunteers demonstrated great cooperation in organizing their efforts. The small difference that each individual made proved the sincerity of their feelings for their Hazara brothers.

News of this massacre spread through online media platforms which were also used to invite and organize people for protests. Information about the venue, time and even transport arrangements were provided. Twitter and Facebook were two common forums which people used to denounce the killings and discuss the media’s and government’s response. Live updates from participants in the rallies gave distant family members and friends a clear picture of the ground reality.

We may come from different backgrounds and follow different belief systems but we are all connected to each other through humanity. The extraordinary bravery that the Pakistani public has exhibited in these testing times should continue for not just the Hazaras but for all other minorities who have suffered injustices on the bases of their religion, race or ethnicity. A strong unity over human rights could be the hidden strength the country needs to take down extremism.


PML-N and The Truth: Why So Anti-Army?

May 18, 2011

By Ahsan Waheed
ZoneAsia-Pk

The aftermath of the OBL debacle resulted in a blame game at almost all levels of state infrastructure in Pakistan. Neither civil government officials not members of the military establishment were spared – by each other, or by the Pakistani media and the speculation-ridden conspiracy-driven people of Pakistan.

The ten hour long in-camera parliamentary session was one of a kind in the political history of this country – where both General Ashfaq Kiyani and General Pasha (DG ISI) were present. General Kiyani, throughout the session, seemed to be much of a silent observer; it was General Pasha, the Director General of the ISI, who beared the brunt of all the barrage of criticism thrown at him. At one point, when he offered his resignation, parliamentarians initiated a ruckus and shouted in the august house that the resignation should be accepted. While many argue that the military establishment of Pakistan is not subservient to the parliament or civil administration, it should also e or outside the legislature – have no respect for the military institutions of the country. This disrespect had obviously crossed all bounds after May 02, as has become obvious to everyone.

According to certain media reports, the most acerbic remarks were given by Ch Nisar of PML-N. He criticized the Army and their role in the politics of the country. He did not stop anywhere, not even where the matters could result in projecting a repulsive image of Pakistan being a terrorist state – where the army was possibly playing a double game by pleasing both the US and the Taliban. Ch Nisar’s rampant opposition for the sake of opposition severely damaged Pakistan’s intelligence sharing mechanism with the US – CIA Director Leon Panetta stated as matter of fact to the DG ISI that when his own country’s opposition leader couldn’t trust him, how could the CIA.

Such criticism needs to be seen in the light of how the whole situation has been outplayed after OBL’s death, and not just the difficulties faced by Pakistan’s institutions because of political ineptitude in general. No doubt that the army gets a major chunk of the budget; such a magnanimous budget endowment means that the army should be doing their job of defending the country and not dabble in the political processes of running the country. It is also important to point out that our role in the War on Terror has been to support the United States; it has only become evident since 2007 that Pakistan is actually a front in the War on Terror, after terrorists themselves declared Pakistan and Pakistanis as legitimate targets, and proceeded to conduct daily attacks ever since then.

Ch Nisar’s brother, Ch Ibtisar, was a high-ranking Pakistan Army official who became Chief of General Staff as well as Defence Secretary – most famously, he refused to sign Gen Musharraf’s removal orders and Gen Butt’s appointment orders, which led to uncertainty that was capitalized on by Musharraf’s corps commanders and helped in the 1999 coup – or Musharraf’s “countercoup” as he himself calls it. When the PPP and PML-N were “allies” before the judiciary issue forced them to part ways, it was assumed that Ch Nisar would be given the post of Defence Minister – obviously that did not happen, because maybe Ch Nisar was not as cultured as his brother.

Ch Nisar, being a representative of the people and a senior leader of the PML-N, should take a look into his party’s history as well. The PML-N was originally the PML reincarnated by Gen Zia – the architect of the Afghan jihad and the first head of state to use Islamic terrorism as national policy – so that he could have a dummy parliament that could rubberstamp his Ordinances into law. Incidentally one of Zia’s ministers is also currently Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif – one of Zia’s favorites – took the advantage of a rift between party leader Junejo and president Zia to carve out his own PML, and he attached his own name to it so that nobody could take it away from him. After this, Nawaz took it upon himself as a personal mission to counter Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan’s liberals – at Zia’s death anniversary, Nawaz Sharif swore on his tomb that he would carry forward “Zia ul Haq Shaheed’s Mission”. Again, incidentally, a lot of religious extremists, takfiris, Wahabbi fundamentalists, and traditionalist conservatives in Pakistan are also pursuing Zia ul Haq’s distorted and macabre mission.

Up till certain years ago, it was alleged that links exist between Al Qaeda and the funding of PML-N – especially in the 1997 elections. Gen Musharraf was quick to remind the international community about this throughout the last decade, in order to dissuade world leaders from considering Sharif a valid political contender. However, with immense Saudi backing, and despite the financial malfeasance and daylight robbery the Sharif brothers conducted in Saudi Arabia – while they were the Kingdom’s guests and protectees – the Sharifs were given a new political lifeline after a deal was reached to allow former PM Benazir Bhutto to come back to the country. The judiciary decreed that it was also Nawaz Sharif’s fundamental right to return to his country – that is when everything hit the fan. By this time, Nawaz Sharif had a huge bone to pick with the Army, who had propped him up in the first place. Sharif could act like a reborn Bhutto who had escaped the military gallows and would come back as a revolutionary leader of the masses who is strictly against military intervention in politics – only because it packed up his government the last time it happened. Evidently, Sharif’s politics are not defined by national interest or public progress, but only by his personal sentiments and his prevalent feelings about the country, its institutions and its general political scenario. Of course, if President Zardari does not open the Hudaibiya Paper Mills cases and other scams, Nawaz Sharif will “silently” trumpet the Swiss cases issue, the NRO and other incidents of corruption that put the PPP in the docket. That is why Nawaz is aware that people call him a “friendly opposition”; while he hates the label, he should be glad that he’s not the “King’s opposition” and live with what the people call him – that is his reality.

The closeness of the PML-N to religious extremists and even terror elements like the SSP (Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT, now the JuD, or Jamaat-ud-Dawa, led by Hafiz Saeed), and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) are well known. In fact, Nawaz Sharif was only recently attending talks and rallies with Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the JuD and India’s enemy number one. India blames Hafiz Saeed and his JuD for the 26/11 attacks. Nawaz Sharif, while claiming that Pakistan’s India-centric military focus should be altered, immediately jumped into Hafiz Saeed’s lap: this was done within days of each other, leading the people of Pakistan to believe that the N in PML-N stands for “neurotic”.

When the ISI indicated last year that some areas in Southern Punjab had become a breeding ground for terrorism, the PML-N refused their intelligence inputs and assessments outright, refuting the argument by saying that terrorists do not belong to any religion or ethnicity, and trying to pin Punjab as the centre of terrorism is a ‘plot’ against the people of the province. Of course, the PML-N – running the Punjab province more dictatorially than Musharraf’s henchmen the Chaudhry brothers – believes ignore and avoid is the best policies, especially when it comes to critical matters of national importance. South Punjab is a hub of extremism and marginalization, which has become more evident after last year’s floods, and the state is completely absent, while madrassas and religious charities have mushroomed. Of course, after giving them the benefit of the doubt, it still remains to be investigated whether terrorists and suicide bombers are being recruited from poor helpless families of South Punjab, or not. The PML-N, since it is indebted to the vote bank of religious extremists and banned political parties, will never let the provincial government, federal government, or even the army, take action in South Punjab.

And so, terrorism and extremism will fester in Pakistan, while Nawaz Sharif dreams of becoming Prime Minister for the third time. He may even become President. After all, the Charter of Democracy is used again and again to imply that the PPP and PML-N are going to take turns ruling Pakistan and administering its federal government. How democratic!


The Case Against Raymond Davis

March 2, 2011

The CIA’s Killing Spree in Lahore

By MIKE WHITNEY

When CIA-agent Raymond Davis gunned down two Pakistani civilians in broad daylight on a crowded street in Lahore, he probably never imagined that the entire Washington establishment would spring to his defense. But that’s precisely what happened. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mike Mullen, John Kerry, Leon Panetta and a number of other US bigwigs have all made appeals on Davis’s behalf. None of these stalwart defenders of “the rule of law” have shown a speck of interest in justice for the victims or of even allowing the investigation to go forward so they could know what really happened. Oh, no. What Clinton and the rest want, is to see their man Davis packed onto the next plane to Langley so he can play shoot-’em-up someplace else in the world.

Does Clinton know that after Davis shot his victims 5 times in the back, he calmly strode back to his car, grabbed his camera, and photographed the dead bodies? Does she know that the two so-called “diplomats” who came to his rescue in a Land Rover (which killed a passerby) have been secretly spirited out of the country so they won’t have to appear in court? Does she know that the families of the victims are now being threatened and attacked to keep them from testifying against Davis? Here’s a clip from Thursday’s edition of The Nation”:

“Three armed men forcibly gave poisonous pills to Muhammad Sarwar, the uncle of Shumaila Kanwal, the widow of Fahim shot dead by Raymond Davis, after barging into his house in Rasool Nagar, Chak Jhumra.

Sarwar was rushed to Allied Hospital in critical condition where doctors were trying to save his life till early Thursday morning. The brother of Muhammad Sarwar told The Nation that three armed men forced their entry into the house after breaking the windowpane of one of the rooms. When they broke the glass, Muhammad Sarwar came out. The outlaws started beating him up.

The other family members, including women and children, coming out for his rescue, were taken hostage and beaten up. The three outlaws then took everyone hostage at gunpoint and forced poisonous pills down Sarwar’s throat.” (“Shumaila’s uncle forced to take poisonous pills”, The Nation)

Good show, Hillary. We’re all about the rule of law in the good old USA.

But why all the intrigue and arm-twisting? Why has the State Department invoked the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to make its case that Davis is entitled to diplomatic immunity? If Davis is innocent, then he has nothing to worry about, right? Why not let the trial go forward and stop reinforcing the widely-held belief that Davis is a vital cog in the US’s clandestine operations in Pakistan?

The truth is that Davis had been photographing sensitive installations and madrassas for some time, the kind of intelligence gathering that spies do when scouting-out prospective targets. Also, he’d been in close contact with members of terrorist organizations, which suggests a link between the CIA and terrorist incidents in Pakistan. Here’s an excerpt from Wednesday’s The Express Tribune:

“His cell phone has revealed contacts with two ancillaries of al Qaeda in Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP) and sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has led to the public conclusion that he was behind terrorism committed against Pakistan’s security personnel and its people ….This will strike people as America in cahoots with the Taliban and al Qaeda against the state of Pakistan targeting, as one official opined, Pakistan’s nuclear installations.” (“Raymond Davis: The plot thickens, The Express Tribune)

“Al Qaeda”? The CIA is working with “ancillaries of al Qaeda in Pakistan”? No wonder the US media has been keeping a wrap on this story for so long.

Naturally, most Pakistanis now believe that the US is colluding with terrorists to spread instability, weaken the state, and increase its power in the region. But isn’t that America’s M.O. everywhere?

Also, many people noticed that US drone attacks suddenly stopped as soon as Davis was arrested. Was that a coincidence? Not likely. Davis was probably getting coordinates from his new buddies in the tribal hinterland and then passing them along to the Pentagon. The drone bombings are extremely unpopular in Pakistan. More then 1400 people have been killed since August 2008, and most of them have been civilians.

And, there’s more. This is from (Pakistan’s) The Nation:

“A local lawyer has moved a petition in the court of Additional District and Sessions … contending that the accused (Davis)… was preparing a map of sensitive places in Pakistan through the GPS system installed in his car. He added that mobile phone sims, lethal weapons, and videos camera were recovered from the murder accused on January 27, 2011.” (“Davis mapped Pakistan targets court told”, The Nation)

So, Davis’s GPS chip was being used to identify targets for drone attacks in the tribal region. Most likely, he was being assisted on the other end by recruits or members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban.

A lot of extravagant claims have been made about what Davis was up to, much of which is probably just speculation. One report which appeared on ANI news service is particularly dire, but produces little evidence to support its claims. Here’s an excerpt:

“Double murder-accused US official Raymond Davis has been found in possession of top-secret CIA documents, which point to him or the feared American Task Force 373 (TF373) operating in the region, providing Al-Qaeda terrorists with “nuclear fissile material” and “biological agents,” according to a report.

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is warning that the situation on the sub-continent has turned “grave” as it appears that open warfare is about to break out between Pakistan and the United States, The European Union Times reports…..The most ominous point in this SVR report is “Pakistan’s ISI stating that top-secret CIA documents found in Davis’s possession point to his, and/or TF373, providing to al Qaeda terrorists “nuclear fissile material” and “biological agents”, which they claim are to be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to re-establish the West’s hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse,” the paper added. (“CIA Spy Davis was giving nuclear bomb material to Al Qaeda, says report”, ANI)

Although there’s no way to prove that this is false, it seems like a bit of a stretch. But that doesn’t mean that what Davis was up to shouldn’t be taken seriously. Quite the contrary. If Davis was working with Tehreek-e-Taliban, (as alleged in many reports) then we can assume that the war on terror is basically a ruse to advance a broader imperial agenda. According to Sify News, the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, believes this to be the case. Here’s an excerpt:

“Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US envoy to Afghanistan, once brushed off Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s claim, that the US was “arranging” the (suicide) attacks by Pakistani Taliban inside his country, as ‘madness’, and was of the view that both Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who believed in this US conspiracy theory, were “dysfunctional” leaders.

The account of Zardari’s claim about the US’ hand in the attacks has been elaborately reproduced by US journalist Bob Woodward, on Page 116 of his famous book ‘Obama’s Wars,’ The News reported.

Woodward’s account goes like this: “One evening during the trilateral summit (in Washington, between Obama, Karzai and Zardari) Zardari had dinner with Zalmay Khalilzad, the 58-year-old former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN, during the Bush presidency.

“Zardari dropped his diplomatic guard. He suggested that one of the two countries was arranging the attacks by the Pakistani Taliban inside his country: India or the US. Zardari didn’t think India could be that clever, but the US could. Karzai had told him the US was behind the attacks, confirming the claims made by the Pakistani ISI.”

“Mr President,” Khalilzad said, “what would we gain from doing this? You explain the logic to me.”

“This was a plot to destabilize Pakistan, Zardari hypothesized, so that the US could invade and seize its nuclear weapons. He could not explain the rapid expansion in violence otherwise. And the CIA had not pursued the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban, a group known as Tehreek-e-Taliban or TTP that had attacked the government. TTP was also blamed for the assassination of Zardari’s wife, Benazir Bhutto.” (“Pakistan President says CIA Involved in Plot to Destabilize Country and Seize Nukes”, Sify News)

Zardari’s claim will sound familiar to those who followed events in Iraq. Many people are convinced that the only rational explanation for the wave of bombings directed at civilians, was that the violence was caused by those groups who stood to gain from a civil war.

And who might that be?

Despite the Obama administration’s efforts to derail the investigation, the case against Davis is going forward. Whether he is punished or not is irrelevant. This isn’t about Davis anyway. It’s a question of whether the US is working hand-in-hand with the very organizations that it publicly condemns in order to advance its global agenda. If that’s the case, then the war on terror is a fraud.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state and can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com


Detained US official ‘in telephone contact with Islamic terror group’

February 11, 2011

By: Rob Crilly

A US official, detained in Pakistan after shooting dead two men, had made contact with Taliban-linked extremists in the country’s lawless, tribal region, according to details of phone records leaked by the police.

Sources close to the investigation said Raymond Davis, 36, had made a series of telephone calls to South Waziristan, a tribal area along the border with Afghanistan synonymous with militant activity.

The mystery surrounding Davis has deepened since he was arrested in Lahore two weeks ago. He has told police officers he shot dead two men in self defence.

The US insists he is a diplomat based at the embassy in Islamabad and should be granted immunity.

However, security sources have leaked a series of details suggesting that he may have had a clandestine role.

“His phone records clearly show he was in contact with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, for what reason we can only speculate,” said a police officer, referring to a terrorist group with close links to the Pakistani Taliban.


Let’s stop flattering India so much

December 27, 2010

Ayaz Amir

The centre of the Pakistani solar system is not the sun, as innocents may tend to believe, but our elephant-like neighbour to the east, from whose bosom once-upon-a-time we were carved: India. We may be fighting a war on our western frontier and the greatest threat to the idea envisioned by our luckless founding fathers may come from the forces of religious extremism – whose creation in present form and shape is one of the singular achievements of our defence establishment – but all our war doctrines are based on the real or presumed threat from the east.

Thus, while the world marches on we remain trapped in a time warp, fighting the battles of the past, obsessed with the perception of a threat which spurs us on to a nuclear arms race underpinned by no sense of logic or rationality…as the rest of the world understands these terms.

How much land does a man require?… famously asked Leo Tolstoy. How much nuclear security does a country require? In a reasonable world five nuclear bombs would be enough to ward off real or chimerical dangers. If Al-Qaeda had a single nuclear device the United States would not know how to deal with the threat. We may be a beggar country but, Allah be praised, we have enough nuclear bombs, and missiles to carry them, to spread death and destruction across the entire sub-continent.

Yet our supreme custodians of the national interest, self-appointed protectors of our ideological and geographical frontiers, are not satisfied, continuing to articulate and champion a national security doctrine out of sync with the times.

If the bombs at our disposal and more than half a million men, and mercifully a sprinkling of women, under arms are not enough to impart a sense of security to this putative citadel of Islam – another of our mythical notions – then Ares, the god of war, can descend from Olympus and we will not be secure.

Yes, we have problems with India and will continue to have them. But surely we are not envisaging a recourse to arms to settle these problems. We should stick to our viewpoint on Kashmir and, in this regard, be guided by the wishes of the Kashmiri people. If we have water problems with India we must talk to resolve them. If both countries are engaged in the most senseless of standoffs anywhere in the world – on the dizzying heights of the Siachen Glacier, the only way for common sense to make an appearance is through negotiations.

Except for the first Kashmir war, 1947-48, which allowed us to acquire the portion of Kashmir in our possession, all our subsequent wars with India were exercises in unmitigated folly. In the name of the national interest and, from Gen Ziaul Haq’s time onwards, in the name of ‘jihad’, our supreme keepers of the national flame have done things which in other countries would have called for the requisitioning of a determined firing squad.

Haven’t we gone through enough but must we still learn no lessons? Yes, the Pakistan-India border remains one of the most militarised frontiers in the world. Yes, there is an unbroken chain of military cantonments on the Indian side of the border, just as there is a similar chain – from the mountains of Kashmir to the sea – on our side. But we should be reversing this state of affairs, not advancing it.

Yes, we must remain eternally vigilant, I suppose an inescapable cliché in this sort of discussion. But the point is that we have enough, and to spare, to meet and even exceed the demands of vigilance. There may be sections of Indian public opinion hostile to Pakistan. But that shouldn’t cause us any sleepless nights. There are many things about official India which we don’t like. To hear Indians talk about their economic achievements, the implication being that Pakistan has been left far behind, can be tiresome, especially when repeated too often.

But the mark of being a civilized people is not to eliminate prejudice – it would be a dull world without anger and prejudice – but to keep it in check. We can indulge our fancies in private but when fancy and fantasy cloud public discourse or become substitutes for wisdom in government policy we invite trouble for ourselves.

Pakistan is not a morsel that can be chewed and swallowed. Contrary to what many in the chattering classes assert, Pakistan is not a banana republic. The United States does not run Pakistan and indeed could not, because some of our most glaring stupidities in the name of ‘jihad’ and national security are entirely indigenous, capable of concoction in no other laboratory.

Without under-estimating the ingenuity of the CIA, would the CIA have been able to create something quite like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or the Lashkar-e-Taiba? The Kargil adventure could have been dreamt up only by the best and brightest in our own general staff. The fortress-of-Islam narrative can only be a Pakistani production. Making regular asses of ourselves in the name of religion is very much a home-grown talent.

So let us not run ourselves down and put India on too high a perch. India cannot harm us. Let us get this dangerous nonsense out of our heads. India is not about to attack Pakistan. Its leaders would have to be crazy – crazier than us – to even contemplate the possibility. India attacked us only once, in 1971, and even then we had made such a mess of East Pakistan that it was almost like inviting India to intervene. The rest of the times we attacked India, with nothing but disaster to show for it. We should get the balance of this accounting right.

Pakistan stands in greatest risk from itself, from our incapacity to look hard at our real problems and from our failure to confront those problems. Religious extremism especially in its Taliban and Al-Qaeda variety is a product of 30 years of distortion starting from the Zia era (or rather the 1977 rightist movement against Bhutto which set the stage for so much occurring thereafter). Reversing the tide of this extremist is not just a question of conducting military operations in one area of FATA or another but of reinventing the Pakistani state and making it less of a playground for theocratic forces.

This task of reinvention has to include the country’s most powerful institution, the army…which, unluckily for Pakistan, instead of having a reformist and progressive influence on the nation has been the smithy for the forging of some truly strange concepts and doctrines.

And the time for this reinvention is very short. The Americans begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, as they are priming themselves to do, and a new period of uncertainty, to put it no stronger than this, will begin in that embattled country. We have to get things right between now and then.

None of the principals in Islamabad (to name them is to spoil one’s mood) inspires much hope in this regard. But for the general staff at least, the self-appointed custodians of all that is holy, this should be a cue to change gears and spend less time fretting about India and more time in sizing up the threat of religious extremism – which won’t grow less when the Americans depart.

With all the nonsense assiduously cultivated over the years about strategic depth and our legitimate interests in Afghanistan, and the threat from India, we have managed to turn what could have been a perfectly beautiful country, a crossroads of East and West, the gateway on the one hand to India and on the other to Central Asia, into an abnormal country.

The foremost task facing us as a nation is to return to normality and make education and the march to civilization our central preoccupations, instead of the totem poles currently the greatest objects of our worship: bombs and nuke-carrying missiles.

Tailpiece: Shahzain Bugti being held by the scruff of his neck as he was arrested…a photo, in the context of Balochistan, about as damaging as the one which showed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry being pushed by the head into a waiting car. Will we never learn?

Email: winlust@yahoo.com


‘Govt to launch operation against banned outfits’

March 18, 2010

Interior minister claims 90 percent of terrorist activities carried out by SSP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi

ISLAMABAD: A decisive operation will be launched against banned sectarian outfits if they do not refrain from carrying out terrorist attacks in the country, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Wednesday.

Malik made these comments at a joint-press briefing along with Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira after a special meeting of the federal cabinet, which was chaired by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

Responsible for attacks: Malik claimed that the defunct Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were behind 90 percent of the terrorist attacks in Punjab.

“They are operating on the instructions of their foreign masters with the ulterior motive to destabilise Pakistan,” he said.

“We are fighting an ideological war and we have to unite to defeat these anti-state elements,” the minister said, adding that these elements had tried to create sectarian and ethnic strife.

The cabinet meeting was attended by the chief ministers of all four provinces, their secretaries, the inspector generals, the chief of general staff, the AJK PM and the Gilgit-Baltistan governor besides the federal and state ministers. The meeting reviewed the law and order situation in the country and decided that the federal government would provide all possible technical and financial resources to provinces to deal with the unabated wave of terrorism in the country.

It also decided to enhance cooperation between the federal government and provinces over ‘intelligence sharing’ and the training of law enforcement agencies to eradicate the menace of terrorism from the country.

The PM directed Malik to carry out a ‘comprehensive exercise’ to assess the financial and equipment requirements of law enforcement agencies in consultation with the provincial governments and ministry of finance and come up with recommendations.


Making A Virtue Of Taliban

February 8, 2010

By B. Raman

The growing Afghan fatigue is clearly discernible among the NATO powers. There is a palpable fear that the NATO forces can’t beat the Afghan Taliban. The question is no longer how to win in Afghanistan. It is how to avoid a defeat and an embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The search for a face-saving formula is already on so that the NATO forces can contemplate an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. The objective is no longer a modern dewahabised Afghanistan. It is an Afghanistan, which will not once again become the launching pad of Al Qaeda for its attacks on Western targets.

The various proposals and ideas being aired at the London conference on Afghanistan, which started on January 28, 2010, and in its margins reflect a Western willingness to legitimize sections of the Taliban and give them a role in the governance of Afghanistan provided their return will not mean the return of Al Qaeda and they are prepared to share power with President Hamid Karzai and his associates.

The West is prepared to contemplate co-existing with an Afghanistan half modern-half Talibanised. Mr. George Bush and Mr. Tony Blair projected the “war” in Afghanistan not only as a “war” against the Taliban and Al Qaeda as terrorist organisations, but also against the medieval ideologies they represented. After the London terrorist attack of July, 2005, Mr. Blair stressed the importance of winning the war ideologically too — not merely on the ground.

If the West is now prepared to make a deal with the Afghan Taliban as an organisation or at least with elements in it which are prepared to make peace with the NATO forces, how about its wahabised ideology? Is it prepared to accept the ideology of the Taliban and face the prospect of its coming in the way of the post-9/11 goal of the modernisation of Afghanistan? If the Taliban ideology is OK in Afghanistan if it gives up violence, how can one say that it will not be OK in Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic world?

If the West is prepared to legitimise the Taliban or sections of it in Afghanistan, how can it refuse to legitimise the Pakistani Taliban and give it a role in the administration of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan? If it is prepared to legitimise its ideology and objectives in the FATA, how can it refuse to do so in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)? If it is prepared to legitimise the Afghan and the Pakistani Talibans, which are essentially a Pashtun phenomenon, how can it refuse to legitimise the Punjabi Taliban consisting of organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ)?

If the West legitimises the Pashtun and the Punjabi Talibans, will it not weaken the moderate elements in Pakistan and give a fresh momentum towards the Islamic radicalisation of the Af-Pak region? The trend towards the Talibanisation of the Pakistani Pashtun belt gathered force when Pervez Musharraf bought peace with the Islamic fundamentalist organisations and helped them to win power in the elections of 2002 and rule the NWFP for five years. The Afghan Taliban staged its spectacular come-back during this period helped by the fundamentalist parties ruling the NWFP and having a share of the power in Balochistan. The trouble in the Swat Valley of the NWFP started during this period.

The 2002-2007 experience in the NWFP showed how short-sighted ideas to buy peace in the short-term produce long-term damages. The US deal with the Afghan Taliban post-1964 in the hope of using it for facilitating the construction of oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Taliban-controlled territory by Unocal, the US oil company, enabled the Taliban to strengthen its position in the Kandahar and Herat areas. The Taliban under Mulla Mohammad Omar captured power in Kabul in September 1996, and became a thorn in the Western flesh. Musharraf bought temporary peace with the Mehsuds of South Waziristan in 2005-06 when his Army faced difficulties in countering them. The peace was short-lived. The result: the emergence of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after the commando raid in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad after July, 2007.

What the Taliban wants is not re-integration into the Afghan mainstream. It wants its re-conquest of power in Kabul so that it can resume its original mission of setting an Islamic Caliphate in Afghanistan. If the Taliban succeeds in establishing an Islamic Caliphate in Afghanistan, will an Islamic Caliphate in the rest of the Islamic world under the leadership of Al Qaeda be far behind?

There are so many questions which would require detailed analysis before the question of the re-integration of even sections of the Taliban into the Afghan mainstream can be considered. Instead of analyzing these questions and working out a comprehensive strategy, attempts are being made to work out another half-cooked strategy, which will be counter-productive. The two Af-Pak strategies worked out by the advisers of Mr. Barack Obama during his first year in office proved to be non-starters. The bleeding stalemate between the NATO forces and the Afghan Taliban continues. The international community cannot afford another half-cooked strategy, which may end up returning power to the Afghan Taliban on a platter.

Any feasible Afghan strategy should start with the question: how to neutralize the Afghan Taliban’s sanctuaries in the Quetta area of Pakistan? The US is reluctant to act against those sanctuaries. In the absence of action against sanctuaries, it is not able to make headway in its counter-insurgency operations in Afghan territory. Instead of finding some other way of putting an end to those sanctuaries, it has started toying with the idea of winning over sections of the Taliban, who may not be as radicalized as the Taliban leadership. This is not going to work.

Either you have a modern, democratic Government in Kabul or you have a Talibanised one. You cannot have a hybrid— with a mix of the modern and the medieval.

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com


Certain Obama, Uncertain Allies

December 4, 2009

Shuja Nawaz

There is no doubt about it now. This is Obama’s War. He took full ownership of it last night. From the history to the conduct of operations, warts and all. He acknowledged how and why the United States went into Afghanistan, why it has stayed, and why it will leave under his timetable, with all its caveats. But to many the speech may not provide the basis for winning the war, because the objectives are still uncertain and more importantly, Obama has uncertain allies around the world and in the region. Without help from all of them, the United States alone will not be able to prosecute a successful counterinsurgency nor exit as gracefully as the president’s timetable implies.

The NATO Secretary General’s immediate and unequivocal statement of support notwithstanding, political Europe has been a weak reed. France and Germany need to show more resolve and invest more in this fight. It is not clear if that situation will change dramatically. The Afghan government is also weak. President Hamid Karzai will not only need to produce an effective cabinet and government machinery but also reshape the Afghan national security forces in double-quick time to allow the United States military to exit safely.

Pakistan remains a house divided: it is not clear if the powerful military that has run Afghan policy since the 1980s is as ready to sign on to the Obama strategy against the Afghan Taliban as the civilian president may be. Indeed, President Asif Ali Zardari’s own political position appears tenuous as he is being forced to shed the extraordinary powers he inherited from Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Where the Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, stands is uncertain at best, especially without military backing. So, it is unclear who speaks for Pakistan today and it is unclear to what extent a common response has come from Pakistan’s power centers to the Obama letter delivered via National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones. President Obama’s veiled threat that the U.S. will not “tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known” will not resonate in the corridors of army headquarters. The Pakistan army is already overstretched in the fight against its domestic Taliban and under attack by Punjabi militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, while looking over its shoulders at India’s growing economic and military might and powerful presence inside Afghanistan. Till India and Pakistan come to terms with each other on the basis of common security and economic goals, Pakistan’s attention will remain diverted to the east. Obama’s advisers hinted at attempts to persuade India and Pakistan to desist from using Afghanistan as an area of competition. What leverage they have to effect that change is unclear.

If the United States takes unilateral action inside Pakistan, the public sentiment that has been poisoned by the drone attacks, among other things, may go against any major shift in Pakistan’s position on the Afghan Taliban who take shelter in the western borderlands. For most Pakistanis, al Qaeda is a vague and distant entity. Their immediate concerns are food, energy, and internal security. The U.S. recognizes these concerns but till the government of Pakistan takes actions to resolve its internal challenges itself, no amount of aid or advice from the outside will restore stability and growth to Pakistan.

It was good to hear Obama speak directly to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That message needs to be repeated often, especially to let them know that the United States will help them directly in improving their lives and will not make short-term deals with individuals or groups at the center of power. Speeding up promised aid and opening up investment opportunities and the creation of jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing Pakistan will go a long way to change the mindset of the Pakistani masses.

Al Qaeda is not a large or powerful presence in Afghanistan. The Pashtun Taliban are. Success in Afghanistan will not come from simply beating them on the battlefield. Recall that the Soviets conquered most of Afghanistan and occupied nearly every hill, many times over. Success will come from providing security to the Afghan people in a substantial portion of the Pashtun belt. Protecting the population against the insurgents by embedding forces in communities will be the key to success in the south and east, not in setting up powerful fortresses, as the Soviets discovered. And they had more troops in the country than the United States has now. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s war plan to translate the President’s strategy into action will determine the extent to which he can buy time and space for the Afghans to take over this war and begin providing good governance.

The President may have bought some political time at home by giving his general the troops he sought, rapidly, and extending to next summer the increased U.S. military commitment and additional support from his allies. Will that forward movement be enough for his fellow Democrats to fend off attacks on them during the 2010 elections? And will there be results enough in 2011 to sustain his own re-election bid in 2012? The political “war plan” of “General” Rahm Emmanuel for U.S. elections was clearly behind the timeline for the field operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan set by the President in his speech. He needs to win both wars decisively to buck history. But he will need a lot of help from his friends at home and abroad. An immediate test will be an unequivocal statement of support from the leadership of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Stay tuned for the silence.

Shuja Nawaz is the Director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. This essay previously appeared at Foreign Policy. Photo credit: Getty Images.


Forewarned may not be forearmed

October 15, 2009

Ejaz Haider

The GHQ attack has only firmed the army’s resolve to expedite the ground assault in South Waziristan. But what is important to remember is that the army should go in according to its own assessment of when the timing is right. It mustn’t react

The October 10 terrorist attack on General Headquarters in Rawalpindi was not unexpected. In fact, a report initiated by Punjab’s Crime Investigation Department had warned about an impending attack at least a fortnight ago. The report even had the MO right – the attackers would be wearing army uniforms. This report was published on October 5 in a section of the Pakistani press.

The normal channel through which such reports reach the Interior Ministry takes about three days. One would assume, however, that a report of this nature would have bypassed those channels. Evidence suggests it reached the concerned quarters quickly. The question then is: why was it not acted upon?

One of the most important lessons in this kind of conflict is the constant realisation that the other side will reinforce its advantage of surprise by being innovative. And innovation is always a simple affair; the best innovative techniques usually are those that create something new from what is obvious and easily available. In this case it was the decision by the attackers to use the simple expedient of army uniforms. Why?

Soldiers for some years, unlike previously, now carry arms. A van travelling on Peshawar Road with an army number-plate with armed “soldiers” inside would not evoke any suspicion. The sentries at the first checkpoint to GHQ’s main gate would not immediately suspect anything. That would reinforce the element of surprise the attackers already enjoy. Result: by the time anyone could react, the attackers had taken out the sentries at the first barrier.

Small arms fire and hand grenades created the expected melee and even as sentries at the second checkpoint took out four of the attackers, it became difficult to figure out the attackers immediately. Visually it would have looked like a fire-fight going on among the soldiers. The brigadier and the lieutenant colonel who got killed fell to the attackers’ fire because reports suggest they thought they were instructing their own men to take positions and respond.

The buildings or complexes that are under attack today were constructed in times when such a threat did not exist. No one could have anticipated it either. Now they need to be secured and the measures often make commuting a nightmare. That’s the paradox of securing oneself in a non-conventional conflict. Beefing up security throws up its own multiple problems.

Worse, social trust is the first casualty and the most problematic issue. Now that the terrorists have used a simple innovation of wearing army uniforms, the response will inevitably throw up the problem of how to determine who is a genuine soldier. Can the procurement of uniforms be regulated? If so, how?

One must never lose sight of the fact that innovation is the most dangerous arrow in the insurgent/ terrorist’s quiver. The idea is to try and stay ahead of him. That is not always possible but one must try.

The attack on GHQ was the attack on the army’s centre of gravity. The army is poised to hit the insurgents/ terrorists’ COG. The leader, Aqeel aka Dr Usman, a deserter from the Army Medical Corps, is a known terrorist and wanted by the intelligence agencies also in relation to the attack on the Sri Lankan team. He belongs to Jaish-e-Muhammad and was close to Ilyas Kashmiri, Al-Qaeda’s commander for operations. Kashmiri was recently killed in a drone attack.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban has claimed responsibility, calling the group that attacked the GHQ the Amjad Farooqi Group. Farooqi was the terrorist that masterminded the two 2003 attacks on former General-President Pervez Musharraf. Farooqi was originally with Sipah-e Sahaba and later joined JeM. Intelligence agencies know that JeM and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are now subsumed in TTP and linked to Al-Qaeda through that connection. Farooqi was killed in a police encounter in Sindh in 2004.

The attack was conducted by two teams. The plan seemed to be for one team to engage the sentries and give cover to the other to get into the GHQ and take hostages. It didn’t really work out entirely that way after four terrorists were taken out at the gates. The other six managed to get into a side building and did take hostages but failed to reach any high-value target. The SSG operation was clean and highly professional and they managed to rescue all the hostages except three, killed four terrorists and managed to capture a wounded Aqeel.

The degree of difficulty for a neat operation was very high since the attackers were carrying IED belts, explosives, mostly anti-personnel mines, and had managed to take into the building enough ammo to last them a protracted gun battle. The SSG had the unenviable task of taking them out while rescuing the hostages. Going in with first light they completed the first phase in an hour and had the leader neutralised by 9 am.

To the extent that the attack created big news; to the extent also that the TTP signalled to everyone its will and capacity to plan and attack the army’s COG, it might be called audacious and, at some level, tactically good. But it hasn’t rebounded to the TTP’s strategic advantage.

South Waziristan has been blockaded by the army for two months now. The operation, technically, is already on. Efforts to isolate TTP fighters have largely succeeded. The organisation’s ground establishments, when identified, have been – and are – targeted from the air. Intelligence assets have been embedded in the area and they are the primary reason for successful drone attacks meant to degrade the TTP leadership. The ground is being prepared for a ground assault. The GHQ attack has only firmed the army’s resolve to expedite the ground assault in South Waziristan. But what is important to remember is that the army should go in according to its own assessment of when the timing is right. It mustn’t react.

That is sensible because even with the pre-ground attack softening and degradation, the ground battles are going to be tough given the terrain and the ferocity of Mehsud and Uzbek fighters in the area. For the Uzbeks it will be a do or die situation. They have already lost their top leader, Tahir Yuldashev, and they know they have nowhere to go.

The army is preparing for an advance along multiple axes and for lateral sectoral battles, SSG operations to secure heights and other nodal points, as well as mopping up as the advance proceeds. It does seem like the tactical audacity of the TTP may prove a strategic minus for it. There is only so long that one can keep mopping the floor. The tap must be closed. That is where South Waziristan comes in.

Ejaz Haider is op-ed editor of Daily Times, consulting editor of The Friday Times and host of Samaa TV’s programme “Siyasiyat”. He can be reached at sapper@dailytimes.com.pk. This article originally appeared in the Indian Express.


Waziristan — final battle?

June 16, 2009

Asad Munir

The Wazirs are a more warlike Pakhtoon tribe than the Durranis, Lodhis, Suris and Ghalzais who ruled the subcontinent. They inhabit South and North Waziristan in Pakistan and Birmal, Matun districts in Afghanistan. Wazirs preferred a life of isolation, or they could have established a dynasty in the subcontinent.

In 1979, when the Russian forces entered Afghanistan. The Americans found an opportunity to contain communism and settle scores with the USSR. Billions of dollars were pumped in to make Pakhtoons fight against Pakhtoons. The Pakhtoons had a rich culture of tolerance, openness, moderation, music, poetry and art. In the NWFP and FATA, Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities enjoyed equal rights. Never had any communal riots occurred. Sikhs and Hindus lived peacefully in Afridi and Orakzai Tirah for ages, where no Pakistani official could enter until 2002. Both North and South Waziristan were used as bases for the Afghan jihad. A few local youths, influenced by the jihadis, joined them to fight against the Russians. Though the impact of jihad, on the Pakhtoon culture of Waziristan, was not very significant, the seeds of extremism were sown in these areas.

The Durand Line divided tribes in six tribal agencies .The line, since not demarcated on ground, was never considered as border by tribal. Cross border, movement was a routine. The shinwaris of Landikotal would go to Jalalabad to play football matches. Tribal from Pakistan were member of afghan parliament. Political dynamics of Afghanistan always have a strong impact on FATA. In September 1996, Taliban captured Kabul. Inspired by their success, local Taliban became active in Mir Ali Tehsil of North Waziristan by 1998. Utmanzai Wazir and Dawar are the main tribes, while Kharsins, Siadgis, Gurbaz, and Malakshi Mahsud also reside in North Waziristan. Few men from these tribes joined afghan Taliban to fight against Northern Alliance.Baitullah Mahsud was one of them. His father, Mulana Haroon, was imam Masjid in Bannu Cantonment. Baitullah was born and brought up in Bannu. He got religious education from a madrassa in Daud Shah, Bannu and for some time he studied in a Miranshah madrassa. He remained an Imam Masjid in Mati Mamman Khel village in Jani Khel area of FR Bannu. After 9/11, he moved to his ancestral area of Shabi khel Mahsud in South Waziristan.

Foreign militants entered Waziristan in March 2002 in the aftermath of operation ANACONDA, conducted by NATO forces in Shahi Kot area of Paktiya province. Baitullah was then not well known in Waziristan. Shelter to foreign militant was provided by Ahmadzai Wazirs of Wana. Nek Mohammad,Sharif Khan,Noor Ul Islam,Omer were the prominent facilitators.Ahmedzai Wazir and Mahsuds are the main tribes of South Waziristan,while Dotanis,Suleman Khel and Urmers also inhabit the area.Mahsuds and Ahmedzai wazirs have never enjoyed cordial relations.. Since foreign militants were mainly in Wazir areas therefore to isolate them, an agreement was inked with Baitullah Mahsud in February 2005. The deal made, was in good faith, to isolate Ahmadzai Wazirs and to ensure that Biatullah men do not conduct operation across the border. During the next 2 years Baitullah consolidated, his position .He formed Tahreek E Taliban Pakistan in December 2007, with the support of Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda’s leadership. He was declared Amir of TTP.

The army’s final battle is likely to be fought against Baitullah in South Waziristan. The remnants of terrorist from Swat,Mohmand,Orakzai,Kurram,Darra, are likely to fall back to South Waziristan.The elements of banned jiahadi organizations, lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jaish and other jihadis are likely to join this battle for their survival. Timely and successful completion of the Malakand operation will have immense effects on future operations. Extraordinary security arrangements should be made to make the job of suicide bombers difficult. The nation is already geared up for the cause of the IDPs. A quick, transparent and efficient mechanism for reconstruction of conflict areas should be designed and executed. Pakistan is at war and we must win it for our future generations to enable them to live a life of their choice, especially for the daughters of this nation.

The writer is a retired brigadier. Email: asadmunir38@yahoo.com


Waziristan — final battle?

June 15, 2009

Asad Munir

The Wazirs are a more warlike Pakhtoon tribe than the Durranis, Lodhis, Suris and Ghalzais who ruled the subcontinent. They inhabit South and North Waziristan in Pakistan and Birmal, Matun districts in Afghanistan. Wazirs preferred a life of isolation, or they could have established a dynasty in the subcontinent.

In 1979, when the Russian forces entered Afghanistan. The Americans found an opportunity to contain communism and settle scores with the USSR. Billions of dollars were pumped in to make Pakhtoons fight against Pakhtoons. The Pakhtoons had a rich culture of tolerance, openness, moderation, music, poetry and art. In the NWFP and FATA, Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities enjoyed equal rights. Never had any communal riots occurred. Sikhs and Hindus lived peacefully in Afridi and Orakzai Tirah for ages, where no Pakistani official could enter until 2002. Both North and South Waziristan were used as bases for the Afghan jihad. A few local youths, influenced by the jihadis, joined them to fight against the Russians. Though the impact of jihad, on the Pakhtoon culture of Waziristan, was not very significant, the seeds of extremism were sown in these areas.

The Durand Line divided tribes in six tribal agencies .The line, since not demarcated on ground, was never considered as border by tribal. Cross border, movement was a routine. The shinwaris of Landikotal would go to Jalalabad to play football matches. Tribal from Pakistan were member of afghan parliament. Political dynamics of Afghanistan always have a strong impact on FATA. In September 1996, Taliban captured Kabul. Inspired by their success, local Taliban became active in Mir Ali Tehsil of North Waziristan by 1998. Utmanzai Wazir and Dawar are the main tribes, while Kharsins, Siadgis, Gurbaz, and Malakshi Mahsud also reside in North Waziristan. Few men from these tribes joined afghan Taliban to fight against Northern Alliance.Baitullah Mahsud was one of them. His father, Mulana Haroon, was imam Masjid in Bannu Cantonment. Baitullah was born and brought up in Bannu. He got religious education from a madrassa in Daud Shah, Bannu and for some time he studied in a Miranshah madrassa. He remained an Imam Masjid in Mati Mamman Khel village in Jani Khel area of FR Bannu. After 9/11, he moved to his ancestral area of Shabi khel Mahsud in South Waziristan.

Foreign militants entered Waziristan in March 2002 in the aftermath of operation ANACONDA, conducted by NATO forces in Shahi Kot area of Paktiya province. Baitullah was then not well known in Waziristan. Shelter to foreign militant was provided by Ahmadzai Wazirs of Wana. Nek Mohammad,Sharif Khan,Noor Ul Islam,Omer were the prominent facilitators.Ahmedzai Wazir and Mahsuds are the main tribes of South Waziristan,while Dotanis,Suleman Khel and Urmers also inhabit the area.Mahsuds and Ahmedzai wazirs have never enjoyed cordial relations.. Since foreign militants were mainly in Wazir areas therefore to isolate them, an agreement was inked with Baitullah Mahsud in February 2005. The deal made, was in good faith, to isolate Ahmadzai Wazirs and to ensure that Biatullah men do not conduct operation across the border. During the next 2 years Baitullah consolidated, his position .He formed Tahreek E Taliban Pakistan in December 2007, with the support of Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda’s leadership. He was declared Amir of TTP.

The army’s final battle is likely to be fought against Baitullah in South Waziristan. The remnants of terrorist from Swat,Mohmand,Orakzai,Kurram,Darra, are likely to fall back to South Waziristan.The elements of banned jiahadi organizations, lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jaish and other jihadis are likely to join this battle for their survival. Timely and successful completion of the Malakand operation will have immense effects on future operations. Extraordinary security arrangements should be made to make the job of suicide bombers difficult. The nation is already geared up for the cause of the IDPs. A quick, transparent and efficient mechanism for reconstruction of conflict areas should be designed and executed. Pakistan is at war and we must win it for our future generations to enable them to live a life of their choice, especially for the daughters of this nation.

The writer is a retired brigadier. Email: asadmunir38@yahoo.com


An Al Qaeda Message at a Critical Time in Pakistan

June 5, 2009

Al Jazeera broadcast an audio message from Osama bin Laden June 3 in which the al Qaeda prime leader focused on the state of affairs in Pakistan. Although other messages from bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders have frequently mentioned Pakistan, none has devoted so much attention to events on the ground as this one. This is somewhat surprising, considering that jihadists have enjoyed their highest levels of success over the past two years in Pakistan.

Bin Laden’s message on Pakistan comes during the Pakistani military’s most serious attempts to root out jihadist fighters in its northern Swat district. The fact that such military force is being applied shows how successfully Taliban fighters engaged in the region have entrenched themselves in Pakistan’s northwest – and also how serious the threat has become for Islamabad. Bin Laden’s June 3 message attempted to highlight that success in order to bolster support for al Qaeda prime’s message among Pakistan’s population.

His message also continued to beat the same drum by criticizing the intrusion of foreign forces, the blocking of the spread of Sharia law and the plight of the some 3 million residents of the Swat region affected by anti-jihadist military operations. Bin Laden accused the United States, Israel and India of conspiring against Pakistan, accusing Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani of fighting against Islam instead of against Pakistan’s true enemies – namely, India. This statement plays on the fears of many Pakistanis who view their country’s eastern border as a much larger strategic threat than its internal militant Islamist problem – the same argument the Pakistani military makes to Washington for its resistance to redeploying troops from the Indian border to deal more effectively with the jihadist threat in the west. By playing on this fear, bin Laden is trying to undermine the Pakistani government’s judgement and prevent the application of more military pressure to jihadist forces in the west. Bin Laden also compared the refugees affected by the evacuation of Swat district to the Palestinian refugees and 9/11 operatives, whom he said were pushed to action by their oppression at the hands of Western forces and under Western-friendly regimes. This comparison underscored the fear that refugees adversely affected by the military operation – and with some 3 million odd refugees, there are sure to be many – will go on to join jihadist groups and wage more attacks against the state. Finally, bin Laden portrayed the military operation in Swat as an effort to stomp out of Sharia law, a contentious issue for many conservative Pakistanis, in a bid to appeal to a broader audience of Muslim listeners who are not necessarily sympathetic to jihadist tactics.

But the utility of bin Laden’s media campaign only goes so far. Bin Laden and the rest of al-Qaeda prime have been largely confined to the role of an ideological force, relying on others to operate on the physical battlefield. This shift from the physical to the ideological battlefield occurred largely because al-Qaeda has been forced onto the defensive by ground and aerial strikes against its positions in Pakistan that have killed dozens of its operatives. The scrutiny pointed at the group during the U.S.-led jihadist war has severely affected its financial and communication networks, which in turn has greatly undermined its ability to operate effectively. Al Qaeda prime has not demonstrated an ability to successfully carry out attacks outside of the South Asia region, and even there it must depend on its affiliates, such as the Pakistani Taliban faction led by Baitullah Mehsud and groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, to carry out actual operations.

The ability of the Pakistani Taliban and their al Qaeda allies to undermine Pakistani state authority and engender anarchy in many parts of the country certainly works in the favor of al Qaeda, which benefits from Pakistan’s inability to control large swathes of its territory that have fallen under the influence of jihadists. But while Pakistan has become the poster child of jihadist success, al Qaeda prime’s role in this success certainly has declined in recent years as other groups have assumed the mantle of the jihadist movement.

Pakistani indigenous groups that enjoy more local support than the largely foreign-born al Qaeda members have adopted the tactics and ideology of al Qaeda – a significant reason why local groups have been so successful. But Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda prime are extremely limited in their capabilities, with many Pakistanis doubting the very existence of the group and viewing it as a Western fabrication designed to undermine Islam in the region.

So, while Bin Laden has finally released a message that attempts to cash in on the jihadist advances made in Pakistan in recent years, his group’s significance has dropped severely as others have stepped up to take its place. These other jihadist groups certainly pose a significant threat to Pakistan, which is a very attractive country because of its nuclear arsenal. But al Qaeda is forced to work through its local allies in trying to undermine the Pakistani state in an effort to create anarchy on a regional level. The success of al Qaeda’s allies will depend on how effective the Pakistani security forces can be in maintaining security while waging an offensive against Taliban forces in Swat district and other areas of the country that are largely under jihadist control.


Pakistan: Possible Militant Strikes on Karachi

April 13, 2009

ZoundryDocument

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Militants of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Mohmand Agency in July 2008

Summary

Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed said April 8 that police had arrested 5 militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) who reportedly were planning attacks on seven government buildings in Karachi, British newspaper the Telegraph reported. The targets included the home of the interior minister, police headquarters, Shiite religious centers and suppliers cooperating with NATO forces. LJ is a jihadist group based in Punjab province allied with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Jihadists have struck in Karachi before, but a campaign against Karachi by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would create a serious confrontation for the city’s ruling party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a group that is itself known to engage in significant violence.

Analysis

On April 8, Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed said police had arrested five militants who were part of militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) and were planning to attack government offices (including the police station), intelligence agencies, mosques, suppliers who ship goods to Western forces in Afghanistan and counterterrorism personnel. These arrests are only the latest sign that Karachi’s ruling party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), is nervous about the jihadist threat to its city. LJ is a jihadist group based in Punjab province and allied with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) , which is led by Baitullah Mehsud.

The TTP has shown an ability to strike beyond its traditional territory in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) by expanding to virtually all of Pakistan’s major metropolitan areas with attacks in Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar in recent months. Most recently, a group of 10 militants under Mehsud raided a police training facility just east of Lahore in Manawan in Punjab province. The TTP also has shown an interest in attacking Karachi, such as when Mehsud threatened in August 2008 to launch attack on MQM offices and other targets in Karachi if the party leader, Altaf Hussain, did not forfeit his rule there. Mehsud’s spokesman added that the time “was ripe for the Taliban to gain control of the city.”

An attack on Karachi by the TTP would lead to substantial fallout. Judging on past attempts of outside political groups dissenting from the MQM’s political views, the party would not tolerate the presence of the TTP.

Karachi is a strategic city in Pakistan, as it has the only major port in the country and consequently is a major nerve center for Pakistan’s economy. If the TTP wants to be viewed as a major force in Pakistan, going after Karachi would make a strong argument that the group can indeed strike anywhere. And striking in Karachi is definitely possible for the TTP. Many Taliban members come from Pashtun tribes and derive much of their political support from Pashtun populations. Karachi has a Pashtun population of 3.5 million, making up some 30 percent of the city’s population. Karachi police have reported that Taliban members are among the “several hundred thousand” tribesmen fleeing violence in the frontier regions who have settled on the outskirts of Karachi.

Jihadists already have exhibited an ability to make limited strikes in Karachi. In 2002, jihadists kidnapped and killed U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and attacked the U.S. Consulate. Again in 2007, jihadists targeted the U.S. Consulate using explosives, killing a U.S. diplomat and injuring 52 others on the eve of then-President George W. Bush’s first trip to Pakistan. There are networks already in place that would allow for members of the TTP to infiltrate the city and carry out an attack.

However, there is a major force in Karachi that would vehemently oppose any jihadist activity – the MQM. The MQM is a political party in Pakistan’s southeast Sindh province that has come to dominate cities like Karachi and Hyderabad over the past 25 years. The party formed during the mid-1980s from a student group called the All Pakistan Muhajir Students Organization (APMSO), which protested the power of the land-ruling elite and the limitations placed upon their own ethnic group. The MQM formed out of the APMSO, a group of Urdu speakers who immigrated to Pakistan from India during the partition in 1947. They settled mostly in Sindh province, taking jobs in Karachi’s industrial sector, and were marginalized by Pakistan’s dominant Punjabi majority.

During the 1980s, Pakistani leader Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq practiced the policy of supporting smaller, regional movements to weaken the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose power base is located in Sindh. The Muhajirs made a power grab in a series of riots from 1986-1987, out of which sprang the MQM party. With support from the Zia regime, the MQM went on to defeat the PPP in local elections in Karachi and other cities in Sindh in 1987. While the PPP still controls rural Sindh, the MQM not only has positioned itself a major force in urban Sindh (especially the larger metropolitan areas of Karachi and Hyderabad), but also has branched out into national-level politics – albeit with little success.

The MQM survives by controlling the city of Karachi. Its various factions have been known to fight for control of Karachi, and it has also fought with other parties trying to move in on MQM turf. From 1993 to 1995, intragroup violence as well as clashes with other groups in Karachi killed approximately 1,800 people. The group is also known to crack down harshly on any dissident groups through torture or simply by killing them. In May 2007, the MQM refused to allow a political rally in support of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, resulting in clashes that left 43 dead and shut down the city for a day – an example of how the MQM does not allow political shenanigans in Karachi. This is definitely true when it comes to jihadists operating in Pakistan, and especially in Karachi.

While jihadists have been active in Karachi in the past, there is a significant difference between attacks in the past and attacks now. Previously, attacks were carried out by al Qaeda in conjunction with local allies; al Qaeda was just establishing itself in Pakistan after being run out of its safe haven in Afghanistan. The attacks were limited in magnitude and frequency, and not perceived by the MQM as a threat to their power in Karachi.

The TTP, however, has a much larger following and more political power due to greater local support, which underscores the MQM’s distaste for the TTP’s presence in Karachi. Crackdowns on the city’s large Pashtun population would be expected, as well as retaliation attacks, leading to significant violence and disruption in the city’s daily routine. Such violence would play into the TTP’s hands nicely, as it would churn up instability in yet another area of Pakistan, adding to the central government’s already flagging security efforts and threatening the economic center of Pakistan.

The situation in Karachi definitely merits watching over the coming weeks as a potential flashpoint of expanded Taliban violence. And perhaps more importantly, it is worth watching how the MQM responds to jihadist activity in its city.


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