Tag Archives: terrorism

What an open letter from a terrorist group looks like (Link)

What an open letter from a terrorist group looks like.

Must read. People who are apologists about militancy and attacks on other sects need to open their eyes… a direct attack on human rights and human dignity. Shameful and sad.

This post is from http://afghanistananalysis.wordpress.com/

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‘The spectre of Islamist infiltration’

The Friday Times, May 27th, 2011
In the wake of recent events, the faultlines in Pakistan’s defence forces need to be identified and tackled- Raza Rumi

The recent attacks on the Karachi naval base have once again sparked a debate concerning the much-feared radicalisation within the armed forces. Declan Walsh writing in The Guardian (May 23, 2011) says how the “spectre of Islamist infiltration has haunted the army for decades”. This should be a major concern for Pakistanis. At the same time, Pakistan’s defence forces are well-known for their internal discipline and the overarching ‘unity of command’ that all commanders take pride in.

Nevertheless, radicalisation in the junior ranks has been observed and reported by the national press. In particular, the attempts to kill the former president and army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf revealed the shifting ideological frontiers of the military complex. In June 2009, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) confirmed that it had arrested or dismissed from service at least 57 employees in connection with botched attempts on the life of the former president. Abdul Islam Siddiqui, a soldier of the Pakistan Army was hanged in 2005 after an in-camera military trial for his alleged involvement in the December 2003 attack on Gen Musharraf`s convoy.

Siddiqui was charged with receiving terrorism training at Bhimber in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) during August 2002 at a Jaish-e-Muhammad training camp. He further defied military orders to fight in South Waziristan against fellow tribal citizens. It was alleged he remained associated with the Shuhada Foundation, an organisation of the PAF, several of whose officer-bearers wanted to kill Musharraf (Outlook, October 19, 2005).

The plethora of cases relating soldiers influenced by Islamist ideology point to the reported gap between top army leadership and the soldiers. This gap increased as in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks because of Musharraf’s half-hearted attempts to give the Army a liberal outlook.

Earlier, cases of disciplinary action against radicalised soldiers were also reported. In 2003, Major Adil Qudoos, brother of Ahmad Qudoos (who had given protection to Al Qaeda leader Sheikh Ahmad) was arrested in a surprise raid (Dawn, March 23, 2003). In 2005, a military court ordered the dismissal of six officers including Major Adil Qudoos (Daily Times, September 19, 2005).

Another recent case is illustrative: On December 10, 2009, one Col Bashir was arrested by the Pakistani military police along with Squadron Leader Nadeem Ahmad Shah, a retired air force fighter pilot and a former professional JAG lawyer and civilian advocate, and Awais Ali Khan, a civilian mechanical engineer who served with the military’s Air Weapons Complex. Col Bashir had contacts with the Hizbut Tahrir group (Dawn, May 13, 2009). In 2010, Faisal Shahzad was reportedly in touch with an officer of Pakistani Army’s Signal Corps, moments before he parked the bomb-laden SUV at the Times Square (pak-watch.blogspot.com, July 18, 2010).

Radicalised soldiers have also been reportedly creating informal networks. Arshad Sharif’s report in Dawn (14 Sept, 2010) revealed how a disgruntled junior non-commissioned officer formed Jundullah, a militant group with alleged contacts with Jaish-e-Muhammad. Impressed by calls to jihad, 30 other personnel from various army units stationed in Quetta Cantonment joined the new organisation. Some of these officers were also involved in planning botched attacks on Jacobabad Air Base in 2003, in addition to planning two separate assassination attempts on Gen Musharraf. In addition to PAF, Jundullah also tried to establish its influence within different units of the armed forces.

These cases are not confined to the last decade only. In 1995 there was a military attempt to overthrow the government in an ‘Islamic’ coup to reestablish the Caliphate. Maj Gen Zahirul Islam Abbasi, a former commander and officer of the Pakistani Army, was accused and convicted for a period of 7 years for being party to the coup d’état. A total of 40 army officers, including one brigadier and five colonels and 10 civilians were rounded up.

New cables released by Wikileaks reveal how the “elite” groups of “colonels and brigadiers are receiving biased NDU [National Defence University] training with no chance to hear alternative views of the US”. Anti-Americanism within the armed forces is an oft-cited reality though one has no empirical basis to assess its impact and coverage within the institution.

All these reported cases demonstrate that there is a problem with middle and lower ranks. However, it is also clear that the top leadership within the armed forces is cognisant of such trends and has been taking strict action against the errant officials. In the wake of recent events such as the intelligence failure (some say cover-up) with respect to bin Laden’s hideout and now the attack on the naval base, the fault lines within Pakistan’s key institution need to be identified and tackled. Perhaps, it is also time for the command and control mechanisms instituted for nuclear installations to review the situation given how the world is viewing Pakistan’s nuclear assets as ‘unsafe’. These claims may be exaggerated but cannot be ignored.

Shahid Saeed and Saadia Gardezi contributed to the report.

Raza Rumi is a writer and policy expert based in Lahore. Follow him on twitter: @razarumi

The media and the manhunt

The media buzz around the death of OBL on May 2, 2011. Published in The Friday Times, 6 May, 2011.

With the first five months of the year, a plethora of changes have happened making world politics unrecognizable from one year before.  One of the biggest was the on May 2 when news of the capture of Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad exploded on TV screens and in newspapers. The facts that Western media has focused on have been that the US led operation focused on one of Bin Ladens trusted couriers and a protégé of one of the architects of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (New York Times, ABC News, US Government). The compound where Bin Laden was hiding was valued at $1 million and had 12 to 18 foot walls with barbed wire. And was 8 to 10 times larger than surrounding houses.

Senior US officials initially told news agencies that Bin Laden’s body would be disposed of in accordance with Islamic tradition, which involves ritual washing, shrouding and burial within 24 hours, and Bin Laden was buried at sea (LA Times, Washington Post). The Guardian was of the view that US concern over Bin Laden’s burial place turning into a shrine were probably unfounded, since the Wahhabi/Salafi tradition rejects such things. “Burial at sea is rare in Islam, though several Muslim websites say it is permitted in certain circumstances. One is on a long voyage where the body may decay… The other is if there is a risk of enemies digging up a land grave and exhuming or mutilating the body – a rule that could plausibly be applied in Bin Laden’s case,” reported the paper.

The news was celebrated in many foreign capitals with crowds gathering outside the White House to celebrate and spontaneous celebration all over the US. French Foreign Minster Alain Juppe called it a “victory for all democracies fighting the abominable scourge of terrorism”. British Prime Minister David Cameron said it would “bring great relief to people across the world” (Express Tribune). The US had warned of possible threats of retaliation (CNN). In UK Heathrow airport has stepped up security and many other countries fear protests. In Pakistan US and UK embassies have put their citizen on high alert.

Headlines across America and Europe on May 2 were ‘The most wanted face of terrorism’ (New York Times), ‘A day for justice’ (Chicago Tribune), ‘An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth’ (Der Spiegel) and ‘Born to privilege, he dies a pariah (Wall Street Journal). Local newspapers however have been skeptical of the facts (Dawn News), and the Television media will undoubtedly resort to more fact digging and speculation.

The Taliban in Afghanistan had no immediate official reaction, though a local commander in Paktia said the killing “will affect their morale and will trigger the violence” and a commander in Baghlan promised revenge (NYT, Guardian). Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula confirmed bin Laden’s death and called it a catastrophe (AFP).

Reports say that officials in the Middle East did not have immediate reactions, and responses were “mixed” on the Arab street (CNN, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times). However Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, condemned the killing and described bin Laden as a “holy warrior” (CNN).

The coming weeks will of course clarify more facts about the operation as well as create more controversies. Dawn News for example said on May 2 that Bin Laden might not have been killed by US forces but his own guard. The paper quotes a Pakistani official who visited the site after the US assault team left, “From the scene of the gun battle it doesn’t look like he could have been killed at point blank range from such a close angle, while offering resistance.”

The western media sees the proximity of a military academy to Bin Laden compounds as an obvious proof of Pakistani military and intelligence being involved in hiding him and other leaders of the Al-Qaeda (BBC, CNN). This reaction is not just isolated to the media but world leaders as well. Israel has called this the “liquidation” of Bin Laden. India lashed out at Pakistan, saying that terrorists find sanctuary in Pakistan (Express Tribune, AFP).

There will again be a reevaluation of the US-Pakistan relationship not only but the respective governments but also by the media. Shuja Nawaz writes for Foreign Policy saying that the Pakistani military’s official reaction to the death of Bin Laden will be telling. If the operation was carried out in close cooperation then the trajectory of this declining relationship may be reversed. Even though Obama has acknowledged the role of Pakistan in the war against terrorism, it is not clear what that role has been with regards to the capture. Foreign media has generally reviewed Pakistan unfavourably and credit for the capture has solely been awarded to the US.

The general consideration of the western media is that only one of head of the Al-Qaeda hydra has been cut off. Der Spiegel is of the view that Bin Laden has left behind one of the most resilient and effective terrorist networks the world has ever seen. The death will weaken Al-Qaeda but for some time now others have been in charge of planning global terrorism. “I suspect the al-Qaeda senior leadership will splinter… this will create a vacuum,” said Marc Sageman, a former CIA analyst as when Al-Qaeda leaders became consumed with mere survival, other groups will try to pick up the slack.

The future of terrorism may still be secure. The Taliban is entrenched in Afghanistan and Pakistan, terrorist groups in Yemen, Algeria and Iraq have adopted the Al-Qaeda brand and in Somalia, al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists are growing. Ayman al-Zawahiri is expected to be number one on the FBI’s most wanted list (ABC News). Reports say that the power balance will shift to Yemen (Der Spiegel). John Brennan, US Chief of Counterterrorism may have spoken too soon when he said that that “Al-Qaeda is something in the past.”

Salmaan Taseer: Last man standing

Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer was laid to rest at the Cavalry Ground graveyard in Lahore on Wednesday, January 5. Earlier, thousands of Pakistanis braved the
tense security situation and attended Taseer’s funeral after the country’s most high-profile assassination in three years.

His coffin, wrapped in the green and white national flag, was then flown the short distance by helicopter to the graveyard in the military cantonment in Lahore, where it was lowered into the ground by uniformed rescue workers. Lahore was shut down and authorities deployed security forces to guard against possible unrest after dozens of PPP supporters took to the streets to protest against the killing.

The 66 year old provincial governor had been Pakistan’s strongest voice against religious extremism and one of Pakistan’s foremost progressive leaders. His murder has horrified moderate Pakistanis and supporters of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The silencing of a temperate and liberal voice has been welcomed by members of the powerful religious right and does not bode well for a already shaky government.

On Tuesday, January 4, Salmaan Taseer was shot in daylight multiple times at close range as he was getting into his car in Islamabad at the Kohsar Market.Investigations are now focused on whether the police commando who confessed to killing Taseer because he opposed the reform of blasphemy law or acted alone, or as part of a wider conspiracy.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, Taseer’s body had 29 bullet wounds, puncturing his vital organs. The assassin Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was a government-trained commando assigned to the governor on at least five or six previous occasions.

“I am a slave of the Prophet (pbuh), and the punishment for one who commits blasphemy is death,” he told a television crew from Dunya TV that arrived at the scene shortly after the killing, according to Nasim Zahra, the director of news at the channel.

“We want to know who put his name on the duty list. We know he visited the police supervisor to get his name on the list,” Interior Minister Reman Malik told reporters. The supervisor and his deputy are among more than ten people taken into custody for interrogation.

Taseer used Twitter and public appearances to speak out boldly against the blasphemy law, vowing not to back down despite pressure from his ruling PPP and threats to his life from fanatics. He had been vocal in defending Aasia Bibi, the Christian mother-of-five who was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death, declaring that he was confident she was innocent.

“I was under huge pressure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing,” reads one of his tweets.

“It is a loss to progressive forces; he stood up for what he believed in,” said PPP lawmaker Sherry Rehman. There are now fears the safety of Sherry Rehman, who has proposed a private member’s bill in parliament seeking to soften the blasphemy law. Salmaan Taseer’s murder will be taken as a warning to any politician who speaks out against the religious parties and their agenda and may end attempts to amend the blasphemy laws in the near future.

The response of the right wing has been intriguing. While JUI-F and Jamaat e Islami have condemned the attacks, several religious groups have termed it as victory for those who want to protect the blasphemy law. After Taseer’s murder, a few zealots created Facebook page in support of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri which was later taken off.

On January 4, the PML-N added to the federal government’s woes, giving the PPP a three-day deadline, extended for three more days in the wake of the assassination, to accept a list of demands to avert a no-confidence vote. These included a reversal of recent fuel price increases, cuts in spending of 30 percent and the enforcement of a series of court verdicts against governing party officials for corruption.

According to the New York Times (Jan 5) the Obama administration worries that even if Pakistan’s government survives the upheaval, the ongoing turmoil could kill any chance for political and economic reforms. The assassination, one official said, leaves not only the repeal of the blasphemy laws in doubt, but also possible reforms to increase tax collection. Under pressure from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clintonand other US officials, the Pakistani government submitted a new tax law in Parliament. But it may abandon the push as a way to lure back coalition partners.

In a statement, Secretary Clinton called Taseer’s death “a great loss”and said she “admired his work to promote tolerance.” Presidential spokeswoman, Farahnaz Ispahani, spoke tearfully about the Governor’s death and invoked the legacy of Pakistan’s secular founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, using the popular title for him, Great Leader: “Show me another party where the leaders are being murdered, and why is that? Because we are standing up for Quaid-i-Azam’s Pakistan, and against extremism and terrorism.”

Declan Walsh writing for The Guardian (4 Jan) said, “Taseer’s death deprives Pakistan of a colourful politician with unusual reserves of pluck. More significantly, it signals a worrying reduction in the public space for public figures, who cannot even count on their own police to protect them. The country’s liberals have not felt so isolated since the dark years of the Zia dictatorship in the1980s.”

The Friday Times, 7th January, 2011

WikiLeaks: The Af-Pak conundrum

Nearly as many civilians have died in Afghanistan as Afghan forces.

The Friday Times, 10 Dec, 2010

The cables relating to Afghanistan reveal that beneath public assurances lie deep divisions in Islamabad on issues like Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban and tolerance of Al Qaeda.

‘Stability’ top priority: Cables from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton focus on cutting off the flow of funds to terrorist organizations and achieving stability in Af-Pak as top US priorities. This is to be achieved by effective actions against terrorist fundraising in the Gulf by “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other Af-Pak-based violent extremist groups, all of which undermine the security of the entire international community.” In its ‘talking points’ brief to embassy in Kuwait it is said, “We emphasize the need to prevent the Taliban from using the cover of reconciliation talks to raise funds.”

The Karzai dilemma: The cable’s word on President Hamid Karzai has been far from flattering. Oman’s foreign minister says that he is “losing confidence” in him. A British diplomat says Britain feels “deep frustration” with him, while an Australian official complains that he “ignores reality.” A diplomat from the United Arab Emirates says Afghanistan would be better off without him. NATO’s secretary general speculates that he has a split personality.

Lt Gen Karl W Eikenberry, the American ambassador to Afghanistan in April 2009, was blunt about his criticisms in a July 2009 cable. “It remains to be seen whether Karzai can or will refrain from this ‘blame America’ tactic he uses to deflect criticism of his administration,” he wrote. “Indeed, his inability to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state-building and his deep seated insecurity as a leader combine to make any admission of fault unlikely, confounding our best efforts to find in Karzai a responsible partner.”

An August 2009 report from Kabul complained that Karzai and his attorney general “allowed dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court.” The embassy was particularly concerned that Mr. Karzai pardoned five border police officers caught with 124 kilograms of heroin and intervened in a drug case involving the son of a wealthy supporter.

Saudi financing: An action request cable from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 asserts that Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups including Hamas. Riyadh has taken only limited action to disrupt fundraising for the listed Taliban and LeT-groups aligned with Al Qaeda and focused on undermining stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Saudi Arabia has enacted important reforms to criminalize terrorist financing and restrict the overseas flow of funds from Saudi-based charities. However, these restrictions fail to include multilateral organizations such as the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), Muslim World League (MWL) and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY.) Intelligence suggests that these groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund extremism overseas. In 2002, the Saudi government promised to set up a Charities Committee that would address this issue, but has yet to do so.”

 

 

Home

Published under the title: A place like no other, The Friday Times, June 11-17, 2010

Lahore is going through a rough patch, and there is not much to be happy about. A city known to be laid back, comfortable, open to visitors and gastronomically rewarding is now becoming angrier and angrier.

A haiku on a highly recommended blog called, ‘Lahore in Haiku’ reads:

“Lahore, oh Lahore!

I need to come home to you.

You worry me, love.”

For most of us who grew up here, there is no place quite like Lahore; the lazy shady mall road, the misplaced underpasses, the billboards on Mian Mir bridge, the crazy drive to the inner city… the dinners, the kites, the canal, the food, the late nights, the love.

Of course, this image of Lahore has changed over the past few years. No more late night trips to eat ice cream, no more drives to Defence at 11 pm to buy DVDs. No more yellow and pink wedding celebrations that happily tire you out. No more running to the mosque late on Friday because you couldn’t find your slippers, no more climbing to the roof of building with a ball of string and tape to tie around your fingers…

Continue reading Home

Paranoid Press

A Pakistani editor elaborates on how to handle the situation, and says that at the very least “shouldn’t the Pakistan government suspend cooperation with the US, at least temporarily?” The stopping of NATO supplies and “the downing of a drone” will send a clear message

Saadia Gardezi

No one really knows why Faisal Shahzad decided to try to drive a car, containing alarm clocks connected to fireworks and petrol tanks, into Times Square? The Pakistani press is getting a lot of mileage out of this one; every TV anchor has his conspiracy theory dialogue rehearsed. The facts are strange, and the audience is emotional and attentive; nothing better than that to start off with that ambrosial phrase, “You know what I think…”

This time, it’s not the Taliban. The TTP has claimed that the groups have fighters on American soil who are poised to attack, but deny responsibility for the fizzled car bomb in Times Square. Pakistani military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas, on May 5, questioned the ability of the group to reach US soil. “Anybody can claim anything,” he said.

It’s not his failed attempt that has shocked the world; it was who he was that has surprised us all. The script of our media on terrorist activities linked to outfits like the TTP is well rehearsed, but Faisal’s profile does not fit plots that we have seen before. This may have added to the media concocting speculative theories about why he did it, and who was behind it.
Continue reading Paranoid Press