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Sunday, 12 April 2009

Young Pakistanis 'blame UK for drone deaths'

Sadiq Khan says US foreign policy on Pakistan is damaging Britain

Young Pakistanis 'blame UK for drone deaths'

The UK must distance itself from American foreign policy if Pakistani youths are to be prevented from growing up hating Britain, according to the government's social cohesion minister.

The comments by Sadiq Khan, who has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Pakistan, follow the arrests of 12 men - 10 of whom were Pakistani nationals - in the north-west of England last week on suspicion of planning a terror attack. They are likely to be given short shrift from Number 10, which has been keen to ally itself to the Obama administration. Earlier this month Gordon Brown stressed the two allies were united in their fight against terrorism in Pakistan.

But Khan, London's first Muslim MP, said the UK must differentiate itself from the US after attending meetings at universities in Pakistan. "I listened to the anger and pain over the challenges that young people growing up in Pakistan face, including the anger and frustration over US drone attacks," he said.

The attacks by unmanned US drones have provoked fury in Pakistan, where scores of militants have been killed in the country's remote border regions, along with innocent civilians.

"The anger and frustration at the drone attacks was huge," Khan said. "The view they [the students] had was that the UK was somehow responsible for this. They haven't understood this was purely a US matter. They lumped us together with the US, which to me is a poison. It demonstrates to me we have a big problem."

Khan, whose parents are from Pakistan, suggested the UK should look to reach out to disaffected Muslim youths by emphasising the close links between the two countries. "Much of the Pakistani population doesn't realise the good we are doing," Khan said: the UK is to double aid to Pakistan to £180m by 2011.

Crucial to winning hearts and minds, Khan said, was dismantling the perception that the US and the UK were one and the same over foreign policy. Acknowledging the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had mobilised Muslim opinion against the UK, Khan said: "Because of things that happened in 2003, there is an uphill battle. We need better to explain that there has been a distinct change in UK foreign policy.

"For example, this month the last troops will come home from Iraq: that's very different from the US. The drone attacks are US, not UK; our development policy doesn't have the strings that come with US aid."

Khan's comments come as ministers seek to increase the numbers of security officials in Pakistan to help in vetting those applying for visas to Britain. At present there are fewer than 10 security service officers assessing the backgrounds of more than 20,000 applications a year. "At present, we are reliant on a small number of officials who do the ground work; that is reliant on the Pakistani government giving us what it knows. That should improve in the near future, and can be done with the co-operation of Pakistan," a Home Office source said.

Government figures show that 42,292 student visas were issued to Pakistanis between April 2004 and April 2008.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Holbrooke of South Asia

Islamabad, Pakistan

His face tense and unsmiling, a young man from a village in Pakistan's western tribal areas tells his story, mixing English, Pashto and Urdu. He is the only male in his clan to get an education, but can't find a job, and blames a corrupt national government. Americans are bombing his neighbors, he says, tempting him to join the Islamist militants in his area. Across the room, another Pakistani turns toward his hosts at the U.S. Embassy and says, "You are hated."

[The Weekend Interview]Ismael Roldan

The comments are addressed to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and the new American special representative for the region, Richard Holbrooke. Seated alongside the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, Mr. Holbrooke asks a dozen or so men in the room about the presence of the Taliban in their villages. "We are all Taliban," comes a response. The others nod in accord. All are or were "religious students," or Taliban in Pashto. But the expression of solidarity with the various Pakistani and Afghan insurgents who go by the name is lost on no one.

After the meeting, Mr. Holbrooke looks shaken, out of character for a diplomatic operator who picked up the nickname "bulldozer" a decade ago in the Balkans. As he knows, these men who spoke so directly to him are the "friendly" types from the tribal areas -- literate, ambitious and willing to risk the ire of the Taliban fighters to meet him and Adm. Mullen at the embassy.

Their home regions of North and South Waziristan and the Khyber agency are familiar place names in this long war: as the world's sanctuary to al Qaeda's leadership, as the launching pad for attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan, and as the source of the Islamist challenge to the civilian government atop this rickety nuclear-armed state.

The Obama administration recently unveiled a new strategy to enlarge America's military footprint in Afghanistan and press Pakistan to act against Taliban safe havens. Mr. Holbrooke and Admiral Mullen took the policy on a regional road show this week, and at every stop got a sobering earful. While Afghanistan's troubles are monumental, the nightmare scenarios start and end with Pakistan.

Mr. Holbrooke, who leads the diplomatic charge, acknowledges the hardest work will be here. His airplane reading is Dennis Kux's history of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship titled, "The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies." "Pakistan is at the center of our strategic concerns," he tells me Tuesday night, flying from Islamabad to India's capital, Delhi. "If Afghanistan had the best government on earth, a drug-free culture and no corruption it would still be unstable if the situation in Pakistan remained as today. That is an undisputable fact, and that is the core of the dilemma that the Western nations, the NATO alliance, face today."

Take the dilemma a logical step further, I suggest. The terrorists who threaten America are in Pakistan, but the U.S. fights the Afghan Taliban, who don't. "That's a fair point," says Mr. Holbrooke, "but the reason for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is clear: The Taliban are the frontrunners for al Qaeda. If they succeed in Afghanistan, without any shadow of a doubt, al Qaeda would move back into Afghanistan, set up a larger presence, recruit more people and pursue its objectives against the United States even more aggressively." Public support for the expanded U.S. Afghan mission hinges on making this case stick.

In a Hillary Clinton White House, Mr. Holbrooke would almost certainly be in charge at the State Department. In this administration, he serves Secretary Clinton and brings a familiar mix of enthusiasm and bluster, charming and bullying the world's difficult characters. In the previous decade, Mr. Holbrooke brokered the end of the Bosnian conflict, working then as now closely with the military. He went on to write a memoir titled "To End a War" and become something of a celebrity in the Balkans, even having a bar in Kosovo named after him. The 1995 Dayton peace talks "was 21 days and it was pass or fail," he says. "This is more complicated even than that."

The complications in Afghanistan start with an incubator state and mind-boggling corruption, from top to bottom. The past year saw a sharp spike in Afghan civilian as well as American casualties. A rural insurgency is fed by anger at the government and money from the Gulf states, as well as the booming poppy trade. The administration will send 17,000 additional combat troops to confront the Taliban, initially in the south. Mr. Obama also approved 4,000 military trainers, and plans are in the works to double the target size for the army and the police.

Mr. Holbrooke needs to walk a fine diplomatic line. On the one hand, he assures people who know their history that America won't pull the plug early on this project. At a meeting with Afghan female legislators who have most to fear from a Taliban comeback, he says, "President Obama has made a commitment. We will not abandon you." On the other hand, the U.S. must counter Taliban propaganda that America replaced Russia as the occupying force. With conservative Afghan religious leaders, Mr. Holbrooke shifts his emphasis: "We are not here as occupiers. We are here to help you. We will leave when you no longer need us."

Though Adm. Mullen provides the plane on this trip and holds the senior job, Mr. Holbrooke takes the lead in meetings. He moderates discussions like a big-band leader, improvising as necessary. "Good to have a force of nature on the case," notes a European diplomat watching one performance over dinner in Kabul. "You're reminded that half of diplomacy is theater." Holbrooke detractors tend to put the proportion higher.

America sits in the driver's seat in Afghanistan, but not Pakistan. Here it's far from clear who does.

Flying into Islamabad, Mr. Holbrooke and Adm. Mullen call on the civilian and military rulers to ask for action against the militants in the tribal areas. The Pakistanis press back. At a joint press conference, the foreign minister is prickly, denouncing strikes by unmanned U.S. Predators on Pakistani territory and noting an absence of "trust."

In private, American officials report no better progress. The Pakistanis say their terror problems are Afghanistan's fault. They resent American criticism of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military's intelligence arm that nurtured Islamist groups for decades, and rule out the deployment of any American troops on their territory.

Talking to the Pakistani press, Mr. Holbrooke says, "We face a common threat, a common challenge." Pakistani civilians are concerned by the rising number of suicide bombings, now seen in once tranquil Islamabad and Lahore. Whether the army is as well is the question. The military struck a "peace" deal with the local Taliban in the Swat Valley. President Asif Ali Zardari didn't sign the accord, but the military went ahead to implement it, turning a former tourist destination in the mountains into a Taliban redoubt beyond the reach of the Pakistani state. The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan dates back to the previous regime's 2006 truce with the militants in Pakistani border areas.

Among Pakistani politicians, Mr. Zardari speaks most clearly about the threat emanating from the country's west, noting the assassination in late 2007 of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. But he is politically weak, and sounds disinclined to push the military to wage war against the Pashtun tribes in the mountains.

"Holbrooke is a friend," Mr. Zardari tells me and a couple other journalists along for the ride on this listening tour. "But it's a long walk. And in that long walk I am losing the people of Pakistan."

Mr. Holbrooke says the Pakistani president "deserves credit for his personal courage" in holding the job. He welcomes the "statesmanlike" resolution of a recent political feud with rival Nawaz Sharif over the reinstatement of a supreme court judge. The fight could have resulted, he says, in "civil war on the one hand or assassinations on the other."

With politics a sideshow, many observers, including in American intelligence, think the Pakistani military and the ISI play a double game. They make the necessary pledges to secure billions in American aid while keeping ties to Islamists. The calculation, a Pakistani analyst notes, is America will leave sooner or later and the military needs to hedge its strategic bets.

"We are well aware of these accusations," says Mr. Holbrooke. "But our experience with [Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani does not support them. We deal with him with respect and with the assumption that he is a serious person doing the best he can under difficult circumstances."

As part of a "long-term commitment to Pakistan," the Obama administration wants to lock in billions in aid for the country. Military officials also say the scope of Predator strikes will be broadened, against Pakistani official objections, and efforts to get the adversarial Pakistani and Afghan intelligence services to cooperate will be intensified. Mr. Holbrooke insists the U.S. will respect Pakistan's "red lines" about American combat troops.

"Some people say to me, particularly after a few drinks, 'Why don't we go in there with our troops and just clean it up?'" he says. "First of all we can't without their permission, and that would not be a good idea. Secondly, cleaning them up in the mountains of Pakistan's tribal areas, as anyone can see from the search for al Qaeda in Afghanistan, is a daunting mission. It's the same kind of mountains. A few weeks ago I flew up through the deepest and remotest valleys imaginable. You could see tiny villages in the crevices in the mountains. You don't want American troops in there. So that option's gone."

Though only Pakistan and Afghanistan appear in his job title, Mr. Holbrooke isn't one to think small. He helped court the Europeans to chip in more troops and aid -- with no more success on the former than the Bush administration. He wants to press the Gulf states to cut the illicit flow of funding to the Taliban, involve India and reach out to the Chinese, who are close to the Pakistani military. Last month, at the donor's conference on Afghanistan at The Hague, he was the first American official to engage an Iranian official since 1979. After Iran downplayed the encounter, so does Mr. Holbrooke. "I'm very much in favor of giving Iran a place at the table if it wants it to discuss the future of Afghanistan," he says. "But they have not indicated whether they wish to participate or not."

Mr. Holbrooke's first posting was in Saigon in the 1960s. As Vietnam analogies for Afghanistan mushroom, particularly from inside his own Democratic Party, he doesn't dismiss them outright. But he makes a case for continued engagement with a view, perhaps, toward firming up support on the Hill and among the public for a war about to enter its eighth year. "There are a lot of structural similarities" with Vietnam, he says. "The sanctuary [in Pakistan]. They even have a parrot's peak in both countries, on the Pakistan-Afghan border just as there was in Cambodia. An issue of governance. The fact that the government was supporting a guerilla war. Counterinsurgency.

"But the fundamental difference is 9/11. The Vietcong and the north Vietnamese never posed a threat to the United States homeland. The people of 9/11 who were in that area still do and are still planning. That is why we're in the region with troops. That's the only justification for what we're doing. If the tribal areas of western Pakistan were not a sanctuary, I believe that Afghanistan could take care of itself within a relatively short period of time."

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal's editorial board.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

His own independence day

Freed after 2 months as a hostage, John Solecki is a grateful man
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Star-Ledger Staff

After being held hostage for 61 days by Pakistani militants, his hands and feet bound and his life under constant threat, John Solecki found himself taking a familiar walk around his parents' South Orange home yesterday afternoon.

"It's great to be free and it's great to be home," said Solecki, 49. "I would like to thank all the people who made my release possible."

Solecki was in good spirits, making a brief statement to reporters yesterday, but declined further comment. He directed inquiries to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He said he had no immediate plans other than to relax and spend time with his family.

"I'm just resting at this point," he said, but when asked if he would be returning to his work at the U.N., he replied "Of course."

Solecki was taken captive at gunpoint on Feb. 2 and held by the Baluchistan Liberation United Front, a little-known, Pakistani militant group.

On April 4 he was discovered by a local restaurant owner on a mountain road with his hands and feet still bound. After spending a night in the Combined Military Hospital, in Quetta, Pakistan, Solecki began the 7,678-mile journey home. He was greeted by his parents and brother at Newark Liberty International Airport Tuesday night.

Solecki's brother William, 47, a professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said the family was relieved and grateful for Solecki's return. "I feel great, the family's great, and we appreciate all the work that so many have done," he said.

Solecki, who has worked for the U.N. agency since 1991, had been running the commissioner's office in Quetta for several years before he was abducted.

His kidnappers attempted to use Solecki to negotiate the release of political prisoners allegedly being held in Pakistan, according to reports by the Associated Press. The group threatened to behead him at one point and issued a video on Feb. 13 that showed him pleading for help.

"This is a message to the United Nations," he said in the video. "I'm not feeling well. I'm sick and in trouble. Please help solve the problems soon so I can gain my release."

"I think he may have charmed the kidnappers at some point," said Christopher Stockwell, 48, a friend of Solecki's since the sixth grade. "He wasn't the kind of guy who wanted to fight or get angry or upset."

Stockwell and Solecki graduated in 1978 from North Valley Regional High School in Demarest, Bergen County, but lost touch in recent years. Stockwell said Solecki's work with refugees was in keeping with the man he knew.

"It didn't surprise me that he was overseas working for the U.N.," Stockwell said yesterday. "He wouldn't be afraid to go out and do something to try and help."

Solecki's father, Ralph, is a renowned anthropologist, known mostly for his study of early man and discoveries at the Neanderthal cave in Iraq. Friends of the family said his family's global awareness helped foster Solecki's interest in foreign cultures.

"They had traveled a lot in the Middle East when the kids were young," said Karen Strickholm, 50, who grew up with Solecki in Demarest. "The Soleckis were always very humanitarian," she said. "They were a family that our family always really admired."

Strickholm, who works in public relations in New Mexico, helped to organize outreach during Solecki's captivity, along with several of his childhood friends. She said the reaction has been overwhelming.

"All over the country, people who never met him formed prayer groups," Strickholm said yesterday. "He had prayers, meditations, chanting and positive visualization from tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people."

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) personally intervened to speed Solecki's release, making repeated calls to embassy officials here and in Pakistan, as well as U.N. officials.

"I'm thrilled for him and his family, who remained strong and steadfast throughout," Menendez said yesterday.

In a prepared statement, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres described Solecki as having endured his ordeal "with lots of courage and determination and we can all be very proud of him. And I think the same can be said about his family."

Swat Peace Pact

Kashmir Watch, April 9

By Zaheerul Hassan

Swat which remained on international focus due to turmoil brought out by the Taliban Insurgency since 2007, has now heading towards calm and peace slowly and gradually. General masses of Pakistan, particularly Swati population have welcomed the accord concluded between Sufi Muhmmad of the banned TNSM and the government.   But some of western countries, US and India authorities did not endorse the pact since the said deal is not as per their design. There are some   external and internal   forces which are basically anti accord elements and now making efforts to defeat the peace. Anti Pakistan internal and external forces has adopted the multidimensional approach to sabotage the revealed deal while: using black sheep of FATA by slaughtering of government officials, abducting and shooting down of innocent people, destructing private and public properties, challenging government writ   , negative propaganda against law enforcement agencies, media campaign against Islam and condemning Pak government policy of carrying out negotiations with local Taliban. Sufi Muhammad and Fazalullah if  serious in establishment of permanent peace then they have to find out the culprits using their platforms for creating instability in the country . Thus, foreign sponsored groups, pact opposing western countries, US and Particular India are real detriments to Swat Peace Pact.

On 29 March district Lower Dir, miscreants while kidnapping Muhammad Shoaib (Manager MCB Peshawar) was chased by locals under Alamzeb Khan (ex District Nazim/JI). During exchange of fire, Alamzeb Khan and his relative Mehmood lost their lives. Later Khurshid Khan (DPO) along with police contingent reached to the site (village Haya Serai) and in an ensuing gun battle, the DPO and the two police constables got killed. However miscreants managed to escape with the kidnapees.”  The local sources alleged that the Kidnapping and killing of DPO and innocent people have been done on the instructions of so called Taliban spoke’s man. The local population has now started realizing that these Taliban are interested to enforce their own agenda which is totally away from the Islam. For example lashing of 17 year old young girl for no fault has further fueled the sentiments of the general public.  Though, Taliban leadership has declared the video as factious one, but these two recent incidents on one hand has flared up the locals who are adamant to form a Lashkar and physically attack the miscreants hideouts along with protest processions to pressurize the government for the recovery of abductees and on the other hand the incident has created a concern in the ranks and files of miscreants due to the up rise of locals against the Talibans. . All these events taking place one after the other pointing towards the malicious aims of the rival intelligence agencies to destabilize Pakistan. The intelligence agencies like RAW and CIA are sponsoring such brutality in Swat to cause adverse effects on the peace deal between the government and the Taliban. The drone attacks  is another issue which is being cashed by  anti Pakistan Taliban because of some obvious reasons like: not targeting  the actual culprit like Baitullah Mehsood .Now it become an open secret that  Washington is not interested to hit  some covert Taliban but  only victimize innocent people. Whatever the case may be, the increase in drone attacks in FATA area is undermining the sovereignty of Pakistan and damaging the peaceful efforts. Once the peace deal gets influenced by such ruthless activities, the involved players will be able to achieve their vested interests. Apart from their efforts to contemplate the name of Pakistani intelligence agencies, the RAW sponsored and trained miscreants are now concerned over the growing restlessness among the people regarding their ruthless episodes. Thus in order to create pressure among the common public and to provoke hatred in their minds against the government and the agencies, they (Planted Talibans) are carrying out such incidents as quoted above.

 Now it is the tone of the tongue that   external forces are involved in causing unrest in Baluchistan too. Bugti Mari tribes have secular / nationalist out lock and have no religious motives. Baluchistan Liberation Army is being supported by RAW and CIA with the overall aim of weakening Pakistan.  As regards to FATA some forces are supporting terrorists to take political control of the area, defeat coalition efforts of the government and peaceful locals. The government is following three pronged strategy which encompasses dialogue with the locals, development of the area and use of force as deterrence. Pakistan has deployed over 120,000 troops along the Pak � Afghan border and setting up of nearly 850 border security posts, development works in the affected areas, registrations of madrassas,   enforcing of Islamic laws in Swat.  But even then Pak government is facing problems due to malicious activities of foreign hands in FATA.

In short, as the strategic significance of Pakistan has always overawed the rival and competing intelligence agencies. The masters of these foreign agencies are working on five points agenda to eliminate Pakistan from the world map or declared her a failed state. The five points agenda encompasses  “ (one) target Pakistan nuclear programme,  (two)  separation of Baluchistan and FATA area, ( three)  Maligning Armed Forces and ISI , (four ) create political instability and economical disorder , last but not the least , sabotaging peace deals of government and  locals.  Thus, All possible measures are being taken to prove Pakistan a failed and irresponsible state. For a long time, RAW has been carrying out subversive acts with in the territorial boundaries of Pakistan. Now, terrorists’ intentions are as clear as crystal, the government and public of Pakistan should act responsibly and maturely. Steps should be taken to safeguard the sovereignty of Pakistan. The swat pact needs to be protected at all costs as the prosperity and stability of Pakistan hinges upon the success of this peace deal. Further more, in every organization be it a terrorist organization, there are some anti state elements and  black sheeps. The need of the hour is to highlight such miscreants within Talibans and others organizations. Their elimination be carried out by respective loyal local leadership and respective head of the organization. This conspiracy theory against Pakistan has to be dealt tactfully and intelligently.  Only then we can ensure the sovereignty and peaceful existence of our beloved country. The great game against Pakistan launched by India supported by US and Israel has to be defeated. This is not a war of bayonets rather it is a war of minds. Thus deployment of army or drone attacks is not the solution of the problem. The resolution to the problem is to look up for the root causes and then eliminate the same for better future of Pakistan.

The Author can be reached at zameer36@gmail.com

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi activists arrested

By Faraz Khan 

KARACHI: The police have arrested five activists belonging to banned religious outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), and seized a huge cache of explosives, ammunition and weapons from their possession, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Wasim Ahmed disclosed on Wednesday. 

Speaking at a press conference at the Central Police Office, Ahmed revealed that the raid was conducted on a tip-off. The suspects are accused of having strong links with the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, (SSP), Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Their arrests were made near the Super Market area of Sohrab Goth on Tuesday night. According to police officials, the arrested men were plotting suicide attacks on various sensitive installations including the home minister’s office, police head office, Criminal Investigation Department, offices of intelligence agencies, imambargahs, mosques. Moreover, high-ranking police officials, including SSP Farooq Awan, SSP Fayyaz Khan, SSP Raja Omer Khattab, SSP Choudhry Mohammad Aslam and others, are also said to be on their hit-list. 

The arrested men are Mohammad Akbar alias Ibrahim alias Abdullah, Sarfaraz alias Asadullah, Farid Ahmed alias Furqan, Faisal Sheikh alias Kamran and Dur Mohammad Baloch alias Bilal Baloch. The confiscated weapons include three Kalashnikovs, three TT pistols, one 7mm rifle, four hand grenades, large amounts of materials used in the making of explosives including two kilograms of ball bearing and hundreds of bullets, while hashish, a stolen motorcycle and a car were also recovered. 

The CCPO revealed that during interrogation, the suspects have also confessed to involvement in attacks on security forces and NATO suppliers in northern areas. He added that the men are associated with the faction of Taliban that selects prospective fighters from the city and trains them in Waziristan and Miranshah for combating security forces. 

“The citizens of Karachi should not fear such elements anymore, as law enforcers are working round the clock for their elimination and have made a lot of inroads,” the CCPO said. He added that a special force for the city, comprising of 1,000 personnel, has been formed in light of the Manawan attack in Lahore. 

Ahmed said that the cooperation of each and every citizen is needed in such efforts and in this regard, real estate agents have been asked to provide transaction copies of every deal to their area police so that tabs can be kept on all new tenants, as such terrorists usually prefer rented houses. 

He stated that strict surveillance measures are also being taken in katchi abadies, as after the move to curb the availability of rented houses, the terrorists are most likely to move to such areas. Replying to a question, Ahmed said that the possibility of the presence of such elements in the city cannot be ruled out, citing the attacks on SSP Khattab and SSP Awan as prime examples. 

During the press conference, the CCPO also introduced family members of four police officials who have been martyred in separate incidents during the past 15 days. Ahmed announced compensation of Rs 2 million and a plot each to the bereaved families. 

Profiles of the arrested militants

Sarfaraz is an auto mechanic involved in the smuggling of explosive materials from Balochistan. He had been associated with the Harkatul Mujahideen and Al Qaeda since 2005. He is accused of providing shelter to various militants in Karachi and is said to be an administrator of a religious madrassah in Lyari from where he recruits prospective militants.

Faisal has been involved in numerous attacks on security forces in Waziristan. He has been associated with the Taliban after entering a militant network under the influence of Dr Arshad Waheed, who was killed in Wana. The accused confessed that he was planning to kidnap people from Karachi, Sukkur and other interior cities for ransom.

Muhammad Akbar, a resident of Lyari, specialises in making explosives. He joined the Harkatul Mujahideen in 2002 and apart from being trained in Afghanistan, he has served there on two occasions as well. Akbar is also accused of providing fighters to the LJ and Taliban.

Farid, who has been associated with the Hizbul Mujahideen since 1999, received training in Waziristan. In 2002, he joined another banned outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and after fighting security forces in Waziristan on the behest of the Taliban, came to Karachi. He is accused of brainwashing numerous people into taking up arms.

Dur Muhammad Baloch, a resident of Lyari, was also trained in Waziristan. He, with the assistance of Akbar, had brought a explosives-laden vehicle to Karachi from Waziristan to target the office of the CID and other intelligence agencies. Three of his close associates, namely Tahir, Asghar and Tauseef, are currently engaged in training militants in Waziristan.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Pakistani Taliban said moving closer to capital

By Junaid Khan

MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani Taliban are moving into a new area in northern Pakistan, clashing with villagers and police in a mountain valley, police and district officials said on Wednesday.

Separately, a Pakistani Taliban commander said the Pakistani military and the United States were colluding in U.S. drone aircraft attacks and the militants would take their war to the capital, Islamabad, in response.

Surging militant violence across Pakistan is reviving Western concerns about the stability of its nuclear-armed ally. Pakistan is crucial to U.S. efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.

U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, were in Pakistan for talks on security strategy this week.

In a development that will deepen the West's concerns, scores of Taliban have moved into Buner district, 100 km northwest of Islamabad, from the Swat valley where authorities struck a peace pact in February aimed at ending violence.

"About 20 vehicles carrying Taliban entered Buner on Monday and started moving around the bazaar and streets," said senior police officer Israr Bacha.

Villagers formed a militia, known as a lashkar, to confront the Taliban and eight of the insurgents were killed in a clash on Tuesday, police said.

Two villagers and three policemen were also killed.

"People don't like the Taliban," Ghulam Mustafa, deputy chief of Buner, told Reuters by telephone.

Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman in Swat, was defiant.

"What law stops us going there?" Khan said. "Our people will go there and stay there as long as they want."


Authorities agreed in February to let Islamists impose Islamic law in Swat to end more than a year of fighting.

Critics said appeasement would only embolden the militants to take over other areas. Pakistan's Western allies fear such pacts create safe havens for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

Pakistani Taliban commander Mullah Nazeer Ahmed said in an interview with al Qaeda's media arm, Al-Sahab, that Pakistan was behind U.S. drone attacks on militants.

Authorities were misleading the public by saying it was the United States carrying out the strikes, he said, and it was the Pakistani army that sent spies to facilitate them.

"All these attacks that have happened and are still happening are the work of Pakistan," Ahmed said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on Al-Sahab's website.

Alarmed by deteriorating security in Afghanistan, the United States has since last year stepped up drone strikes in Pakistan.

Pakistan objects to the strikes, calling them a violation of its sovereignty that complicates its effort to fight militancy.

Other Taliban commanders said recent violence in Pakistan has been in retaliation for the drone attacks and threatened more.

Ahmed said Pakistani Taliban factions had united and would take their war to the capital: "The day is not far when Islamabad will be in the hands of the mujahideen."

Ahmed also blamed the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency for sowing divisions between factions, saying the ISI was the Taliban's main enemy.

Some U.S. officials have said recently the ISI maintained contacts with militants and there were indications ISI elements even provided support to the Taliban or al Qaeda militants.

Such accusations have angered Pakistan, although a military spokesman denied reports that ISI chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha had snubbed Holbrooke and Mullen by refusing to meet them on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider and Zeeshan Haider)


Jehadi group’s trademark gets stolen

Abdullah Khan

Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s trademark has been stolen, and the irony is that the stolen trademark is now being used against Lashkar’s own support base. The recent attack on the Manawan Police Training School Lahore, after the previous attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the same city, is the latest example of this peculiar development. India has been facing such attacks, usually referred to as ‘fidayeen attacks’, since 1999. 

This terminology was also used by the Indian media in their news coverage immediately after the Mumbai attacks with headlines such as, ‘Mumbai under Fidayeen attack’. Although Lashkar-e-Taiba had denied involvement in these attacks, yet Indian, British, and Pakistani intelligence still hold this group, which is active in Kashmir against Indian occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, responsible for the Mumbai events in the light of their own investigations. Pakistan has taken more than half a dozen Lashkar commanders into custody, including Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, who is one of the four leaders on whom the United Nations had enforced sanctions on December 10, 2008, and had frozen their assets. Lashkar-e-Taiba had introduced the tactic of fidayeen attacks back in 1999 when the then prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, had announced the withdrawal of Pakistani forces and Kashmiri fighters from the mountains of Kargil in his Washington Declaration, which they captured in the winter of that year, and where a fierce and bloody battle had been fought in the months of May and June. During this battle, Pakistani forces had shot down two Indian war planes and had even captured the pilot of one of the aircrafts. The Indian army had faced such huge loss of life in this battle that it had had to hand out contracts to private firms for the mass manufacture of coffins for transportation of its dead soldiers from the frontlines. Corruption is rife to such an extent in India’s armed forces and its Ministry of Defense that kickbacks and commissions of millions of rupees were paid and received for the manufacture of these coffins. An inquiry was also initiated later regarding this sordid affair, but that is not what I am writing about today, although I do intend to write in detail about the widespread corruption in the Indian armed forces at some later date.

Lashkar-e-Taiba’s leadership had warned the then prime minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, through a press statement that ‘the second round of jihad had now begun’, which had meant that India should now expect fidayeen attacks on Indian forces in Kashmir. In the fidayeen style of attack anywhere from two to ten, or sometimes even more heavily armed fighters make a commando-style entry into the target facility and try their best to inflict heavy losses. If they achieve their desired goal, they try to escape from the location; otherwise they fight until death instead of surrendering. According to a report of the Indian Express which was published after the Mumbai events, the first fidayeen attack occurred at the Battalion Headquarters of the Indian BSF (Border Security Force) in Bandipora, in which three attackers had caused havoc at the BSF Headquarters.

Activities and operations of Indian forces deployed in the Kashmir valley are controlled from the headquarters of the 15 Corps which is located in the Badami Bagh area of Srinagar. But although this location is considered to be the safest place in terms of security for the Indian forces in Occupied Kashmir, yet three fidayeen of Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked this secure headquarters site on November 3, 1999, dressed in the uniforms of Indian troops and were able to infiltrate and mix with other soldiers by taking advantage of the pandemonium and confusion. These fidayeen were so daring and bold that they made their way to the office of the spokesman of the Indian forces, Maj. Parshotam, in the commotion and killed him, and then audaciously used his telephone to call the British news organization, the BBC, to accept responsibility for the attack. Moreover, two of the attackers were able to escape the premises in an Indian forces vehicle, while only one of them was killed. The success of this type of daring attacks raised the morale of this group tremendously with the result that in the year 2000, some attackers of this group left Kashmir and not only attacked the Red Fort based Indian army barracks in the heart of the Indian capital, New Delhi, but also defiantly accepted responsibility for the said attack. A Pakistani citizen, Muhammad Ashfaq, faces the death sentence in India for his involvement in this attack and his case is pending hearing in the Indian Supreme Court. Fidayeen attacks were therefore considered to be a hallmark of Lashkar-e-Taiba in the subcontinent, while other militant groups in the area also began copying Palestinian and Tamil militants and used suicide attacks as a tactic quite successfully in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lashkar, however, instead of moving towards suicide attacks, maintained its distinctive style of fidayeen attacks and with time, tried to perfect this technique further. Even though India blames the suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on Lashkar, yet if one accepts this as truth, even then it would be a rare incident in Lashkar’s history of resistance.

American intelligence officials and experts on militancy had expressed fears after the Mumbai attacks that other militant groups, including Al Qaeda, may try to mimic this style of attack and those misgivings have turned out to be entirely true. Yet ironically, instead of India or America becoming a victim of this style of attack, as had been expected, the Pakistani province of Punjab and its capital, Lahore; considered to be the nexus of Lashkar sympathizers, has itself fallen prey to this particular style of attacks. The leadership of this group therefore, which had announced numerous times in the past that it will never carry out any militant activities on Pakistani soil, is deeply embarrassed and completely flabbergasted, to say the least, at this bizarre development, because after every attack which uses the Lashkar trademark style, the finger is immediately pointed toward this group due to its previous use of this style outside Pakistani soil. This group, which has enjoyed popular public support in Punjab, is extremely worried, understandably, under these circumstances, that if such attacks continue and its name keeps getting mentioned, it could turn out to be fatal for its popularity among the Pakistani populace. 

What is interesting is that this group can neither register a case against the theft of its trademark in any court of law, nor can it have a notice issued to the stealers of its trademark under the Copyright Act.

—The writer is an expert on regional security issues and Indo-Pakistan relations.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Pakistan is fighting a battle for its own survival

The United States' military commander and regional troubleshooter held key talks in Pakistan, where President Asif Ali Zardari told them his country was fighting terror for its survival.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Richard Holbrooke, special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, arrived late Monday for talks on Washington's sweeping new strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda and its allies.

It is the first top-level visit since US President Barack Obama put Pakistan at the heart of the fight against Al-Qaeda, unveiling a new strategy nine days ago to commit thousands more troops and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.

"Pakistan is fighting a battle for its own survival," a statement issued by the presidency quoted Zardari as telling Mullen and Holbrooke during their talks.

"The president said the government would not succumb to any pressure by militants," it said, despite Zardari sparking controversy in the West with a call for dialogue with those who lay down their arms.

The talks covered regional security issues, the Afghanistan strategy announced by Obama less than two weeks ago and a recent surge in militancy and extremism in the region, the presidency said.

Pakistani officials said the US visitors were scheduled to hold separate talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quresh before leaving for India later Tuesday.

The visit came as The New York Times again reported that the United States intended to step up drone attacks on militants in Pakistan?s tribal areas, which border Afghanistan, and might extend them deeper inside Pakistan.

The newspaper said "officials" proposed broadening the missile strikes by unmanned aircraft to Pakistan's southwest province of Baluchistan, which comes under federal government control, unless Pakistan reduces incursions by militants.

Pakistan is deeply opposed to the drone attacks -- around 37 of which have killed over 360 people since August 2008 -- saying they violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment in the nuclear-armed nation.

The country has paid dearly for its alliance with the US in its "war on terror." Militant attacks have killed more than 1,700 people since July 2007.

Pakistan angrily rejects criticism that it does not do more to quash Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants holed up on the Afghan border, pointing to the deaths of more than 1,500 troops killed at the hands of Islamist extremists since 2002.

The country's powerful intelligence services -- which have a history of supporting Islamist militants to fight in Indian-controlled Kashmir and in Afghanistan -- are under tough US pressure to sever ties with extremists.

On Monday, Gilani chaired high-level Pakistani national security talks and announced in a statement that "a comprehensive and integrated policy... will be devised to eradicate completely the scourge of terrorism and extremism."

Cash-strapped Pakistan is keenly awaiting a US aid package that aims to triple economic assistance to 7.5 billion dollars over five years.

Although the aid bill meets some long-standing requests for military equipment, it requires the White House to certify that Pakistan is fighting terror and that its military and intelligence services do not support extremists.

Pakistan must also close all terror camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and work to prevent cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

"What is expected in the coming months is intensification of the campaign in search of Al-Qaeda and its local allies in Pakistan," analyst Imtiaz Gul told AFP when asked about the significance of the US visit.

"Drone attacks are a reality that Pakistanis shall have to live with."

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Pakistan army and ISI in CIA’s firing line

onday March 30, 2009 (1124 PST)


It is now getting clear as to why FATA has been declared most dangerous place on earth. After making series of allegations that FATA is the main breeding ground where militants and suicide bombers are trained for launching into Afghanistan; where the entire senior leadership of Al-Qaeda and Taliban is housed; and from where possible attack on US homeland would take off, so far not a single training camp has been located in FATA, nor any high-profile militant leader nabbed or killed. This is in spite of continuous hovering of spy planes and next door US-NATO troops equipped with latest state-of-the-art surveillance and detection gadgets breathing over Pakistan’s neck, and RAW-CIA-Mossad agents having infiltrated into FATA in big numbers. If CIA controlled drones can hit suspected houses, madrassas and Hujras based on intelligence, why have they been unable to detect so-called training sites and the top wanted leaders? Why have the drones not taken a pot shot at Baitullah Mehsud or Maulana Fazlullah if the US considers Pakistani Taliban a threat?

The fact is that whatever has been said about FATA is pack of white lies uttered with sinister designs. All sorts of harrowing stories were cooked up to justify drone attacks as well as ground raids in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt. Blatant lies are similar to the WMD falsehood to justify invasion of Iraq. Why not Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan or for that matter India which has become the hub-centre of extremism and terrorism been added to the list of most dangerous places?

Other than the militants, which the US is keen to eliminate, Pakistan army and the ISI also continue to remain in CIA’s firing line. CIA is deliberately leaking out stories in US leading newspapers while CNN, Fox News drum beats scandalous news on electronic media to malign the two institutions.  The allegations made against the two institutions range from collaboration with the Taliban and playing a double game. The themes played are: One, the army is either incapable of dealing with militants or is soft towards them; Two, the army has surrendered FATA and Swat to the Taliban; Three, the army uses the Taliban as a weapon to regain strategic depth in Afghanistan; Four, the army is not under civil government control; Five, the ISI trains, equips and launches militants into Pakistan to hit Afghan-Nato targets.

In order to nullify the negative impact of deadly drone attacks which have killed mostly innocent men, women and children, USA has launched a bizarre campaign in its bid to convince Pakistanis and the world that drones are flown from air bases in Baluchistan and not from Afghanistan. Earlier on it was stated that there was a tacit understanding between Gen Musharraf and USA and that Zardari on his visit to Washington had given his blessing to continue drone attacks. It was also said that missile attacks were conducted without informing Pakistan because of strong suspicion that the army and the ISI forewarned the Taliban about the intended attack.

David E Sanger and Ron Suskind, both from USA have belatedly come up with news that Gen Musharraf had played a double game. In his book ‘Inheritance’, Sanger claims that he learnt about the ISI and Pakistani Generals protecting the Taliban by listening to the highly classified tapes in which telephonic conversations of top Pakistani Generals with the then ISI chief were recorded. Who will buy this crap for everyone knows that Generals use highly secured communication system which cannot be breached. More so, why the hell they should be discussing Taliban over phones? Diane Feinstein, chairperson of US Senate Committee on Intelligence came out with a startling disclosure that US drones were operating form certain ISI bases within Pakistan and that USAF and US army had nothing to do with it. The ISI was deliberately added to generate feelings of hatred against it. Who doesn’t know that the ISI do not control any bases and that drones are flown from Bagram air base in Afghanistan? It is also a known fact that Shamsi and Dalbaldin air bases are utilized by CIA and FBI for covert operations in Baluchistan and Iran.      

The CIA and ISI have always enjoyed cordial relations. The Afghan war against the Soviets brought the two very close to each other. This closeness got reinvigorated when Pakistan volunteered to become the frontline state against war on terror. The two sailed along smoothly till as late as 2007 after which there was a sudden shift in CIA’s attitude. This change in attitude occurred after ISI learnt about CIA playing a double game in FATA and Baluchistan by providing all out assistance to RAW to destabilize the marked regions. When ISI became cautious and started to take protective measures, it irked CIA and started to distance itself. CIA’s relations with Pak army and the ISI became strained when the army-ISI outspread details of drug trade in Afghanistan in which CIA, RAW and Mossad were deeply involved. This disclosure with proofs was made when the USA had begun to tantalize Pak army and blamed it for its woes in Afghanistan. Pakistan argued that one of the principle reasons for USA not being able to control militancy in Afghanistan was the unchecked drug trade which was also a source of income for the militants to fund their militancy. It transpired that CIA assisted by India was sponsoring multi-billon dollar Afghan drug trade. The duo banks on $3 trillion worth of drug money each year, generated through heroin production and its subsequent sale across the world. Drug money is used by CIA for carrying out covert operations in the world. RAW utilizes drug money for running tens of training camps, for recruiting and equipping agents and suicide bombers and funding dissident elements within Pakistan.

Exposure of this racket angered CIA and relations of the two soured. Matters worsened when the Indian defence attaché serving in Indian Embassy in Kabul got killed on 7 July 2008 suicide bombing. He was a lynchpin arranging drug deals and hence very dear to the CIA. RAW convinced CIA that the attack had been perpetrated by ISI. It infuriated CIA so intensely that it vowed to teach ISI a lesson. We remember how Deputy Director CIA and Adm. Mullen came fuming to Pakistan and expressed their deepest concern. Ever since, CIA is not missing any opportunity to fire salvos to defame and axe this premier organization which provides first line of defence to Pakistan. Otherwise too, both CIA and RAW consider the army and ISI as the only bottlenecks which are blocking their route to denuclearize Pakistan. Among the many conditions attached to Benazir return to Pakistan was to turn the army into a counter terrorism force and to bring the ISI and the nuclear program under civilian control. A serious attempt was made in August last year when the ISI had nearly been placed under Ministry of Interior. CIA was part of the gory drama of Mumbai in which the army and ISI in particular were blamed. The CIA not only exercises control over US media and think tanks which it uses for propaganda purposes and for forming perceptions, it has also cultivated intellectuals, writers, journalists, English newspapers and TV channels in Pakistan and uses Pakistani brigade to supplement its propaganda warfare. Among the latter category some are based in foreign countries but subscribe their articles in Pakistan’s leading English newspapers. Of late this brigade has become very active and is parroting dictated themes with greatest vigor.    

There is no denying the fact that the CIA used drug money to finance war against the Soviets in the 1980s. Earlier on it had also used drug money in Nicaragua in 1979-80 to finance Contras. By the close of Afghan war in 1989, Afghanistan was the second biggest opium producing country in the world. It was almost cleansed of the curse of drugs by the Taliban during their rule from 1996 to 2001. It has now been converted into the largest heroin producing state in the world. Hamid Karzai brother Izzatullah Wasifi is the biggest heroin producer and there are dozens of heroin factories established across the country and run by Wasifi and other Afghan warlords. Ahmad Wali Karzai in Kandahar handles all exports of heroin to Europe through Turkmenistan.

The 7 July attack on Indian Embassy had been masterminded by Wasifi once he learnt that the Indian officer was betraying him to US Drug Enforcement Agency. It is surprising that neither CIA has ever recommended to US government to launch a crackdown on heroin factories that finance militants and warlords nor the US military command or NATO command in Kabul have raised this issue. It seems as if all are party to the drug game. Without Pentagon and CIA blessing it is not possible to export thousands of tons of heroin. Reportedly, even US military cargo planes are in use to shift heroin and on occasions coffin boxes were used. Possibility of NATO countries and Afghan army and police indulging in this lucrative business cannot be ruled out. It is to be seen whether the hard taskmaster Holbrook would be able sort this critical matter without which any amount of troop surge will not produce any tangible results.