List of banned outfits: excision or exemption??

While Interior Ministry’s list of 31 organizations banned from collecting sacrificial animal’s hides include disused names of sectarian and Jihadi outfits. It misses two very important names. Jamaat-ud-dawa and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat. One can understand why JuD is missing in the list but ASWJ exclusion may raise a few eyebrows.

For starters let me remind that banned Sipah-e-Sahaba/Millat-e-Islamia and its militant wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are operating under a new name Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat. It is led by Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi and is operating in cities of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Ironically the new adopted name is excluded from the list of banned outfits with restrictions on their fund raising and other activities. Is that a blunder, negligence or omission? Those observing their recent activities after the new embodiment can understand the reasons behind this excision.

The name of Sipah-e-Sahaba is synonymous to killing and obliterating lesser Muslims i.e. Shias, Ahmedis, Barelvis, lesser Pakistanis, i.e. Christians and Hindus and even lesser Deobandis. In the last two decades, while it has killed hundreds of Shias, it has not held itself back from killing dissidents in their own sect. Most of the attacks and bombings on security agencies personnels, offices and other places were carried down by the terrorists of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and were involved in the attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team. The much reprobated Shahbaz Sharif call to Taliban for discontinuing attacks in Punjab was actually an appeal to the leadership of SSP/LeJ, which has not been let down by them.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) has many of its prominent leaders from SSP/Lej ranks. The present chief Hakimullah Mehsud, suicide bombing specialist Qari Hussain and one of their spokesmen Asmatullah Muawaia’s sectarian leanings are not a secret. SSP activists have jeered at Shias call of  “Salaam Ya Hussain” as “Salaam Ya Qari Hussain”, which I had seen an year ago on the shutters of a fair price shop of “Abdullah Enterprises” , a textile company located at 100 yard distance of Jamia Binoria SITE, and opposite to SITE Police station Karachi. In bughz-e-Shias they have cheered up a mass killer who is specialized in mass killings via his trained suicide bombers.

A new trend egressed since the political uprising in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the banned SSP leaders suddenly turned into patriots and admirers of Pakistan Army. They are openly carrying on public meetings in support of Pakistan Army’s decision to send troops to Behrain. In a meeting there in Karachi, their provincial head, Rab Nawaz Hanafi  was extolling Behrain king’s oppression of his shia population and aid by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan Army, saying “Behrain mey tau khoob pitaai horahai hei shiaon ki”.

Ahmad Ludhianvi, the man who was provided an opportunity of spreading hatred against Shias in Dunya TV talk show hosted by Asma Chaudhry too was full of extolments for Pakistan Army in their stance on the good Haqqanis, and offered 200 thousand volunteers in case of an encounter with United States.

And it’s the reason; its present leadership is enjoying political support and a free run in big cities of Punjab and in Karachi. Their central, provincial and lower leadership is conducting public meetings, processions and fund raising activities. Their flags, graffiti and slogans can be seen on the walls varying in their contents from place to place. One can see this variation by comparing what has been sprayed in Orangi and Baldia Town and painted near Asghar Ali Shah Stadium North Nazimabad.


An Afghan reporter in Garmser

Massoud Husseini, an Afghan reporter, goes on an embed with the US Marines1 to see what Garmser, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand province, looked like after the US Marines operation there.2 It seems that he was pissed off by the Marines and they were pissed off by him but it’s an interesting report to read mainly because I’ve never read anything by an Afghan reporterembedded with the US military.

1 Husseini, Massoud. Garmser: Ghost city after U.S. military operation. Kabul Weekly. May 21, 2008.
2 U.S. Marines launch Afghan operation. CNN. April 28, 2008.

Zeenia Satti on the future of US policy in NWFP

There are two op-eds by Zeenia Satti in the Pakistani press — one in The Dawn1 and one in the News.2 The best order to read them is probably Dawn first, the News second. Her Dawn op-ed summarizes the causes of the current crisis, arguing that it is largely the consequence of Operation Enduring Freedom on the NWFP. She argues that the Afghanistan-Pakistan border should have been sealed before OEF, that modern technology has made it possible to seal the border,and that now it is too late because “As a direct consequence of this oversight, instead of decimating terrorism in Afghanistan, an expanded regional version of it has been created and Pakistan has been engulfed in it.”

The key argument of her op-ed in the News is that there is a very strong chance of massive US-led airstrikes on FATA and that the federal government, distracted by the post-election political maneuverings, is completely ignoring this possibility. The consequences of such airstrikes will be devastating to Pakistan’s security. Additionally, she is skeptical that Pakistan can unilaterally negotiate peace with the Taliban.

As Damadola exemplifies, Pakistan’s peace deal with the militants in FATA is meaningless if Islamabad cannot ensure the security of FATA against US aerial attacks. Removing its forces from the area means nothing if a much larger force, allied with Pakistan, is going to strike with far more lethal weapons instead. Troop withdrawal in such a situation in fact jeopardizes Pakistan’s sovereignty. The situation calls for Pakistan to approach the matter of peace in FATA in a multilateral manner through engaging General McNeil, General Patreus and Hamid Karzai, along with Baitullah Mehsud and the Taliban representatives in a multilateral process that satisfies NATO as well.

Satti had a much longer article in Energy Bulletin3 in February in which she presents several scenarios concerning Pakistan’s long-term future. One such scenario presented in the article clarifies her position on why US airstrikes in NWFP present such a threat to Pakistan’s future:

Scenario two could plausibly entail heavy bombardment of Pakistani tribal areas by the U.S forces, causing a flood of internal migration, which will also mean the spread of militants into the Pakistani mainland. This could provide the U.S with a reason to lead an international demand, possibly through the U.N Security Council, for Pakistan’s denuclearization.

In all of these articles, she stresses the fact that it is unlikely that the Frontier Corps, with its strong ethnic links to the Taliban militants, will be able to successfully neutralize the Taliban. On this issue, she has the following to say:

The operation against tribal militants is a Catch 22 for Pakistan’s military. The Frontier Corps, due to its ethnic affinity with the Taliban, has no faith in this battle, hence it is unfit for the purpose. The deployment of Punjabi battalions, or overt military collaboration between the U.S and Pakistan, will be perceived as a genocide and could lead to a Mukti Bahini-like insurgency for Pakistan’s military in the NWFP and Baluchistan, augmented by the street mood in the rest of the country where economic grievance is widespread. Under the postulated circumstances, Pakistan military’s strategic capacity to resist U.S led international demand to relinquish its nuclear arsenal will decrease by the day.

1 Satti, Zeenia. (May 21, 2008). Will Fata’s truce succeed?. The Dawn.
2 Satti, Zeenia. (May 21, 2008). Peace that unleashes war. The News.
3 Satti, Zeenia. (February 11, 2008). Pakistan problem: Washington’s perspective. Energy Bulletin.

Tariq Azizuddin is back

Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan who had been kiddnapped for 97 days, has been returned.1 Ismail Khan’s article on the subject in Dawn is full of quotes by an unnamed government official:

“The first couple of days were hard on him. But later his captors treated him well,” the official said.
He insisted that Mr Azizuddin’s kidnappers initially did not know who he was. “They just spotted a vehicle bearing a red registration number plate and thought that it was carrying someone important.
The official insisted that Azizuddin’s captors released him as a goodwill gesture following the prisoners’ swap between the militants and the authorities and the military pullout from the Mehsud part of South Waziristan.
“There has been no ransom paid and no special prisoner exchange in this case,” he maintained.

But, as we all know, (even the official, apparently):

Pakistani authorities have released 50 militants in return for the release of army and paramilitary personnel and some government officials.
The official who spoke to Dawn said the militants were still holding 20 to 25 paramilitary personnel and their release was still awaited. “But major hurdles have been cleared. The army has been pulled back, exchange of major prisoners has taken place and the ambassador released.

So… was he part of a prisoner exchange or not? The answer seems pretty clear.
In the meantime, a kidnapped soldier of the Bajaur Scouts was found dead2 near the Pashat bazaar in Salarzai tehsil on Friday, a fact that isn’t exactly receiving a huge amount of media attention.
This article at Memri has more has more about the NWFP government’s May 11 agreement with the Taliban for the implementation of Sharia in seven of NWFP’s districts.

The paper stated that shari’a courts will be created in the seven districts, and that these courts will have the power to deliver Islam-compliant verdicts such as amputating the hands of individuals convicted of theft, administering 80 lashes or stoning for convicted rapists, or enforcing qisas – a principle that permits “like punishment” for a crime.
According to the paper, judges will be required to have knowledge of shari’a. Those who do not will be transferred to other districts of the province, and their positions will be filled by judges who do, and who have qualified at an Islamic university. Also under the deal, ulema will be appointed as assistants to the judges of the shari’a courts.

This is pretty huge, but again, not a big deal in the media.

1Azizuddin is home after 97 days May 18, 2008 Dawn, by Ismail Khan
2Kidnapped soldier found dead May 17, 2008, Dawn
3Pakistan Takes Steps Towards Shari’a State In Seven Districts May 16, 2008, Memri

Top Taliban leader vows revenge on America

Following US missile strikes on Damadola village, a militant stronghold in Bajur tribal region near the Afghanistan border, Faqir Muhammad, a top Taliban leader vowed revenge on the US. The attacks were also condemned by the governor of the NWFP. The NWFP government has been involved in peace talks with the Taliban and it is feared that these missile attacks will derail those talks. Later Thursday, several thousand protesters attended rallies called by Islamist political parties in Damadola and Khar, Bajur’s main town. Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq denied that Pakistan had given the US permission to target foreign militants on Pakistan soil.

Article: Top Taliban leader vows revenge on America
Author: Habibullah Khan
Publication: The Associated Press

Breakthrough claimed in talks with Swat militants

The ANP-led NWFP government claimed on Tuesday that a breakthrough had been made in their talks with the Taliban militants in Swat. Awami National Party’s provincial chief Afrasiab Khattak told journalists that the next round of talks, to be held soon, was expected to lead to the signing of an agreement. Ali Bakht, a Taliban Shoora member, said: “Our main demands are enforcement of Sharia in Swat, withdrawal of troops from the area, release of prisoners taken into custody during the insurgency and compensation for affected families”.

Article: Breakthrough claimed in talks with Swat Militants
Author: Zulfiqar Ali
Publication: The Dawn

Another D-Day for Pakistan over militants

Pakistani security forces last week blocked the main artery into the South Waziristan tribal area from Afghanistan. The writer argues that the Taliban needs to keep supply lines open in order to move more men across the border into Pakistan. By keeping up the fighting, the militants hope to derail the US and Pakistan’s original plan for dealing with the Taliban which was to “chop off” the more hardline elements through special operations by US-trained Pakistani units and then leave the local Jirgas to attempt to find a middle ground with the remaining, more moderate elements. Unfortunately, the military operations in Swat and Al-Qaeda’s “chaos strategy” after the Lal Masjid operation has put a halt to these plans and the Pakistan government is now faced with the decision of how far to go to against people like Mehsud.

Article: Another D-Day for Pakistan over militants
Author: Syed Saleem Shahzad
Publication: The Asia Times Online

War takes time out for opium windfall

Every spring in Kandahar, the fighting dies down for a few weeks in April and May as all the young men are busy harvesting the poppy crop. Once the crops are harvested, however, the fighting returns with a vengeance as young men, flush in the pocket from their work on the farm, are able to afford better ammunition and supplies. “Whatever the reason, the escalating violence of each summer is sickeningly predictable – so predictable, in fact, that pharmacists in Kandahar city are stocking extra medicines in anticipation of higher casualties and increased sales.”

War takes time out for opium windfall
Author: Katherine O’Neill and Graeme Smith
Publication: The Globe and Mail