Pentagon cancels aid to Pakistan over record on militants


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military said it has made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants, in a new blow to deteriorating ties.

The so-called Coalition Support Funds were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by President Donald Trump at the start of the year, when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit.”

The Trump administration says Islamabad is granting safe haven to insurgents who are waging a 17-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies.

But U.S. officials had held out the possibility that Pakistan could win back that support if it changed its behavior.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorize $300 million in CSF funds through this summer - if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents. Mattis chose not to, a U.S. official told Reuters.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said.

Faulkner said the Pentagon aimed to spend the $300 million on “other urgent priorities” if approved by Congress. He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million.

The disclosure came ahead of an expected visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top U.S. military officer, General Joseph Dunford, to Islamabad. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that combating militants would be a “primary part of the discussion.”

Experts on the Afghan conflict, America’s longest war, argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents in Afghanistan a place to plot deadly strikes and regroup after ground offensives.


The Pentagon’s decision showed that the United States, which has sought to change Pakistani behavior, is still increasing pressure on Pakistan’s security apparatus.

It also underscored that Islamabad has yet to deliver the kind of change sought by Washington.

“It is a calibrated, incremental ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan,” said Sameer Lalwani, co-director of the South Asia program at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

Reuters reported in August that the Trump administration has quietly started cutting scores of Pakistani officers from coveted training and educational programs that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade.

The Pentagon made similar determinations on CSF in the past but this year’s move could get more attention from Islamabad, and its new prime minister, Imran Khan, at a time when its economy is struggling.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have plummeted over the past year and it will soon decide on whether to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or friendly nations such as China.

“They are squeezing them when they know that they’re vulnerable and it is probably a signal about what to expect should Pakistan come to the IMF for a loan,” Lalwani said. The United States has the largest share of votes at the IMF.

Khan, who once suggested he might order the shooting down of U.S. drones if they entered Pakistani airspace, has opposed the United States’ open-ended presence in Afghanistan. In his victory speech, he said he wanted “mutually beneficial” relations with Washington.

A Pakistani official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he was unaware of a formal notification of the U.S. decision on assistance but said one was expected by the end of September.

Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S. assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in CSF, a U.S. Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.

Mastung massacre: 128 martyred, over 200 injured in suicide blast claimed by Islamic State

By Mohammad Zafar
Published: July 13, 2018

A suicide bomber targeting a political rally of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) on Friday killed at least 128 people and injured over 200, the deadliest in a string of attacks on electioneering that have heightened security fears ahead of the elections.

Among those slain was the candidate for PB-35 (Mastung) Siraj Raisani, whose elder brother Nawab Aslam Raisani had served as the Balochistan chief minister from 2008 to 2013.

“My brother Siraj has been martyred,” said Haji Lashkari Raisani, another brother who is also contesting for a National Assembly seat from the province.

The blast – which was claimed by the militant group Islamic State  – ripped through the corner meeting in Dringarh village of Mastung district, some 35km away from the provincial capital making it the deadliest in the country since the 2014 carnage at the Army Public School.

“The death toll has risen to 128,” Balochistan Home Minister Agha Umer Bangulzai told The Express Tribune, adding that there were more than 100 wounded.

“Siraj succumbed to his wounds while he was being shifted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Quetta,” he added.

Provincial Information Minister Malik Khuram Shehzad confirmed the attack was a suicide blast and added that the bomber detonated in the middle of a compound where the political meeting was taking place.

“Siraj was attending the corner meeting in Dringarh, was about to step on to the stage to address party workers when the suicide bomber, disguised as a political worker blew himself up,” Mastung DC Qaim Lashari said.

Emergency workers shuttled victims to nearby vehicles from the bombed-out compound as bystanders sobbed in the darkness owing to the waning electricity in the impoverished area.

Victims in blood-smeared clothes were taken to hospitals in Mastung and Quetta, where they were greeted by tense crowds of mourners. The deceased could be seen covered in shrouds.

According to the bomb disposal squad, up to 15kg of explosive material was used causing a large number of victims as the corner meeting was packed with people.

Pakistan moves against terrorists “superficial, reversible”

The Hindu
February 22, 2018

The Donald Trump administration is not satisfied with the measures taken by Pakistan in recent months to crack down on terrorist groups, a senior U.S official has said. “So far, these steps have been reversible, superficial, and steps that we have actually seen them take in the past, in periods of high pressure,” the official told The Hindu in an exclusive conversation on background.

The official said the U.S was concerned about tensions between India and Pakistan, “two nuclear armed states,” but added that the onus was on Pakistan to create conditions conducive for talks and improvement in relations.

The official said the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary in Paris was yet to take a decision on action against Islamabad on the question of terrorism financing. “My understanding is that the FATF discussions are ongoing, FATF is aimed at ensuring that the countries are implementing the statutes and the laws that are necessary to counter terrorist financing, money laundering and those sort of things…” the official said, refusing the elaborate more, since the meetings were still on.

‘Zero tolerance towards terrorism’

The Trump administration has zero tolerance towards terrorism, and terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan, said the official. “President Trump has been clear that we need to see decisive action, not superficial action and half measures.. but decisive action against terrorist militants in Pakistan,” said the official.

The official said the U.S had been “very clear with Pakistan about our expectations.”

“We have been very specific and detailed in what we expect Pakistan to do, in our numerous visits of senior officials as well as several phone calls between senior military officials on both sides. So I think Pakistan understands what we are looking for. Unfortunately we have not seen the strategic shift in behavior that we are seeking..We have seen some responses..What we have seen is that they definitely want to be seen as taking action..Which is good..They are not completely thumping their nose at the U.S…They are taking steps, and they want to be seen as responsive.” However, the U.S has not seen “that determination, in really going after terrorist leaders that operate freely on their territory,” the official said.

On India-Pakistan ties

Asked about the current state of India- Pakistan relations and its impact on the U.S policy for the region, the official said: “We are concerned about the status of India-Pakistan relations. Two nuclear armed states… we know there is potential for things to escalate very quickly, and we are very concerned about terrorist groups that continue to function inside Pakistan, and have the the ability to conduct terrorist attacks inside India. We are concerned about the situation. But until Pakistan really demonstrates seriousness in cracking down on LeT or Jaish-e-Mohammad, there is not going to be that conducive atmosphere for any dialogue or talks to take place.”

The official noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reached out and traveled to Pakistan in 2015. “…and six days later you had the major attack on Pathankot. I think there is probably some hesitation in India about reaching out and the potential impact or backlash to any effort to reach out to Pakistan. Situation between Indian and Pakistan, it is really not moving forward, and I think this is unfortunate, but we need to see Pakistan demonstrate that it is serious about cracking down on LeT and JeM,” said the official.

‘Moving in the wrong direction’

“Frankly, they are moving in the wrong direction. The release of Hafiz Muhammad last November was a step in the wrong direction. We will continue to monitor the situation closely...you have skirmishes, almost on a daily basis. (But) we don’t have any interest in trying to mediate the dispute over Kashmir. That is something for the two sides to deal with. We are not seeking any kind of role.”

Asked whether the U.S put the onus on Pakistan to improve relations, the official said: “You cannot expect a country to be interested in negotiations when there is threat of terrorist groups conducting an attack whenever they see that. So, I think there is an expectation that Pakistan is serious in cracking down on these terrorist groups.”

Blast rips through shrine in Pakistan, 100 feared dead

Feb 17, 2017

KARACHI: Nearly 100 people were killed and several injured tonight when an Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up inside the crowded shrine of revered Sufi Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan town, some 200 KM northeast of Karachi, in a string of deadly blasts this week in Pakistan.

The bomber entered the shrine through its Golden gate and blew himself up near the site where the ritual of sufi dance 'Dhamal' was taking place. He first threw a grenade, which failed to explode, SSP Jamshoro Tariq Wilayat said.

"He first threw a grenade to cause panic and then blew himself up," the SSP said.

Sehwan police station SHO Rasool Baksh told reporters that around 100 people, including women and children, have been killed in the suicide bomb attack.

Hundreds of devotees were present inside the premises of the vast mausoleum of the saint at the time of blast.

Faisal Edhi of the Edhi foundation confirmed they have shifted 60 bodies to hospitals in Hyderabad and Jamshoro.

The ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on their Aamaq news agency, saying a suicide bomber had targeted a "Shiite gathering" at the shrine in Sindh.

Commissioner Hyderabad Kazi Shahid said since the shrine was located in a remote area, some 130 kms from Hyderabad, ambulances and vehicles and medical teams were being sent from Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Moro, Dadu and Nawabshah to the blast site to take care of the injured and move the bodies.

"Emergency has been declared at hospitals in these places and rescue operations have started," he said.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the Pakistan army had been requested to provide night flying helicopters to shift the dead and injured.

"Yes it is a tragic incident and because the shrine is away from a major city there have been problems in providing rescue operations," he said.

The army said a C130 aircraft will be used to lift the injured from Nawabshah.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and urged Pakistan to "stand united".

Devotees gather at the shrine of the revered Sufi saint every Thursday to participate in a dhamaal and prayers.

Television channels reported that dead bodies and injured were lying inside the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a Sufi philosopher-poet of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The fresh wave of terror attacks started when a suicide bomber attacked a protest rally outside the Punjab assembly in Lahore on Monday killing 14 people and injuring dozens.

On the same day, a terrorist attack was foiled in Quetta but two officials of the Bomb Disposal Squad were killed diffusing a bomb under a bridge in Quetta.

Terrorists also carried out attacks in Mohmand agency and Peshawar followed by today's blast in Sindh.

Today's attack on shrine came a day after Pakistan vowed to "liquidate" all those elements posing a threat to peace and security in the country amid a spurt in terror attacks.

The decision was taken at high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sharif yesterday to review the security situation in the country.

"The meeting made a resolve that terrorism emanating within the country or executed and harboured from outside the country would be eliminated and those posing threat to peace and security of the country would be liquidated by the might of the state," an official statement said after the meeting.

The ISIS and the Taliban have frequently targeted Sufi shrines across Pakistan. More than 25 shrines across the country have been attacked since 2005, according to reports.

On November 13 last year, an ISIS suicide bomber killed 52 people and wounded 100 others at popular Shah Noorani shrine near Hub in Balochistan's Lasbella district.

In July 2010, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Sufi shrine of Data Ganj Baksh Hajveri in Lahore, killing over 50 people.

A suicide attack on the shrine of Sufi saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi killed nine people in October 2010.
An attack on Baba Farid Shakarganj's shrine in Pakpattan in October that year left another seven people dead.

Valentine's Day banned in Pakistan's capital

February 14, 2017

CBS News

ISLAMABAD -- A Pakistani judge on Monday banned all Valentine’s Day celebrations in the country’s capital, Islamabad, saying they are against Islamic teachings.

The judge ruled on a petition seeking to ban public celebrations of the Western holiday, court official Niaz Saleh said. He said the order had been sent to Pakistan’s media regulator to ensure a blackout on any Valentine’s Day promotions in print or electronic media.

The ban applies only to Pakistan’s capital as the Islamabad high court has no jurisdiction beyond the city.

The regulator in a statement directed all Pakistani media outlets not to print or broadcast anything that promotes Valentine’s Day. No event shall be held at any official level and at any public place, the statement quoted a part of the court order.

Later on Monday, the government issued an order to local police to enforce the court ban. A similar order was in place last year in Islamabad.

Islamist and right-wing parties in Pakistan view Valentine’s Day as vulgar Western import.

However, the annual homage to romance on Feb. 14 has become popular in recent years across the Middle East and also in Pakistan.

Though some Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia also have sought to stamp out Valentine’s Day, with the religious police mobilizing ahead of Feb. 14 and descending on gift and flower shops to confiscate all red items, including flowers, it is still celebrated widely in other places such as Dubai.

In 2013, Indonesian officials and Muslim clerics called for young people to skip Valentine’s Day, saying it’s an excuse for couples to have forbidden sex. 

Pakistan hospital bomb attack kills dozens in Quetta


BBC News

A suicide bomb attack has killed at least 70 people at a hospital in Quetta in south-west Pakistan, officials say.

About 120 others were injured in the blast, which happened at the entrance to the emergency department where the body of a prominent lawyer shot dead earlier on Monday was being brought.

The casualties included lawyers and journalists accompanying the body of Bilal Anwar Kasi.

A faction of the Pakistani Taliban has said it was behind the bombing.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said it had also carried out the earlier attack on Mr Kasi, who was president of the Balochistan Bar Association and had been shot while on his way from his home to the main court complex in Quetta.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos after the hospital blast, with "bodies everywhere" and survivors shouting for help through the smoke and dust.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and chief of army staff Gen Raheel Sharif have both gone to Quetta and will hold talks with security officials.

Gen Sharif met some of those wounded at the Quetta Civil Hospital.

Mr Sharif expressed his "deep grief and anguish", adding: "No-one will be allowed to disturb the peace of the province. The people, policy and security forces in Balochistan have given sacrifices for the country."

The president of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association, Syed Ali Zafa, denounced the assault as "an attack on justice". The Pakistan Bar Council has announced a nationwide strike by lawyers on Tuesday.

The Chief Minister of Balochistan, Sanaullah Zehri, said those injured should be given the best medical treatment and facilities available.

There have been a number of targeted killings in Quetta and the victims in recent weeks have included several lawyers.

Mr Kasi had strongly condemned the attacks and local media said he had announced a two-day boycott of court sessions in protest at the killing of a colleague last week.

Those killed in the hospital attack were said to include Baz Muhammad Kakar, a predecessor of Mr Kasi as provincial bar president, and 17 other lawyers.

Two journalists have also been identified among the dead - Shahzad Khan, a cameraman for Aaj TV, and Mehmood Khan, a cameraman for DawnNews.

Lawyers in Lahore staged a demonstration to condemn the attack. Some journalists also protested, demanding protection for freedom of expression.

Facebook has activated its safety check feature for Quetta, allowing users to mark themselves or others as being safe.

Pakistan's ISI funded deadly attack on CIA camp in Afghanistan: US National Security Archive

Chidanand Rajghatta

Apr 14, 2016

WASHINGTON: Talk about biting the hand that feeds. Even as it bilked billions of dollars in aid from the United States, Pakistan is now revealed to have funded the 2009 attack on a CIA camp on its border with Afghanistan that killed seven American agents and contractors and three others.

The explosive disclosure comes in a declassified 2010 cable published by the national security archive, that, despite being redacted in parts, asserts unequivocally that "some funding for Haqqani attacks are still provided by the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, including $200,000 for the December 30, 2009, attack on the CIA facility at Camp Chapman."

The Camp Chapman attack was carried out by Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor and double agent, whom the CIA was trying to use to infiltrate al-Qaida in Pakistan in its hunt for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. Instead, he was turned around the Haqqani group, a terrorist proxy for Pakistan's intelligence agency.

Al-Balawi's suicide attack on December 30, 2009 at the Camp Chapman forward post, which the CIA used to gather intelligence for drone attacks in Pakistan, killed ten people, including two female American CIA agents: Jennifer Lynne Matthews, 45, and a mother of three, who commanded the base, and Elizabeth Hanson, 30, a targeting analyst. The attack was memorialized in a movie titled Zero Dark Thirty.

While it has long been known that Pakistan's terrorism sponsorship has claimed the lives of Indian and American civilians and military personnel, the revelations about bankrolling the Camp Chapman attack, kept secret from the public so far, is certain to inflame tensions between the two sides, particularly their military-intelligence outfits. Successive US administrations — particularly the state department led by John Kerry — have long ladled out pabulum that Pakistan is a front-line ally in the war on terror while funneling billions of dollars of aid, despite multiple terrorist attacks across the world originating from Pakistan, including in San Bernardino, New York, and London.

The timing of the attack and the sequence of cables detailing the ISI's role in organizing the attack suggests that the US administration lied to the American public about Pakistan being a frontline ally in the way on terror even as it funneled $ 7.5 billion in US taxpayer money to a country's whose military-intelligence establishment was killing American soldiers and spooks. Then senator John Kerry, who later became secretary of state, took the lead in presenting Pakistan as a worthy ally as he engineering with senator Lugar the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, which put $ 1.5 billion in US aid into the Pakistani coffers.

The Act, stemming from what is known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill was introduced to Congress on September 24, 2009, and passed into law on October 15, 2010. The ISI-sponsored attack on Camp Chapman occurred on December 30, 2009. By February 6, 2010, the date on the explosive cable detailing the Pakistani role, Washington knew ISI had engineered the attack on the CIA forward post.

"During discussions at an unknown date between Haqqani, Salar, and an unidentified ISID officer or officers, Haqqani and Salar were provided $200,000 to enable the attack on Chapman," the cable relates in an unredacted portion. "Haqqani then provided the money to Salar who then communicated the planning details to Mullawi (Sakh). Sakh then contacted Arghawan Afghan border commander of the Khost Provincial Force.

The cable then goes on to say that Arghawan was promised $100,000 for facilitating the attack by the then unnamed Jordanian national (whose identity came to be known only later), but since Arghawan himself was killed in the attack, Salar kept the $100,000.

Which means, despite knowing Pakistan bankrolled the killing of its personnel, including two female agents who put their lives on line in a remote forward post, Washington still went ahead and rewarded Islamabad with billions of dollars in aid — and has continued to do so to this day with finance and armaments.

The Camp Chapman attack is counted as the second largest single-day loss in the CIA's history, after the 1983 United States Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed eight CIA officers.

While the cable relating to the Camp Chapman attack does not identify by name the ISI officer who supplied the $200,000, other cables in the collection shows, with names, how deeply the ISI is enmeshed in terrorism. "As of late December 2009, at the end of every month, senior Haqqani network leadership met with ISID in Islamabad," a January 2010 cable states. Identifying Colonel Nasib and Major Daoud as the handlers. "An unknown amount of funding was provided to the Haqqanis for use in unspecified operations during these meetings," it continues. In a subsequent meeting, the cable says, the ISI directorate asked the Haqqanis "to expedite attack preparations and lethality in Afghanistan."

Pak Army gives weapons, training to IS in Afghanistan: Former fighters

Hindustan Times

Feb 25, 2016

Former members of the Islamic State have revealed that Pakistan’s military provides weapons and training to group’s fighters in Afghanistan and instructs them to kill the “infidel” Afghan forces.

“Pakistani military gave us weapons and used to tell us that Afghan forces are infidels and you must kill them,” Zaitoon, a former IS fighter who laid down his arms and joined the peace talks, was quoted as saying by the TOLO news on Wednesday.

Arabistan, Zaitoon’s co-fighter, said: “I was tasked to fight in Nazian district [in Nangarhar]. We used to present our daily report to Punjabis and Pakistanis and they encouraged us to fight the Afghan government.”

The 10-member group has joined the peace process due to efforts by the High Peace Council office in the province and also with the help of the Afghan security forces, said chairman of Nangarhar Provincial Council Malik Nazir.

“There were 24 men in two groups – the first group was 14 Taliban fighters and the second group included 10 Daesh fighters who for the first time joined the peace process,” Nazir added.

Pakistan’s Hand in the Rise of International Jihad


FEB. 6, 2016
The New York Times

TUNIS — PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI of Afghanistan has warned in several recent interviews that unless peace talks with Pakistan and the Taliban produce results in the next few months, his country may not survive 2016. Afghanistan is barely standing, he says, after the Taliban onslaught last year, which led to the highest casualties among civilians and security forces since 2001.

“How much worse will it get?” Mr. Ghani asked in a recent television interview. “It depends on how much regional cooperation we can secure, and how much international mediation and pressure can be exerted to create rules of the game between states.”

What he means is it depends on how much international pressure can be brought to bear on Pakistan to cease its aggression.

Critics of the Afghan leadership say it’s not Pakistan’s fault that its neighbor is falling apart. They point to the many internal failings of the Afghan government: political divisions, weak institutions, warlords and corruption.

But experts have found a lot of evidence that Pakistan facilitated the Taliban offensive. The United States and China have been asking Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to make peace, but Afghanistan argues that Islamabad has done nothing to rein in the Taliban, and if anything has encouraged it to raise the stakes in hopes of gaining influence in any power-sharing agreement.

This behavior is not just an issue for Afghanistan. Pakistan is intervening in a number of foreign conflicts. Its intelligence service has long acted as the manager of international mujahedeen forces, many of them Sunni extremists, and there is even speculation that it may have been involved in the rise of the Islamic State.

The latest Taliban offensive began in 2014. United States and NATO forces were winding down their operations in Afghanistan and preparing to withdraw when Pakistan decided, after years of prevarication, to clear Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from their sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan.

The operation was certainly a serious endeavor — Taliban bases, torture chambers and ammunition dumps were busted, town bazaars were razed and over one million civilians were displaced.

But the militants were tipped off early, and hundreds escaped, tribesmen and Taliban fighters said. Many fled over the border to Afghanistan, just at the vulnerable moment when Afghanistan was assuming responsibility for its own security. Ninety foreign fighters with their families arrived in Paktika Province that summer, to the alarm of Afghan officials.

Further along the border in Paktika Province, Taliban fighters occupied abandoned C.I.A. bases and outposts. A legislator from the region warned me that they would use the positions to project attacks deeper into Afghanistan and even up to Kabul. Some of the most devastating suicide bomb attacks occurred in that province in the months that followed.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the Haqqani network, the most potent branch of the Taliban, moved from North Waziristan into the adjacent district of Kurram. From there it continues to enjoy safe haven and conduct its insurgency against American, international and Afghan targets.

Pakistan regards Afghanistan as its backyard. Determined not to let its archrival, India, gain influence there, and to ensure that Afghanistan remains in the Sunni Islamist camp, Pakistan has used the Taliban selectively, promoting those who further its agenda and cracking down on those who don’t. The same goes for Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters.

Even knowing this, it might come as a surprise that the region’s triumvirate of violent jihad is living openly in Pakistan.

First, there’s Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, and second in command of the Taliban. He moves freely around Pakistan, and has even visited the Pakistani intelligence headquarters of the Afghan campaign in Rawalpindi.

Then there is the new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who has openly assembled meetings of his military and leadership council near the Pakistani town of Quetta. Since he came to power last year, the Taliban has mounted some of its most ambitious offensives into Afghanistan, overrunning the northern town of Kunduz, and pushing to seize control of the opium-rich province of Helmand.

Finally, Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan — one recent report placed him in the southwestern corner of Baluchistan. He has been working to establish training camps in southern Afghanistan. In October, it took United States Special Operations forces several days of fighting and airstrikes to clear those camps. American commanders say the group they were fighting was Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a new franchise announced by Mr. Zawahri that has claimed responsibility for the killings of bloggers and activists in Karachi and Bangladesh, among other attacks.

Pakistan denies harboring the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and points out that it, too, is a victim of terrorism. But many analysts have detailed how the military has nurtured Islamist militant groups as an instrument to suppress nationalist movements, in particular among the Pashtun minority, at home and abroad.

Perhaps most troubling, there are reports that Pakistan had a role in the rise of the Islamic State.

Ahead of Pakistan’s 2014 operation in North Waziristan, scores, even hundreds, of foreign fighters left the tribal areas to fight against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Tribesmen and Taliban members from the area say fighters traveled to Quetta, and then flew to Qatar. There they received new passports and passage to Turkey, from where they could cross into Syria. Others traveled overland along well-worn smuggling routes from Pakistan through Iran and Iraq.

The fighters arrived just in time to boost the sweeping offensive by ISIS into Iraq and the creation of the Islamic State in the summer of 2014.

If these accounts are correct, Pakistan was cooperating with Qatar, and perhaps others, to move international Sunni jihadists (including 300 Pakistanis) from Pakistan’s tribal areas, where they were no longer needed, to new battlefields in Syria. It is just another reminder of Pakistan’s central involvement in creating and managing violent jihadist groups, one Pakistani politician, who spoke on the condition of anonymity when talking about intelligence affairs, told me.

This has been going on for more than 30 years. In 1990, I shared a bus ride with young Chinese Uighurs, Muslims from China’s restive northwest, who had spent months training in Pakistani madrasas, including a brief foray into Afghanistan to get a taste of battle. They were returning home, furnished with brand-new Pakistani passports, a gift of citizenship often offered to those who join the jihad.

Years later, just after Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan, I interviewed a guerrilla commander from the disputed region of Kashmir who had spent 15 years on the Pakistani military payroll, traveling to train and assist insurgents in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

In 2012 I came across several cases where young clerics, fresh graduates from the Haqqania madrasa in Pakistan, returned to their home villages in Afghanistan, flush with cash, and set about running mosques and recruiting and organizing a band of Taliban followers.

I visited that madrasa in 2013. It is the alma mater of the Afghan Taliban, where many of the leaders of the movement were trained. The clerics there remained adamant in their support for the Taliban. “It is a political fact that one day the Taliban will take power,” Syed Yousuf Shah, the madrasa spokesman, told me. “We are experts on the Taliban,” he said, and a majority of the Afghan people “still support them.”

The madrasa, a longtime instrument of Pakistani intelligence, has been training people from the ethnic minorities of northern Afghanistan alongside its standard clientele of Pashtuns. The aim is still to win control of northern Afghanistan through these young graduates. From there they have their eyes on Central Asia and western China. Pakistani clerics are educating and radicalizing Chinese Uighurs as well, along with Central Asians from the former Soviet republics.

No one has held Pakistan to account for this behavior. Why would Pakistan give it up now?

Militant group threatens English-language schools

By Shezad Baloch
Published: May 8, 2014
The Express Tribune

An armed group based in Panjgur, Balochistan’s western district, has threatened 23 English Language Learning Centers to shut down and stop imparting co-education and teaching in English, which they say is ‘Haram (prohibited) in Islam’.

Masked armed men barged into one language center on Wednesday and threatened the teachers and the young male and female students. “Co-education and learning English language is Haram (forbidden in Islam),” they told the teachers, according to one instructor who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The armed men destroyed the school’s furniture and tore textbooks during the incident.

Panjgur police have lodged an FIR against unidentified persons under the Anti Terrorism Act and security has been increased around the centers. “They also told girls who were on their way home from the English Language Center and threatened them, saying they should not go to the schools again,” SHO Panjgur police station Mohammed Murad told The Express Tribune .

However, the girls say they are not cowed. “I am not scared and will go to school under all circumstances,” said one of the girls, speaking with The Express Tribune over the phone. She said the man who was threatening the girls spoke in Balochi, with a local Panjguri accent.

The men have also distributed threatening letters across Panjgur.  An organization calling itself Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan has circulated a list of those in charge of the private schools, accusing them of corrupting the minds of local girls by imparting Western education. Station House Officer (SHO) Panjgur Mohammed Murad said the organization has emerged recently.

“Private schools should stop girls’ education – both co-education and separate education,” warned the letter, adding, “We urge all van and taxi drivers to refrain from taking girls to schools. Otherwise, they will also be targeted.”
“It seems there has been a spill-over of Taliban culture into Panjgur,” remarked one of the heads of the language center, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.  “This development comes after the recent operation against Baloch militants. It seems someone is trying to radicalize people in Panjgur,” he felt.

The English Language Learning Centers remained closed for three days after receiving the threats. Hundreds of protestors staged a sit-in in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office. District administration and police officials assured the protestors that they will arrange foolproof security for the centers and the schools were reopened on Tuesday. However, attendance at the schools was comparatively low.

The Panjgur and Kech regions are known as centers of learning and the ‘intellectual capital of Balochistan’.

Wanted in U.S. and India, Islamist leads mass rally in Pakistan

By Maria Golovnina and Syed Raza Hassan
Reuters – Fri, Sep 6, 2013

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani Islamist with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head appeared openly at a rally in Islamabad on Friday, denouncing India as a terrorist state as thousands of his supporters chanted for "holy war" against the rival nuclear nation.

India has accused Hafiz Saeed of masterminding the 2008 attack on its financial capital Mumbai where gunmen killed 166 people over three days. The United States has offered $10 million for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

As dusk fell, more than 10,000 people gathered in Islamabad in a show of defiance certain to enrage India further following weeks of tensions over the disputed Kashmir border.

"The United States and India are very angry with us. This means God is happy with us," Saeed told the crowd as supporters chanted "Jihad!" ("Holy war") and "War will continue until the liberation of Kashmir". He did not use the word "jihad" himself.

"We are ready for every sacrifice for the liberation of Kashmir," the stocky and bearded former professor added at the rally marking Pakistan's Defence Day.

Speaking about Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner who died in a Pakistani jail this year and was given a state funeral back home, Saeed told the crowd: "He was a terrorist. How can the Indian government give state honours to a terrorist? This means the Indian government and army are terrorists."

India has called on Pakistan to bring Saeed to justice, an issue that has stood in the way of rebuilding relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours since the Mumbai carnage.

Saeed is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a militant group banned in Pakistan but tolerated unofficially and believed to be close to the army. Saeed has long abandoned its leadership and is now the head of its charity wing.

India is furious that Pakistan has not detained him since it handed over evidence against him to Islamabad, and allows Saeed to live freely in the city of Lahore in a villa with police stationed outside.

Relations plunged to further lows last month after the killing of five Indian soldiers along the so-called Line of Control that separates the two sides in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.


Seeking to defuse tensions, Pakistan's civilian leaders have kept a conciliatory tone, but on Friday, as thousands gathered in Islamabad, emotions spilled into the open.

The mood was strikingly anti-Western and belligerent, with speakers openly declaring their sympathy for the Taliban fighting Western forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"India should stop describing Kashmir as its indispensable part," Saeed said from a makeshift stage mounted on a truck. "Otherwise every part of India would be dispensable for us."

As the crowd cheered, two men performed a patriotic song threatening to "turn the whole of India into Mumbai". Others chanted "Whoever is a friend of India is a traitor" and waved black and white striped flags.
"They should know there are a lot of people here who are waiting for the conquest of India," Hamid Gul, a former chief of the ISI intelligence service, told the crowd.

"It will be our privilege to take part in this war."

Saeed founded the LeT, which India blames for the rampage in Mumbai, in the 1990s. He has denied involvement in any attacks.

He abandoned the leadership after India accused the LeT of being behind an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. His charity, linked to the LeT, enjoys popular support for its humanitarian work.

Tourists killed at north Pakistan mountain camp
23 June 2013

Gunmen have killed 10 people, including at least nine foreign tourists, after storming a hotel in northern Pakistan.

The nationalities of the victims have not been fully confirmed, although they include a number of Ukrainians and Chinese. One Pakistani also died.

The assault happened at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth highest mountain, in Gilgit-Baltistan.

It is the first such attack on tourists in the region. The Pakistani Taliban has told the BBC it was responsible.

A spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban said the attack was in retaliation for the killing of its second-in-command, Waliur Rehman, who died in a suspected US drone strike in May.

The group said it would continue to target foreigners.

Officials in the Diamir district of Gilgit-Baltistan say the area where the gunmen struck is extremely remote and there are no roads and no means of transportation other than mules.

They say the attackers must have been well trained and well acclimatised. A lot of planning must have gone into conducting this operation. The area is a vast mountain desert, having approaches from three sides, each requiring 20 hours of walking; in practice two days of trekking.

Sunni Muslim hard-line groups have in the past carried out several attacks in this predominantly Shia region, mostly along the highway by targeting passenger buses, but this is the first time they have trekked deep into a remote area to kill foreigners.

The incident is likely to hurt the finances of a cash-strapped Gilgit-Baltistan government which depends heavily on revenue raised from mountain expeditions that arrive each summer from around the world. It is also likely to hit tour operators, guides and local small businesses linked to tourism.

An adviser to the Gilgit-Baltistan government told the BBC that helicopters had been sent to evacuate the remaining climbers in the region - believed to number between 20 and 25.

Part of the Himalayan Range, Nanga Parbat, which stands at 8,126m (26,660ft), is popular with trekkers and mountaineers, especially during June and July.

The assault is seen as a significant blow for Pakistan's already struggling tourist industry, the BBC's Shahzeb Jillani reports from Islamabad.


The number and nationalities of the victims have not been made fully clear.

Two Chinese, one Chinese-American, one Nepali and a Pakistani have been confirmed dead by local and interior ministry officials.

Five bodies remain to be identified, most are believed to be of Ukrainian tourists.

A Chinese tourist is known to have survived the assault.

The trekkers had planned to climb Nanga Parbat in the coming days, a local tour operator said.

Up to 20 attackers, reportedly dressed in local paramilitary uniforms, stormed the hotel at the base camp in the foothills of Nanga Parbat at about 22:45 local time on Saturday (17:45 GMT).

The gunmen separated and tied up the local Pakistani staff and told them not to attempt to raise the alarm until morning, a local official said.

Police and army vehicles escorted the ambulances transporting the victims' bodies

The gunmen then shot the foreigners, taking their money and passports.

The attackers left at about 01:00 on Sunday local time.

One person managed to get free and raise the alarm but the attackers had about six hours to make their escape.

The deputy commissioner of Diamir district told the BBC a manhunt was under way involving both police and military, on the ground and in the air.

Officials say given the terrain it would be easy to spot human movement from the air, but no arrests have yet been made.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have condemned the attack.

Mr Sharif, who was re-elected earlier this month, said "such acts of cruelty and inhumanity" would not be tolerated.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said Gilgit-Baltistan's police chief and another senior official had been suspended.

Gilgit governor Syed Mehdi Shah said: "A lot of tourists come to this area in the summer, and our local people work to earn money from these people.

"This will not only affect our area, but will adversely affect all of Pakistan."

Gilgit-Baltistan is famous for its natural beauty and the main city of Gilgit is seen as a gateway to the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges.

Commission details 675 honour killings in Pakistan in nine-month period

AFL December 20, 2011

AT least 675 Pakistani women and girls were murdered during the first nine months of the year for allegedly defaming their family's honour, a leading human rights group said today.

The statistics highlight the scale of violence suffered by many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and there is no law against domestic violence.

Despite some progress on better protecting women's rights, activists say the government needs to do far more to prosecute murderers in cases largely dismissed by police as private, family affairs.

"A total of 675 women and girls were killed in the name of honour across Pakistan from January to September," a senior official in the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said.

They included at least 71 victims under the age of 18.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is unauthorised to speak to the media, said figures were still being compiled for the period covering October to December, and that a full report would be released in February.The Commission reported 791 honour killings in 2010 and there was no discernible decrease this year, the official added.

Around 450 of the women killed from January to September were accused of having "illicit relations" and 129 of marrying without permission.

Some victims were raped or gangraped before being killed, he said. At least 19 were killed by their sons, 49 by their fathers and 169 by their husbands.

Rights groups say the government should do more to ensure that women subject to violence, harassment and discrimination have effective access to justice.

Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, said the state's inability to enforce rule of law, leaving matters in the hands of tribesmen and local elders, was a major factor.

"We have a system in Pakistan where the state and judicial recourse are absent and the vacuum is filled by local elders," Hasan said.

"A combination of legal reforms, exercise of administrative authority and social awareness can greatly help check the honour killings," he added.

Earlier this month, a Belgian court sentenced four members of a Pakistani family to prison for the murder of their daughter and sister, who defied them by living with a Belgian man and refusing an arranged marriage.

Mullen Accuses Pakistan's Intel Service of Aiding Attack on Embassy in Kabul

September 22, 2011
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The top U.S. military officer on Thursday accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of supporting Haqqani fighters in planning and conducting last week's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pakistani duplicity puts in jeopardy not only the frayed U.S.-Pakistani partnership against terrorism but also the outcome to the decade-old war in Afghanistan.

In his final congressional testimony before retiring next week, Mullen said success in Afghanistan is threatened by the Pakistani government's support for the Haqqani network of militants, which he called a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's intelligence agency.

Repeating a charge he made earlier this week, Mullen said Thursday that with Pakistani support the Haqqanis were behind not only the Sept. 13 embassy assault but also a recent truck bomb that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers and a June 28 attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul -- as well as "a host of other smaller but effective operations."

Mullen said Pakistani intelligence is using the Haqqanis and other extremist groups as its proxies inside Afghanistan.

Mullen said Pakistan's government has chosen to "use violent extremism as an instrument of policy," adding that "by exporting violence, they have eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their international credibility and threatened their economic well-being."

Mullen also deplored the "pernicious effect" of Afghanistan's own poor governance and corruption.

"If we continue to draw down forces apace while such public and systemic corruption is left unchecked," Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "I believe we risk leaving behind a government in which we cannot reasonably expect Afghans to have faith. At best this would lead to localized conflicts inside the country; at worst it could lead to government collapse and civil war."

Testifying alongside Mullen, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also decried Pakistani support for the Haqqani network, and he said Pakistani authorities have been told that the U.S. will not tolerate a continuation of the group's cross-border attacks. Panetta said the message was delivered recently by new CIA Director David Petraeus in a meeting with the head of the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI.

"They must take steps to prevent the safe haven that the Haqqanis are using," Panetta said. "We simply cannot allow these kinds of terrorists to be able to go into Afghanistan, attack our forces and then return to Pakistan for safe haven."

He repeated the point later, adding, "That is not tolerable."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, chairman of the committee, pressed Panetta on what options are available to the U.S. to go after the Haqqani network. Panetta declined to go into details publicly but made clear that the Pakistanis know what might happen.

"I don't think they would be surprised by the actions we might or might not take," he said. He also said he has not "spelled out" for the Pakistanis what unilateral actions the Obama administration would be willing to take.

The remarks by Mullen and Panetta highlight a notable shift in the administration's approach to Pakistan. Whereas U.S. officials previously kept their strongest criticisms of Pakistan private, in recent days they have been explicit in linking the government to extremists who are attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Mullen's strong words are especially notable in light of his role in trying to use personal persuasion to change Pakistani behavior. He told the committee that he has met with his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, more than two dozen times over the past four years, and he defended the rationale for cultivating that link.

"Some may argue I have wasted my time, that Pakistan is no closer to us than before and may now have drifted even further away," he said. "I disagree." He said cooperation from the Pakistani military is improving.

The increasingly tough U.S. rhetoric reflects a U.S. belief that Pakistani intelligence in recent months has more aggressively facilitated cross-border attacks by the Haqqanis, one senior military official said Wednesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked Panetta whether he supports a move in Congress to condition further U.S. aid to Pakistan on the administration being able to certify that the Pakistani government is cooperating with the U.S. in fighting extremist groups, including the Haqqanis.

"Anything that makes clear to them that we cannot tolerate their providing this kind of safe haven to the Haqqanis, and that they have to take action -- any signal that we can send to them -- I think would be important to do," Panetta said.

In recent days administration officials have taken a harsher tone toward Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of maintaining links with the Haqqani network, a band of Islamist fighters that the U.S. says are behind attacks in Afghanistan, including last week's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Mullen said earlier this week there is a "proxy connection" between Pakistani intelligence services and the Haqqanis, meaning the militants are secretly doing the Pakistanis' bidding.

"The Haqqani piece of this has got to be reversed -- period," he told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mullen said he delivered that message to Kayani last week during a meeting in Spain.

After the U.S. raided Osama bin Laden's secret compound inside Pakistan in May -- without alerting Pakistani authorities in advance -- relations deteriorated further. Pakistan suspended a program under which U.S. special operations forces helped train Pakistani forces in counterterrorist tactics. U.S. officials on Wednesday disclosed a compromise deal to slash the number of U.S. military personnel allowed in Pakistan to between 100 and 150, about half of what it had been. The number of special operations trainers would fall from 140 to fewer than 10. 

Trapped in hatred

March 19, 2011
Balbir Punj

Pakistan is caught in a vortex of jihadi violence for which it has only itself to blame. A country founded on the ideology of hate couldn’t have fared any better.

The recent spate of violent incidents in Pakistan has left the uninitiated, particularly the peaceniks, shocked, startled and dazed. The internecine war between various jihadi groups in the name of Islam continues unabated. Fundamentalists are also targetting what remains of religious minority communities, particularly Hindus, in Pakistan. In the process, the country is falling apart and is being increasingly seen as a failed state by the rest of the world.

The seeds of the spiralling violence were sown in the very ideology which led to Pakistan’s creation. The demand for an independent Islamic state in the Indian sub-continent was fuelled by two factors — pride in their past among Muslims and their fear of the future in a Hindu-dominated India.

The Muslim elite of pre-partition India that provided leadership to the Muslim masses was caught in a time warp and dreamed of reliving the Mughal glory. After the departure of the British, the prospects of competing with the Hindus (whom they had ruled) in a democratic set-up as equals frightened them. British imperialists and Indian Communists helped the Muslims to divide India.

Hate drove the Muslim League in the 1940s and led to the birth of Pakistan. In those days, it was hatred towards Hindus and Sikhs. After the creation of Pakistan, successive regimes in Pakistan have survived on hate — the objects of their hatred have changed over the decades. In a sense, hate unites the idea and the ideologues of Pakistan.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a non-practising, Westernised Muslim, did not get the support of his community so long as he was secular. After his historic split with the Congress and the Muslim League’s adoption of the two-nation theory, he emerged as the ‘sole spokesman’ of the sub-continent’s Muslims. Jinnah articulated what his new-found constituency wanted him to say; hence his denunciation and repudiation of India’s age-old values of universal brotherhood and religious pluralism.

Jinnah’s concept of a Muslim majority ‘secular’ Pakistan was consistent with the aspirations of the Muslim masses who had forced partition on India to realise their dream of acquiring for themselves a ‘land of the pure’. It stood to logic that in such a land there could not be any space for the ‘non-pure’. The cleansing of the religious minority communities is rooted in this perception of Pakistan among Pakistanis. With each step in militarising Pakistan came the strengthening of its jihadi ideology and the institutions that have fuelled hatred at home and abroad.

This is best exemplified by civilian rulers and military dictators competing to prove who is a stronger defender of Islam. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto stumped the Generals after the break-up of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, and promised an ‘Islamic Bomb’. Later, he was sacked and hanged by General Zia-ul-Haq who became Pakistan’s most rabid military ruler. Gen Zia then set about the task of Islamising Pakistan and creating a social, economic and political order in which only fanatics could survive.

Today, the Pakistani military sets the terms and the mullahs define the socio-political agenda for the Government to follow. The military and the mullahs compete as well as co-operate to be the effective rulers of the country. As a result, Pakistan’s so-called ‘civil society’, which was in the forefront of the movement against General Pervez Musharraf, has now gone silent.

The nature of the killings and the Pakistani Government’s helplessness in the face of this upsurge of Talibani terror explain the predicament of that country. The military that funds part of the mullah-inspired militancy uses it to scare away the Americans who have to depend increasingly on the military leadership as a counter-balance the mullahs. All the stakeholders in Pakistan seem to be investing in violence and disorder as the Americans, who need Pakistan to support their operations in Afghanistan, wring their hands in despair. Meanwhile, Pakistan descends into deepening chaos.

What is not only surprising but also alarming is that in our own country neither Muslim leaders nor pseudo-secularists who pander to the orthodoxy and shut their eyes to the jihadi mindset do not seem to be interested in drawing any lessons from the developments in Pakistan.

Islam is a minority religion in Europe but decades of pseudo-secularists ignoring the jihadi mindset has resulted in a serious threat of terrorism overwhelming the elected Governments and undermining the liberal societies of Britain, Germany, France and other European nations. Mr David Cameron in Britain, Mr Nicholas Sarkozy in France and Ms Angela Merkel in Germany are now loath to praise multiculturalism that has become a convenient cloak for Islamic fanaticism and Muslim separatism. There is greater appreciation now in Europe of the problems posed by exclusivism and bigotry in the name of faith.

But in India nothing has changed. We still continue to treat Muslims as an exclusive community and their institutions as beyond Government’s control although they are funded by the public exchequer and with taxpayers’ money. A case in point is the absurd designation of Jamia Millia Islamia, a Central university funded by the Government of India, as a minority institution. That this negates the urgent need for liberal, cosmopolitan centres of learning is of no consequence to those who promote Muslim exclusivism. This in turn has led to the growth of fanaticism among a section of India’s Muslims spread across the country. For instance, the 80 absconding SIMI activists come from different States.

It is for the Muslim leadership and secularists to answer the question why the jihadi mindset finds empathy in their community in several districts of the country. Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, the Malabar region of Kerala, the Kashmir Valley are some of the places where it is most evident.
Meanwhile, life has come full circle for Pakistan. Hate is a poor glue to keep people together.


Pakistan Minorities Minister Killed in Islamabad Weeks After Governor Shot

By Haris Anwar and James Rupert

Mar 2, 2011 12:12 PM PT


Gunmen in Pakistan’s capital killed a prominent Christian official, the country’s minister for minorities’ affairs, in the city’s second high-profile assassination this year.

As many as four men ambushed Shahbaz Bhatti, 42, yesterday as he left home without a security escort, Geo television reported, citing a police official, Bin Yamin. Bhatti was dead when brought to the city’s Al-Shifa Hospital, the institution’s spokesman, Azmatullah Quraishi, said by telephone.

Bhatti, a Roman Catholic and former leader of Pakistan’s main minority-rights group, was killed eight weeks after Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, was shot to death by one of his bodyguards. Both men had called publicly for changes to the country’s blasphemy law, which prescribes the death penalty for anyone convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Bhatti’s assassination is likely to deepen fears of even talking about the blasphemy law, said S.K. Tessler, a Christian retired army colonel who served as minority affairs minister under the military regime of former president Pervez Musharraf.

Religious intolerance in Pakistan is growing largely because “many Muslims see the U.S. war in Afghanistan as a war against Islam,” Tessler said in a telephone interview. “That has led on to more pressure and violence against the Christians and other minorities.”

Of the blasphemy law, Tessler said “no one should even mention this sensitive issue. We have to live here.”

‘Horrific Act’

In Washington, President Barack Obama denounced “this horrific act of violence” and offered condolences to Bhatti’s family.

“He was clear-eyed about the risks of speaking out, and, despite innumerable death threats, he insisted he had a duty to his fellow Pakistanis to defend equal rights and tolerance from those who preach division, hate, and violence,” Obama said in a statement. “He most courageously challenged the blasphemy laws of Pakistan under which individuals have been prosecuted for speaking their minds or practicing their own faiths.”

Amid escalated Islamic militant violence and Pakistan’s worst-ever monsoon flooding in 2010, the country’s $167 billion economy has slowed its growth to what the central bank estimated Feb. 2 will be a rate of 3 percent in the year through June, down from a government target of 4.5 percent. The government has faced protests over high food prices, electricity shortages and its effort to broaden the country’s narrow tax base, a demand made by the International Monetary Fund last year as it withheld more than 10 percent of an $11.3 billion loan.

Violence Expected

For Pakistan’s economy, “some degree of violence and political uncertainty is already built in” to expectations, said Mohammed Sohail, chief executive officer at Topline Securities Ltd. in Karachi, the country’s financial center. “There may be a marginal, short-term shift in sentiment, but I don’t see a material shift in investors’ attitude after this killing.”

An estimated 509 people died in sectarian attacks last year in Pakistan, the highest total since the New Delhi-based South Asia Terrorism Portal began compiling figures in 1989, according to the monitoring group’s website. Many of those have been members of the minority Ahmadi sect or non-Muslims, mainly Christians or Hindus, who form 5 percent of the population.

Blasphemy Law

The blasphemy law was passed in 1987 under the army rule of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq as part of his policy of building a more explicitly Islamic state in Pakistan. While no one has been executed by the state under the law, killings over alleged blasphemy cases have included seven Christians amid riots in 2009 in Gojra, Punjab, and two shot dead in July in the city of Faisalabad.

Controversy over the law escalated in November after a court used it to sentence a Christian women, Aasia Bibi, to death. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari expressed readiness to pardon Bibi and consider changes to the law, which religious conservatives have used to conduct a “reign of terror” against minorities, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

On Jan. 10, Pope Benedict XVI called on Pakistan to abrogate the law.

Islamic militants have protested, holding street rallies and promising violence if the government tried to change the law, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said it will not do so.

“This chapter is closed for us,” said Qamar Zaman Kaira, spokesman for the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. “Still, there are some elements in our society who want to spread anarchy by using this issue. This is a long war within our society and I think it will take a lot of sacrifices,” Kaira said.

Bhatti wasn’t using guards assigned to him by authorities at the time of his attack, Wajid Durrani, Islamabad’s inspector general of police, told reporters at the site of the assassination.

“He had instructed that these security officers remain at his office and not accompany him home,” Durrani said.

Blasphemy law founders Pakistan

By GWYNNE DYER, Special to QMI Agency

Last Updated: March 12, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - At least with a dictatorship, you know where you are -- and if you know where you are, you may be able to find your way out. In Pakistan, it is not so simple.

While brave Arab protesters are overthrowing deeply entrenched autocratic regimes, often without even resorting to violence, Pakistan, a democratic country, is sinking into a sea of violence, intolerance and extremism. The world's second-biggest Muslim country (185 million people) has effectively been silenced by ruthless Islamist fanatics who murder anyone who dares to defy them.

What the fanatics want, of course, is power, but the issue on which they have chosen to fight is Pakistan's laws against blasphemy. They not only hunt down and kill people who fall afoul of these laws, should the courts see fit to free them. They have also begun killing anybody who publicly advocates changing the laws.

Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, Pakistan's richest and most populous province, was murdered by his own bodyguard in January because he criticized the blasphemy laws and wanted to change them. He said that he would go on fighting them even if he was the last man standing - and in a very short time he was no longer standing.

But one man still was: Shahbaz Bhatti.

Bhatti was shot down earlier this month. The four men who ambushed his car and filled him with bullets left a note saying, "In your fight against Allah, you have become so bold that you act in favour of and support those who insult the Prophet. . . . And now, with the grace of Allah, the warriors of Islam will pick you out one by one and send you to hell."

Bhatti was not a rich and powerful man like Taseer, nor even a major power in the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to which they both belonged. He was the only Christian member of the cabinet, mainly as a token representative of the country's three million Christians, but he had hardly any influence outside that community. Nevertheless, he refused to stop criticizing the blasphemy laws even after Taseer's murder, so they killed him, too.

That leaves only Sherry Rehman, the last woman standing. A flamboyant member of parliament whose mere appearance enrages the beards, she has been a bold and relentless critic of the blasphemy laws - and since Taseer's murder she has lived in hiding, moving every few days. But she will not shut up until they shut her up.

And that's it. The rest of the country's political and cultural elite has gone silent, or panders openly to the fanatics and the bigots. The PPP was committed to changing the blasphemy laws only six months ago, but after Taseer was killed, President Asif Ali Zardari assured a gathering of Islamic dignitaries that he had no intention of reviewing the blasphemy laws. Although they are very bad laws.

In 1984 Gen. Zia ul-Haq, the dictator who ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988, made it a criminal offence for members of the Ahmadi sect, now some five million strong, to claim that they were Muslims. In 1986 he instituted the death penalty for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. No subsequent government has dared to repeal these laws, which are widely used to victimize the Ahmadi and Christian religious minorities.

Ahmadis and Christians account for at most 5% of Pakistan's population, but almost half of the thousand people charged under this law since 1986 belonged to those communities. Most accusations were false, arising from disputes over land, but once made they could be a death sentence.

Higher courts generally dismissed blasphemy charges, recognizing that they were a tactic commonly used against Christians and Ahmadis in local disputes over land, but 32 people who were freed by the courts were subsequently killed by Islamist vigilantes -- as were two of the judges who freed them.

The current crisis arose when a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, was sentenced to death last November, allegedly for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan's liberals mobilized against the blasphemy law -- and discovered they are an endangered species.

The murders of Taseer and Bhatti were bad, but even worse was the way the political class and the bulk of the mass media responded. A majority of a population fully supports the blasphemy law, making it very costly for politicians to act against it even if the fanatics don't kill them. Political cowardice reigns supreme and so Pakistan falls slowly under the thrall of the extremists.

Being a democracy is no help, it turns out, because democracy requires people to have the courage of their convictions.

Very few educated Pakistanis believe people should be executed because of a blasphemy charge arising out of some trivial village dispute, but they no longer dare to say so. Including the president.

"We will not be intimidated nor will we retreat," said Zardari the day after Bhatti's murder, but he has already promised the beards the blasphemy law will not be touched.

Nor is it very likely that the murderers of Taseer or Bhatti will be tracked down and punished. You could get killed trying to do that.

Gwynne Dyer's new book, Crawling from the Wreckage, was published recently in Canada by Random House.


Pakistan lodges protest over Nato raid

Pakistan has lodged a protest with Nato after forces killed more than 30 insurgents in a rare, cross-border air raid.

27 Sep 2010


Two Apache helicopters crossed the border from eastern Afghanistan after insurgents attacked a remote Afghan security outpost in Khost.

A statement released late on Sunday night said: "An air weapons team in the area observed the enemy fire, and following International Security Assistance Force rules of engagement, crossed into the area of enemy fire.

The ISAF aircraft then engaged, killing more than 30 insurgents."

The raid was followed up on Saturday morning when two Kiowa helicopters returned to the border area killing four more insurgents.

Pakistan said the helicopters intruded into its territory twice from the eastern Afghan province of Khost as they chased the militants.

"These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates," a spokesman from the foreign office said.

Pakistan added that ISAF's mandate "finishes" at the Afghan border.

"There are no agreed 'hot pursuit' rules. Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable," the foreign office statement added.

"In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options," it warned.

Responding to Islamabad's protest, Natosaid its forces have a right to self-defence.

The US regularly uses drones to launch missile strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas.

Washington has branded the rugged, mountainous region on the Afghan border a global headquarters of al-Qaeda and the "most dangerous place on Earth".

September has seen a surge in attacks, with 18 drone strikes in just 23 days in North Waziristan, while Pakistani forces have been distracted from fighting insurgents by weeks of devastating floods.

However, manned military flights across the border are extremely rare as anti-American feeling runs high in Pakistan.

Pakistani media reported that the targets were members of the Haqqani Network. The al Qaeda-linked group has long used North Waziristan as its base for launching attacks against foreign forces and Afghan government targets, and has been the frequent target of drone strikes. 

Pakistan blasphemy laws used to justify 'murder': EU parliament

(AFP) – May 20, 2010

STRASBOURG — The EU parliament on Thursday called on Pakistan to guarantee minority rights, claiming that its blasphemy laws could be used to murder members of political, racial and religious minorities.

In a resolution adopted in Strasbourg, the assembled Euro MPs expressed "deep concern" at the Pakistani blasphemy laws, calling for a "thoroughgoing review" of the legislation which is "open to misuse."

The laws can carry the death sentence and are "often used to justify censorship, criminalisation, persecution and, in certain cases, the murder of members of political, racial and religious minorities," the parliament said in a strongly-worded statement.

The texts in question "are misused by extremist groups and those wishing to settle personal scores," the EU deputies said.

They had also "led to an increase of violence against members of religious minorities, particularly Ahmadis, but also Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Shiites, Buddhists, Parsis, Bahais and critical citizens who dare to raise their voice against injustice," they added.

The parliament did recognise recent "measures taken in the interest of religious minorities," by the Pakistan government, such as establishing a quota of five per cent for minorities in the federal jobs sector, recognising non-Muslim public holidays and declaring a National Minorities Day.

The chamber also welcomed the commitment made by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to grant property rights to minority slum dwellers in Islamabad and the government's undertaking to provide minority seats in the Senate.

However such initiatives cannot mask the reports and surveys by independent agencies which "reveal that minorities in Pakistan are deprived of basic civil liberties and equal opportunities in jobs, education and political representation," the parliament underlined.

The resolution also criticised the practice of including religious details on citizens' passports, a practice which the MEPs argued could lead to "discriminatory practices..

Present in Strasbourg was Pakistan's minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

He told AFP that his country was "trying to improve the situation and many steps have been taken."

He said the Pakistani authorities had made a "commitment to amend these laws."

"These laws will be changed in such a way which could not be harmful. I'm working on that, this will be done by the end of this year," he said.

Pakistan, founded in 1947 as a Muslim homeland during the bloody partition of British India, is overwhelmingly Muslim. Religious minorities however form some five percent of the population, according to government figures.

In June last year, blasphemy allegations led to mob violence against Christians in Punjab that caused hundreds to flee, according to the US State Department's annual report on religious freedom around the world.

The report said there was particular discrimination against the Ahmadiya community, which Pakistan considers non-Muslim as adherents do not believe Mohammed was the last prophet.

Pakistan on Thursday condemned caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared on Facebook, blocking the social networking site and YouTube in a growing backlash over Internet "sacrilege."

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and Muslims across the globe staged angry protests over the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers four years ago.


Mosque raid by militants, suicide bombers kills 37 in Pakistan

December 5, 2009
The Washington Post

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan – In a brazen midday raid, militants stormed a mosque filled with military officers and their families Friday, killing at least 37 people with a combination of gunfire, grenades and suicide bomb blasts.

The attack, which injured at least 86 people, was the latest in a series of devastating strikes meant as retaliation for the Pakistani military's assault on Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan and other tribal areas along the Afghan border.

The dead included 17 children and at least six current or retired military officers.

Friday's violence came just two days after President Barack Obama emphasized the role of Pakistan in the new U.S. strategy for fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and called on the government to step up efforts to eliminate havens for violent groups.

The attack on the mosque was the ninth violent assault in the past 18 months in the heavily guarded military district of Rawalpindi, 15 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

Witnesses and officials said the attack began when a man in the front row of worshippers suddenly stood and blew himself up. Immediately, several other attackers began throwing grenades and shooting from the back of the mosque, where several hundred people were praying. A second attacker blew himself up as well. Two other attackers were killed by guards.

"I saw people falling down and pools of blood everywhere," said a driver who gave his name as Ishtiaq. "I fled to save my life."

Interior Minister Rehman Malik condemned the attackers as false Muslims, saying, "Their struggle is for Shariah [Islamic law], but is this what Shariah teaches them? I ask religious scholars to come forward and condemn their actions. Killing innocent people is no religion."

The Taliban and other extremists groups have demanded the national imposition of Islamic law.

In additional to the recent attacks in Rawalpindi, there has been a wave of violence across the country – crowded markets and courthouses in Peshawar, police training academies and Muslim seminaries in Lahore, U.N. offices in Islamabad, and livestock markets in rural areas. More than 400 people have been killed.



Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2009
By NBC News Shahid Qazi and Carol Grisanti

QUETTA, Pakistan – The 11-year-old girl blushed as she walked into the car dealer’s showroom on Quetta’s Adalat Road in southwest Pakistan. Her 17-year-old cousin, eyes fixed to the ground, followed her. When the younger girl asked the owner for five rupees (6 cents), he pointed to the back room and told both girls to follow him.

A stocky man in his mid-forties with sallow skin and puffy eyes, he told the girls to lift their shirts – he wanted to see. "Very nice," the owner said. "They are getting bigger," he told the 17-year-old as he touched her.

The 11-year-old was excited as she told us the story; we had followed them inside the showroom pretending to be customers interested in renting one of the Land Cruisers parked inside. The owner had given them 10 rupees (12 cents), the girls told us, more money than they had asked for. Then, giggling, they ran away.

It’s dangerous to be seen following these girls – some of their clients are wealthy feudal land barons and powerful politicians, others are ordinary shopkeepers who will give money to the poor, but want to get something in return.

The girls are part of an alarming problem that gets little attention in Pakistan.

"Prostitution is rampant in all the big cities throughout the country," said Senior Superintendent of Police, Raja Shahid, who heads the police investigation unit in Rawalpindi, a city close to the capital Islamabad.

"There are loopholes in the laws that need to be changed. For example, in order to nab the culprits, we need to conduct a raid – but we cannot conduct a raid without permission from a magistrate. By the time we get the permission we have missed our chance," he said.

Calls for Islamic law
Others in the country have targeted the police’s inability to protect children as a reason to rally the people against the government.

"This is exactly why all the religious parties are campaigning for Shariah law," said Maulvi Noor Mohammed, a hard-line Islamic cleric, known for his ties to the Taliban.

Mohammed preaches "jihad" against the West to young boys in his sprawling madrassa (religious school) on the outskirts of Quetta. In an hour-long interview with NBC News, Mohammed argued that prostitution in Quetta is the perfect example of the corrupt morals of the secular, pro-Western Pakistan government and why it showed the need for a worldwide Islamic revolution.

"What these men are doing is against Islam and they must be punished accordingly," he said. "Islam guarantees protection for these young girls."

The last study on child prostitution in Pakistan was conducted by the government's Federal Bureau of Statistics more than 10 years ago. At that time, the study concluded that an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 children were involved in prostitution.

Today, there is no reliable data or updated figures, perhaps because it is a national shame.

Poverty increases problem
Fathers often send their young daughters out on the streets to earn money for the family. The girls begin by begging – some as young as 3-years old – and as they grow older, they become part of the flourishing sex trade in this deeply conservative city in southwest Pakistan.

 "The fathers of these girls are usually drug addicts or alcoholics and the family is impoverished," said Fauzia Baloch, a coordinator for the Aurat Foundation, an NGO that works for women’s rights in rural Pakistan. "We can act, often only when a member of the family comes forth and complains, usually of domestic violence, and then we provide shelter for the girls and their mothers."

On a recent afternoon, we sat outside a tea shop on Quetta’s Adalat Road and watched young girls move easily in and out of the crushing traffic – a chaotic scene of rickshaws, donkey carts piled high with bathtubs, rainbow-colored trucks decorated with gaudy paintings and men on bicycles. The girls made contact with the shopkeepers and with the men sitting in parked cars who were waiting for them.

"We know this is going on," said Inspector Malik Durrani of the Quetta police. "Even though prostitution is illegal in Pakistan, the police cannot arrest anyone without first lodging a case in the courts," he said. "[President Pervez] Musharraf changed the laws in 2007 to give women more rights but the laws are now so complex that unless the woman complains the police are powerless to act."

Life on the streets

One 30-year-old woman with piercing light blue eyes said she has worked the Adalat Road for 25 years. She goes by the name of Shin Khalai.

"I started begging when I was 5 years old," Khalai said. "My father was a drug addict and my mother sent me and my seven brothers and sisters out on the streets to beg. I am married now – my husband is a gambler and he knows I sleep around with other men but he wants the money I earn so he can keep on gambling."

Haji Naseem, another car dealer on Adalat Road, blames the city’s politicians and religious leaders. "Everyone knows what is going on with these children," he said. "No one bothers to stop it because our leaders have forgotten their duties to the people and are only after their own power and their own riches," he said. "We are being destroyed from within by moral corruption and greed."

"Look at them," Khalai pointed out three girls, as they walked down the street, dressed in colorful shalwar kameez – the term for traditional baggy trousers and long tunic shirts.

"They are the working girls of Quetta – those little children. What life do they have? This is no life for any of us," she said as she walked away – to go back to work.

Islamic law to be imposed in parts of Pakistan


February 16, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — The government agreed to impose Islamic law and suspend a military offensive across much of northwest Pakistan on Monday in concessions aimed at pacifying the Taliban insurgency spreading from the border region to the country's interior.

The announcement came as three missiles believed fired from a U.S. drone aircraft destroyed a house used by a local Taliban commander elsewhere in the northwest, killing 30 people, witnesses said.

The cease-fire, in Pakistan's Swat Valley hundreds of miles from the missile strike in Kurram, will likely concern the United States, which has warned Pakistan that such peace agreements allow al-Qaida and Taliban militants operating near the Afghan border time to rearm and regroup.

The truce announcement came after talks with local Islamists, including one closely linked to the Taliban.

Speaking in India, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said the unrest in Swat was a reminder that the United States, Pakistan and India face an "an enemy which poses direct threats to our leadership, our capitals and our people."

Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the chief minister for the North West Frontier Province, said authorities would impose Islamic law in Malakand region, which includes the Swat Valley. Swat is a one-time tourist haven in the northwest where extremists have gained sway through brutal tactics including beheading residents, burning girls schools and attacking security forces.

He said the laws would only be implemented when the valley was peaceful.

The Swat Taliban said Sunday they would observe a 10-day cease-fire in support of the peace process. They welcomed Monday's announcement, which did not mention any need for the militants to give up arms.

"Our whole struggle is for the enforcement of Shariah (Islamic) law," Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said. "If this really brings us the implementation of Shariah, we will fully cooperate with it."

Hoti gave few details, but said the main changes were included in existing laws stipulating Islamic justice that have never been enforced. They allow for Muslim clerics to advise judges when hearing cases, but do not ban female education or mention other strict interpretations of Shariah espoused by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"This was the people's demand ... for speedy justice." he said. "There was a (legal) vacuum and we will be filling that vacuum in the near future," he told a news conference.

Hoti also said that troops in Swat, which had been conducting an offensive there against the militants, would now go on "reactive mode" and retaliate only if attacked.

Pakistani military officials were not immediately available for comment.

The missile attack Monday was the first known such strike in Kurram. Most of the strikes have occurred in South and North Waziristan, other tribal regions considered major Taliban and al-Qaida strongholds.

Rehman Ullah, a resident of the targeted village of Baggan, said drones were seen in the sky before the attack and that he saw 30 bodies dug up. An intelligence official said field informants reported that militants showed up at the village bazaar and ordered 30 caskets. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The U.S. has stepped up missile strikes in the border region since August, killing some suspected top militants. Pakistan routinely protest the strikes, saying it undercuts its fight against terror.

Regaining the Swat Valley from militants is a major test for the Pakistani government. Unlike the semiautonomous tribal regions where al-Qaida and Taliban have long thrived, the former tourist haven is supposed to be under full government control and lies less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the provincial capital, Islamabad.

Among those Islamists taking part in talks with the government in the provincial capital Peshawar was Sufi Muhammad, who Pakistan freed last year after he agreed to renounce violence. Muhammad is father-in-law to Maulana Fazlullah, leader of the Taliban in Swat.

Hoti said Muhammad had agreed to travel to Swat and urge the militants to give up their arms.

"Seeing the trend we can hope peace will soon be restored in Swat," he said.

President Asif Ali Zardari has been indirectly involved in the dialogue after growing increasingly concerned about civilian casualties in Swat, said an official in the president's office who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Overall security is deteriorating in Pakistan, and several foreigners have been attacked or abducted in recent months.

Also Monday, a spokesman for kidnappers holding American John Solecki captive in Pakistan said the deadline to negotiate for his release was extended for a "few days" after appeals from "some international organizations." On Friday, the captors said they would kill Solecki, a United Nations official, in 72 hours if their demands were not met.

Solecki was abducted on Feb. 2 in Quetta, a major city in the southwest near the Afghan border. On Friday, his kidnappers threatened to kill him within 72 hours and issued a 20-second video of the blindfolded hostage.

Shahak Baluch, who claims to speak for the little-known Baluch United Liberation Front, announced the extended deadline in a call to the Quetta Press Club.

The group's name indicates a link to separatists rather than Islamic extremists. Its demands include the release of 141 women allegedly held by Pakistani authorities, but Pakistan has denied it is holding the women.

The U.N. has been trying to establish contact with the kidnappers, officials said.

Associated Press Writer Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Zarar Khan and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.



Al Qaeda suspected of Pakistan's Marriott bombing

Sun Sep 21, 2008

* U.S., Pakistani intelligence suspect al Qaeda

* Death toll at 53, includes Czech ambassador

* Pakistani prime minister sees threat to democracy

* Some expatriates consider leaving

By Aftab Borka

ISLAMABAD, Sept 21 (Reuters) - A suicide bomb attack that killed 53 people at the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital bore the hallmarks of an operation by al Qaeda or an affiliate, Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officials said on Sunday.

Teams combing the burnt shell of the hotel found more charred bodies after the blast on Saturday evening ignited a blaze that swept through the hotel, part of a U.S.-based chain and a favourite haunt of diplomats and wealthy Pakistanis.

Internal security in nuclear-armed Pakistan, a country vital to the war against al Qaeda and other Islamist militant groups, has deteriorated alarmingly over the past two years.

"The sophistication of the blast shows it's the work of al Qaeda," a Pakistani intelligence officer told Reuters.

Four foreigners were killed including the Czech ambassador, his Vietnamese partner and two members of the U.S. armed forces assigned to the U.S. embassy. Denmark's security service said one of their staff, attached to the Danish mission in the capital, was missing, presumed dead.

An American State Department employee was also missing, a spokesman said.

The Interior Ministry said 266 people were wounded, 11 of them foreigners, after the bomber blew up a truck packed with 600 kg (1,320 lb) of explosives including artillery shells, mortar bombs and shrapnel.

Pakistan's army is in the midst of an offensive against al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border. The United States has intensified attacks on militants on the Pakistani side of the border, alienating many Pakistanis.

Militants have launched bomb attacks, most on security forces in the northwest, in retaliation. Security analysts said the militants wanted to show they could strike anywhere unless the government changed its policies.

"(It) underscores the ability of these groups to really challenge the authority of the state in the heart of the capital," said Riffat Hussein, a professor of defence studies.

An al Qaeda video, released to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, included a call for militants in Pakistan to step up their fight.


"They want to destabilise the country. They want to destabilise democracy. They want to destroy the country economically," Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters.

A civilian government led by Gilani was sworn in six months ago after nine years of rule by former army chief and firm U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf. It is also facing an economy on the verge of collapse.

The attack will be a big blow for foreign investment and will lead to further weakening of the rupee which is already trading at a record low, dealers and analysts said.

The attack was staged hours after new President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, made his first address to parliament, a few hundred metres from the hotel, calling for terrorism to be rooted out.

Zardari called the bombing cowardly.

"This is an epidemic, a cancer in Pakistan which we will root out," he said in a televised address.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani said the army stood with the nation in its resolve to defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism.


Saturday's attack was the worst in the capital.

The blast left a crater 24 feet (7 metres) deep and 59 feet (18 metres) wide, ministry official Rehman Malik told a news conference.

Malik showed security camera footage from the front of the hotel, which had been bombed twice before, showing a truck trying unsuccessfully to force its way through security barriers.

A small blast could be seen going off in the truck cab, apparently as the bomber blew himself up with a grenade, which started a fire. Minutes, later, after a guard tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher, the truck blew up.

Flames and smoke poured out of the 290-room, five-storey hotel located in a high security zone. Dozens of cars were destroyed and windows shattered hundreds of metres away.

Survivors said hotel security men had warned guests to move to the back of the building shortly before the bomb went off.

Most people managed to flee from the fire before it spread but a Reuters photographer saw a body lying on a top floor balcony on Sunday morning.

Malik suggested the investigation would end up pointing to al Qaeda and Taliban militants based in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the Afghan border

"In previous attacks, all roads led to FATA," he said.

The United States was ready to assist with the investigation if requested, said U.S. embassy spokesman Lou Fintor.

Some Islamabad-based expatriates were considering leaving, after shrugging off smaller blasts in the city.

"I'll be speaking to my boss tomorrow," said Steve, a Briton working in Islamabad who did not want to give his full name.

Zardari, who won a presidential election this month, left for the United States on Sunday and is scheduled to meet President George W. Bush in New York on Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly. (Additional reporting by Robert Birsel, Zeeshan Haider, Kamran Haider, Augustine Anthony and Sahar Ahmed; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; editing by Matthew Jones/Keith Weir)


Pakistan's schisms spill into present

By Zaffar Abbas
BBC Islamabad correspondent

Some had hoped that Pakistan's crackdown on Islamic extremists would herald a period of religious harmony. Officials had dared to believe that the relative peace of cities like Karachi and Quetta - targets of bomb attacks in recent months - was a sign of the campaign's success in eradicating religious extremism. But two bloody attacks in the first week of October have proved them wrong. The deadly incidents in Sialkot and Multan indicate that sectarian violence has come full circle. Extremist groups are once again returning to the Punjab region where they began more than two decades ago. The attacks also reveal that Sunni extremist groups have not been the only ones to survive a recent ban. New groups of Shia extremists sprung into life just as soon as the old ones were stifled by the authorities.

Deep roots

Differences between the majority Sunni and minority Shia Muslims date back to the very earliest days of Islam. They are directly linked to the issue of succession following the death of Prophet Muhammad. The Shia believe that after Prophet Muhammad's death, his son-in-law, Ali, should have been given the reins of administration. They still regard him as the first imam or spiritual leader. The Sunni, however, believe that the appointment of one of the Prophet's companions, Abu Bakr, as the first Caliph was correct. The Sunnis also respect Ali as the fourth Caliph of Islam.


In AD661, Ali was murdered and his chief opponent, Muawiya, became Caliph. It was the death of Ali that led to the great schism between Sunnis and Shias. Muawiya laid the foundation of family rule in Islam and he was later succeeded by his son, Yazid. But Ali's son Hussein refused to accept his legitimacy, and fighting followed. Hussein and his followers were massacred in battle near Karbala in AD680. The deaths of both Ali and Hussein gave rise to the Shia characteristics of martyrdom and a sense of betrayal. Even today, Shia all over the world commemorate the killing of Hussein with vast processions of mourning in Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world.

'Messianic faith'

Shia Islam has always been the rigid faith of the poor and oppressed, of those waiting for deliverance. It is seen as a messianic faith - awaiting the coming of the "hidden imam", Allah's messenger, who will reverse their fortunes and herald the reign of divine justice. Today, the Shia make up about 15% of the total worldwide Muslim population. In Pakistan, as in most Islamic countries, the differences between Sunni and Shia were initially confined to academic debate, and violent incidents were extremely rare. However, the situation took a dramatic turn in the early 1980s. The change in the regional environment, and the emergence of a political, albeit violent, Islam, introduced a new phenomenon of sectarianism to Pakistan. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought funding from the US and Saudi Arabia for (mostly Sunni) Islamic radical groups to fight against Kabul. The Islamic revolution that ended the monarchy in Shia Iran ushered in a new wave of Shia radicalism in the region. And when the then Pakistani military ruler, General Zia-ul-Haq tried to introduce his own concept of Sunni Islam to the country, a bloody conflict broke out. Radical groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba and Tehrik-e-Jafria have their roots in the policies of those days. Many believe that during this period, Pakistan became the battle ground for a proxy war, a stage on which different countries and organisations belonging to various schools of extremist Islam supported members of their faith and belief. The phenomenon of the Taleban also fuelled this violence, as a number of Sunni extremist groups found both a refuge and a training ground in Afghanistan. The violence continued in different forms even after these countries stepped back. In the last few years, new, more radical groups have emerged, and they target each other with venom. Between the era of General Zia and General Musharraf, successive political governments tried to tackle the problem, but without much success.

Global jihad

The events of 11 September 2001 changed the world - Pakistan dumped the Taleban and, in 2002, President Musharraf launched a major campaign against Islamic extremists, banning several groups. But within weeks many had resurfaced, with new names but the same old intentions. They were again outlawed last year. Yet recent history seems to suggest that declaring radical groups illegal does nothing to solve the problem. In fact, some Sunni extremist groups have been refining their agenda, joining hands with suspected Al-Qa'eda groups in a so-called global jihad. At least two groups have been found to be involved in attacks against other minorities, particularly Christians. And yet another group was found to be involved in the two attacks on President Musharraf's life in December 2003. The group's leader, Amjad Farooqui, was recently killed in a gun-battle with security forces.

Bad year

Senior officials believe the present cycle of violence is partly sectarian, and partly linked to the campaign by the extremist groups to destabilise the government. They say that, having been hit in Karachi and Quetta, the groups have now returned to the Punjab to carry out their activities. Officials say the attack on the Sunni gathering in Multan also suggests that after a series of attacks against Shia mosques, a new group of extremists from within the community may have emerged to avenge the killings. After a brief lull last year, 2004 has particularly been a bad year. Since 1980, more than 4,000 people have been killed in Shia-Sunni violence. And with new and more ferocious groups emerging with an ever wider and more violent agenda, it is nearly impossible to say what form it may take in the coming months and years.


A Report On Rising Intolerance Towards The Religious Minorities Of Pakistan

710 Shadman-I, Lahore, Pakistan
Ph: 0092-42-7560041, Fax: 0092-42-7530204 Email: clf@isb.comsats.net.pk

Pakistan, an Islamic country is situated in South Asia. With ever increasing religious intolerance against the non-Muslim religious minorities, Pakistan remains one of the most glaring examples of religious intolerance in the world.

This is an admitted fact that the religious minorities, especially the Christian community contributed a lot in the making of Pakistan. In the fields of health and education the services of Christian community are meritorious. But the forces which opposed the creation of Pakistan in 1947, are now targeting the minority communities. The government is fully aware of the situation but no steps are taken to stop the discriminative attitude towards the minorities.

In addition to severely limiting freedom of speech and assembly, Blasphemy laws and other discriminatory laws, continue to hang like naked swords on the heads of non-Muslim people i.e. Christians, Hindus, Bheels, Maingwals, Sikhs and the indigenous people (The fourth world). Section 295/C of the Pakistan Penal Code (blasphemy law) imposes death penalty on anyone found to have "by words or visible representation or by an imputation or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiled the name of the Prophet Mohammad of Islam". Similarly any body blamed as blasphemer against Koran would be awarded life imprisonment under section 295/C of the Blasphemy Act.

Before the introduction of this law, no case of blasphemy ever surfaced in Pakistan and no non-Muslim was ever blamed as a blasphemer. But, after the introduction of blasphemy law in 1985, hundreds of non-Muslims, mostly Christians, have either been killed by the Muslim fanatics or made to flee from the country or put in jails where they face inhumane treatment both at the hands of the Muslim Jail authorities and the Muslim inmates. Any voice raised for the repeal of blasphemy laws, is ruthlessly suppressed. On 11 January 2001, as many as 17 people were arrested for participating in an anti "Blasphemy Laws" protest in Karachi. Though three Christian detainees were released six days later, the incident nonetheless demonstrates the methods of punishment and intimidation the government uses to attack the freedom of expression and assembly, particularly in relation to religious issues.

In another case, two Christian young men namely Messrs Amjad and Asif from Jhang were sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2001, under section 295/B of the blasphemy law.

In January this year, eight Christian evangelists including one pastor Rev. Yousaf Masih from the city of Jacobabad were arrested because they were showing a Christian film "WHO IS JESUS" in a Christian locality of Jacobabad.

Very recently i.e. on April 1, 2001, a Christian Teacher Mr. Parvez Masih of a village in Sialkot district, has been falsely blamed as a blasphemer. His Muslim enemy, due to personal grudge, has implicated him under section 295/C of the Blasphemy Act. Mr. Parvez Masih, has been booked and put in the jail for a crime which he never committed and penalty for the crime is death. The innocent Christian teacher was running a school in his village. A Muslim teacher also established his own school. But the school of Mr. Parvez Masih attracted more students due to his dedication as a teacher. The Muslim fellow with his grudge against the Christian teacher, ultimately implicated him in the case of blasphemy. The poor and innocent man, just because of his Christian faith, is being persecuted in the jail. His old parents and other members of his family are being targeted by the fanatic Muslims of the area. There are twenty other Christian families, which, since April 1st are living in a constant harassment.

Christians have definitely suffered under the blasphemy laws. In 1998, Mr. Ayub Masih, a Christian gentleman was sentenced to death though he was quite innocent. Unable to get Ayub released, Bishop John Joseph, a widely respected non-violent activist for minority rights in Pakistan, committed hirakiri by shooting himself in the head.

The fanatic Islamists don’t show any leniency in cases of blasphemy though such cases mostly are ill-founded. In 1996 Mr. Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti of the Lahore High court was shot dead by a Muslim Fanatic because he had acquitted three Christian fellows from blasphemy charges.

Last year another Judge of the Lahore High Court Mr. Justice Nazir Akhtar became highly partial on the issue of blasphemy laws. He declared that anybody blamed with blasphemy charges, should be instantly killed on the spot by Muslims as a religious obligation. He further remarked that there was no need of any legal proceedings for a blasphemer. These remarks of the judge were published in the national print media.

This is a height of injustice that there are scores of victims of blasphemy law who are being confined in jails. They are in jails for the last so may years but no court is prepared to dispose off their cases. They are compelled to live under sub-human condition in jails. They suffer the severest kind of persecution. No judge is ready for the trial of those prisoners.

In several cases of blasphemy laws, the accused after untold suffering in jail, have been acquitted by the courts. But no action is ever taken against to Muslim compliments who were responsible for ruining the lives of the innocent accused who were falsely implicated under blasphemy charges.

Like the blasphemy laws, the Hudood Ordinance (The Quranic Laws) require strict adherence to Muslim practices and blatantly discriminate against non-Muslims in a court of law. Women have particularly suffered under these ordinances, as they are frequently and wrongfully charged for sexual misconduct such as adultery. Although most women tried under the ordinance are eventually acquitted, they must then endure the stigma of having been under suspicion. The Koranic Laws (Hudood Ordinances) should not be imposed on non-Muslims, but the irony of the fate is that these laws are now stronger than ever.

Religious minorities are alienated and deprived of equal access to justice in other ways. For instance if a Muslim kills a non Muslim, the perpetrators may compensate the victims family monetarily. If non Muslim kills a Muslim the perpetrator faces prison or the death penalty. The Federal Sharia court (FSC) ensures that all legislative acts and judicial pronouncements including those of the supreme court are compatible with Islamic laws. The structure of Sharia courts is an evidence that the government wants to impose a Taliban Style theocratic rule in Pakistan. No Christian lawyer is allowed to appear in the Federal Shariat Court though this court hears cases of non-Muslim people.

Another area of institutionalized discrimination relates to the electoral system. Pakistan is the only country in the world where the system of Separate Electorates was imposed in 1985, against the will of the minorities. Under this undemocratic system, people cannot vote outside their religious affiliations. So non-Muslims citizens of this Islamic State are severely disenfranchised. The separate electorate system has always been denounced as a scheme of religious apartheid that promoted intolerance and served the purpose divide and rule. In the recently held local bodies election under the devolution plan the minorities boycotted the polls overwhelmingly because they were conducted on the basis of separate electorates.

Though the present military administration especially General Musharaf gave assurance for improving the situation of minorities rights. But owing the vested interests the recent local bodies election under the devolution plan were held on separate electorates basis.

There have also been shocking cases of rape and murder of Christian Women. On their way home from working at a factory eight Christian girls, were gang raped at gunpoint by Muslim Men in May, 2000. In 1998, four Muslim men raped a seven year old girl named Nagina. In February 2001, another Christian minor girl (a school student) named Naira was abducted by an influential Muslim fellow. The culprit is still at large and the girl still remains un recovered because the Muslim Police is favouring the Muslim abductor. In March 2001, a Christian girl named Farhat Javed from Summandri, Distt. Faisalabad, was abducted by Muslim influential people just one day before her marriage.

When a Christian a Hindu women is abducted, she is forced to change her religion. If under coercion she does so her previous marriage under Islamic law becomes null and void. Nobody bothers as to what would become of the children born in the previous wedlock. Many families, because of this forcefull conversion to Islam, have been ruined.

Clearly, non-Muslim religious minorities in Pakistan, are de facto second class citizens. In addition to facing direct discrimination in laws such as the blasphemy law and the Koranic laws, the undemocratic separate Electorates, religious minorities face severe mistreatment from militant members of the Muslim majority.

There is a wide spread social hatred against the non-Muslim people. they are discriminated severely in eating places and restaurants. Even in the era of 21st century, the barber’s shops in Pakistan bear notices which read "Non-Muslims are not provided services" This is all in the notice of the government but no body is prepared to put an end to this kind of social hatred.

The militant wings of the Islamic religious political parties, are also responsible for the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan. Inspired by the Talibans, they are hell bent to create a conflicting situation.

In a religious convention held in the first week of April, at Peshawar under the title of "Deoband Conference" the Muslim fanatics vowed that they would convert Pakistan into a theocratic state like that of Afghanistan. About one million Muslims from all over the world attended this conference.

Another religious convention of the hardline Islamists was held in mid April by Laskar-e-Tayyaba. The 200,000 participants of this conference near Lahore, vowed that they would make Pakistan a complete Muslim state. The Muslim diehard declared that they would promote the culture of beards like that of Talibans of Afghanistan. Through a resolution, the Christian Mission Schools in Pakistan were condemned and it was declared that all such schools were responsible for killing the Islamic spirit of the Muslims. On the other hand plans were made at this convention to open more Muslim religious schools to prepare young boys (child soldiers) to wage holy war (Islamic Term) against the infidels. (All the non-Muslims are infidels according to Islamic teachings). For this purpose, fund raising is done extensively. These organizations are also funded by International Islamic groups.

In 1998, Mr. Nawaz Sharif the then Prime Minister, through the 15th constitutional Amendment, wanted to impose Sharia in the country. But it was CLF, which by lobbying with the senators, failed the move of the government and the sharia bill was blocked from passage in the senate of Pakistan. Had this bill been passed it would have played havoc with the non-Muslims citizens of Pakistan.

All the successive governments due to their vested interests never bothered to improve the situation. It has rather gone from bad to worse. When General Pervez Musharaf grabbed power in October 1999, he declared that he would take measures to improve the conditions of the minority communities of Pakistan. He, in a Human Rights Convention in April 2000, proposed to improve the procedure for the registration of cases under blasphemy laws. but threatened by militant fanatic Islamists, he had to revert his decision.

In 1974, through a constitutional amendment, the government of Pakistan declared the Ahmedi community as non-Muslim minority. So the practice of Ahmedi faith is severely restricted by law. Their religious freedom is restricted and they are facing lots of hardships.

According to the constitution of Pakistan the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan must be Muslims who through their oath have to declare their Muslim faith and to preserve the Islamic ideology of the country.

Teaching of Islamiat (Islamic studies) in compulsory in the school and colleges of the country for the Muslim students. While students of other faiths are not required to study Islam they are not provided with parallel opportunities to study their own faiths. the Muslim teachers compel the non Muslim students to complete courses of Islamic Studies.

Many Christian and Ahmedi students report that they face discrimination in applying to government educational institutions due to their religious affiliations. They are supposed to reflect their religion on their application forms.

The low caste Hindu community is a highly marginalized group. They, under economic compulsions, are involved in bonded labour. They are backward and their human rights are not recognized. They are often labelled as agents of India aid thus looked down upon.

The other religious minorities i.e. Sikhs, Bhais, Budhists and indiginous groups face hardships on religious grounds in Pakistan.

The prevailing scenario foretells that if measures are not taken and activities of the hard liners are not checked, Pakistan would turn into a religious apartheid state where non-Muslim will remain slaves of the Muslim majority. This is a question of life and death for the 14 million people of the minorities of Pakistan.

Christian Liberation Front Pakistan (CLF), which is a leading human rights organization of the minorities, has been struggling for the repeal of discriminatory laws. The mission of CLF, as is significant from its nomenclature, is to work for the liberation of the oppressed minorities from their social subjugation, religious discrimination and economic deprivation.

CLF since its inception in 1985, has been highlighting the issues of non-Muslim minorities at national and international level through research, lobbying, advocacy and awareness.

We provide legal and other assistance to the victims of blasphemy and other discriminatory laws and to their families. Owing to their backwardness and marginalization, the religious minorities of Pakistan are voiceless people and CLF speaks for them who cannot speak for themselves.


 “A Microscopic Few Do Not Constitute the Ummah,” Says Musharraf

By M.M. Ali

Washington Report, September/October 2005, page 33

The Subcontinent

Reacting to the charge that Muslims are “the terrorists,” Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in a July 21 televised address to the nation, strongly rejected the accusation, saying that a handful of “misguided” youth do not represent the world’s over one billion Muslims. He also denied that the four men reportedly responsible for the July 7 London bombings were trained in Pakistan, pointing to the fact that three of the four were born and brought up in England, and hardly spent any time in Pakistan, and that the fourth was not even of Asian heritage.

Urging the British government to dig deeply to identify the causes producing such angry men in the U.K. and elsewhere, Musharraf also acknowledged the unrest in his own country. He traced it back “26 years,” when Pakistan joined with the United States in throwing the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan and bringing about the eventual collapse of its government. “In the process,” said Musharraf, “U.S. military and economic aid poured in to train and produce the Afghan refugees into a fighting force of Mujahedeen.”

The Pakistani leader expressed deep regret that, when the task was completed, “the U.S. folded its bags and walked away,” leaving behind a country (Afghanistan) that was engulfed in civil war. “Pakistan,” Musharraf added, “inherited a drug and Kalashnikov culture” from its northern neighbor that produced the angry Taliban religious zealots emerging from the madrassas. “We are, therefore, in the forefront of the war against terrorism,” he added, reminding the world that “no country has done more” than Pakistan to curb al-Qaeda.

Musharraf warned that his government will not tolerate any kind of extremism that spreads sectarian hatreds or acts of violence. Advocating his favorite recipe of “enlightened moderation,” he emphasized that “Islam abhors extremism,” and promised to do everything in his means to establish a tolerant and peaceful society in Pakistan.

Foreign Students to Leave Madrassas

In another televised speech 10 days later addressing foreign journalists and Pakistani elites, President Musharraf came down hard on the organizations and religious leaders running the country’s more than 12,000 madrassas, or religious schools. “All [1,400] foreign students must leave the country forthwith,” he decreed, and ordered that all madrassas be properly registered with the government by Dec 31, 2005. The process will require all religious institutions to describe their management structures and provide financial statements indicating the source of their funding, along with lists of staffs and enrolled students, curriculum, etc. According to Minister for Religious Affairs Ejaz ul Haq, a similar law was introduced in 2003 but was never implemented.

Musharraf’s order expelling all foreign students from the madrassas has drawn sharp criticism from various circles, including the chief of the ruling Muslim League party, Chaudhri Shujaat, who already has met with President Musharraf on the subject. Fears are being expressed that the order could strain relations with several Muslim countries, whose students may instead attend madrassas in India.

A Taliban-Like Law in NWFP

The North West Frontier Province’s (state) government, controlled by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Ammal (MMA) conglomerate of religious parties, has passed the Hisbah Act establishing a Taliban-type parallel judicial system. The Act proposes strict shariah laws to be enforced and adjudicated by the Hisbah courts, and imposes severe restrictions on individual freedom, especially with regard to women. Under the new law, the principal duty of the mohtasib—the official who holds everyone accountable—is observance of the five daily prayers, separation of unrelated males and females, and to discourage singing and dancing. The NWFP’s opposition Pakistan People’s Party called it an “obscurantist pipedream” that attempts to “Talibanize” Pakistan.

In response to a request by President Musharraf‘s central government in Islamabad that Pakistan’s Supreme Court reveiw the Act to determine if it violates the provisions of the country’s constitution, the court issued a summary judgment in early August declaring that parts of the Act are in violation of the constitution, and asking the NWFP governor not to sign it into law.

Pakistan’s Technical Vulnerability

As part of the government’s privatization process, Islamabad handed over management and ownership control of the Pakistan Telecommunications System to the highest bidder, from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Ironically, this change coincided with a rupture in the undersea cable line that connects Pakistan’s telecommunications system with the rest of the world. Because technicians had to come from Singapore to fix it, it took almost two weeks to repair the line. Having already suffered a loss of over $30 million, Pakistan now faces the possible loss of several foreign customers. A second, alternate safety cable had been suggested in the past, but Pakistani managers never agreed to it. As a result, Pakistan’s telecommunications sector is at great risk.


Enough is enough


        It is now close to six decades since the great Indian sub-continent was partitioned and Pakistan brought into existence, on the dubious principle that provinces with a Muslim majority constitute a State on their own. The two-nation theory propagated by Mohammad Ali Jinnah now stands debunked, especially following the break-up of the old Pakistan and the setting up of Bangladesh as a separate State, on the equally dubious grounds of linguistic incompatibility.

        The setting up of Bangladesh stuck at the very roots of the two-nation theory. It also demolished Pakistan's pretence that the Muslim majority State of Jammu & Kashmir belonged to it by natural right. In pursuance of that illusion, Pakistan has waged three wars against India and has lost all three. Having failed to annex Jammu & Kashmir by force, Pakistan, since the early 1990s has taken resource to war by other means, unleashing terrorism not only in Jammu & Kashmir but also in India, but to no effect. All that the terrorists have succeeded in achieving is to kill innocent women and children.

        The latest outrage was perpetrated in Delhi on the eve of Diwali. In practical terms it has had no effect. Apart from the grief felt by the families of those killed and wounded, Delhi's citizens have shown extraordinary fortitude in the face of dire circumstances. If by now Pakistan has not realised that not war, not terrorism, nor subtle pressure brought to bear on Delhi would ever get it Jammu & Kashmir.

        A former 'Prime Minister' of Pakistan occupied Kashmir Sardar Mohammad Abdul Gayyum was recently reported as saying that 'an independent Kashmir is not possible in the next one hundred years' if ever. Obviously that truth has not sunk in among the policymakers in Islamabad.

        The question naturally arises: how long is Pakistan going to support mindless terrorism, even knowing fully way after the experience of six decades, that it can never capture Jammu & Kashmir whether by force, terrorism or other means?

        For 60 long years India has patiently put up with Pakistani bestiality. During these years Pakistan depended on the undeclared support largely of Britain and the United States, and so could get away with murder and mayhem. But hasn't the time now come for India to declare that enough is enough? And that should there be another repetition of Delhi, Pakistan may have to pay a grievous price? It is claimed that following the Delhi outrage, India has taken a tough line towards Pakistan.

        Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is reported to have protested in unequivocal terms with Pakistan President Musharraf. Even the UN Security Council has now been moved to pass a strong resolution stressing 'the importance of bringing the perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of violence to justice', its finger indubitably pointed towards Pakistan. Who else would be guilty of perpetrating, organising, financing and sponsoring anti-India terrorism but Pakistan, though Bangladesh is not too far behind?

        The Security Council's Delhi-specific directive may not have identified Pakistan by name as the sponsor of terrorism, but when the directive calls on UN member-States 'to cooperate actively with the Indian authorities in this regard', Islamabad surely was the target.

        Pakistan has long attempted to rationalise terrorist attacks on India as the work of god-fearing 'freedom fighters'. The attack on Delhi's market places has torn down that mask. And this has now been at last seen through by the Security Council which in its latest resolution has affirmed that 'terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security', adding that 'any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of motivation, wherever, whenever and by whosoever committed'.

        In the circumstances Pakistan does not have a leg to stand on. True, Musharraf has been quick to condemn the Delhi marketplace attacks and offered to cooperate fully with Indian investigations but does he have to be told that his regime has all along been known to give shelter to terrorists such as Dawood Ibrahim, Maulana Massod Azhar, Hafeez Saeed, Syed Salahuddin and others akin?

        Unfortunately, the UN Security Council does nothing more than pass resolutions. Why doesn't it take action against Pakistan? If the United States, fully supported by Britain, can wage war against Iraq falsely implicating that Iraq was engaged in producing weapons of mass destruction, without the Security Council's backing, surely Washington can take stern and positive action against Pakistan on solid grounds? No one found any evidence of Iraq engaged in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. But there is plenty of evidence to show that Pakistan is harbouring terrorists. Isn't that sufficient ground for the US to wage war against Pakistan? What is Washington waiting for? Another 9/11?

        It must be stated in clear terms that American hands are not much cleaner either. It was the United States that encouraged jihadi elements in Pakistan and in other Islamic countries to create havoc in Afghanistan to oust the Soviet-backed government in Kabul. Washington can't pretend to be innocent on this score. Those very jihadi elements that it once actively supported are now engaged in spreading death and destruction in India. If the United States has not learnt this, it has learnt nothing. India must now tell the United States specifically, and the UN Security Council in general, that it has had enough of Pakistan-sponsored jihadis and would feel free to teach Pakistan a lesson that it will never forget. It is not enough for Delhi to talk tough. It must in future resort to action as suits its needs. If it has to be war, let it be. But the world should not be left in any doubt that India means business.

        Pakistan's official excuse is that it has nothing to do with jihadis, hate-spouting madrassahs and violence-prone fundamentalists. No one takes its word as truth. Either Musharraf is a liar or he is unable to control the jihadis in either case India now has the right to take suitable action against its neighbour. According to information available, over 50,000 innocent citizens have so far been killed by jihadis in the last decade, but Pakistan insists that it is not accountable for these bloody murders. It is time it is called to account. It is primarily the task of Islamabad's patron, the United States. If it is unwilling to take the necessary step, then it is time for the Security Council to do the needful. Its latest resolution is fairly unambiguous. But what is necessary is immediate and meaningful action. India's patience is wearing thin. And it must let it be known in clear terms in places that matter. Like the White House.

        (The author is a veteran journalist and chief of the Prasar Bharati.)


Christian leaders urge Pakistan president to repeal blasphemy law

PAKISTAN 15 November, 2005

The Christian community has called a protest strike on 17 November in the wake of violence and destruction of churches and Christian places in Sangla Hill. The public security forces are under fire for their alleged inefficiency.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Christian religious leaders in Pakistan today wrote an open letter to the president, Pervez Musharraf, to call for justice, proper investigations and above all an assurance that “Christians in Pakistan are citizens like the rest”. The letter follows recent events in Sangla Hill.

On 10 November, an angry mob of around 2,000 people vandalised and set fire to three churches, a nuns’ convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a protestant pastor and a parish priest, a girls’ hotel and the homes of some Christians, all in the village of Sangla Hill in Nankana district in Punjab. The attacks were sparked by a presumed case of blasphemy. The leaders called “once more” for the laws to be repealed, saying that their shortcomings have been revealed “yet again”.

We reproduce the text of their letter in full:

We religious leaders of the Christian churches condemn this massive attack and we demand a high-level judicial inquiry and exemplary punishment to all the culprits responsible for this deliberate outrage.

The concerned police officers should be immediately suspended until the findings of the judicial inquiry are concluded.

The ferocity of the attacks has left us stunned. What provoked such heinous sacrileges? It was a baseless rumour that Yusaf Masih, a local Christian, had set the Quran on fire.

The fact of the matter is that Yusaf was playing a game with two Muslims who lost a large sum of money. They asked him to return the money back and when he refused, they turned round and accused him of burning the Quran, the letter stated.

On investigation it revealed that a few pages of Quranic verses were lying in a tin box and these were burned by someone and Yusaf was accused. But this allegation has yet to be proved.

Tension built up over the alleged blasphemy on Friday evening, when certain maulvis (Muslim clerics) began to incite the people on the mosque loudspeakers.

The parish Priest, Fr Samson Dilawar, informed the police on Friday night, twelve hours before the attack. They sent a token force of a few policemen.

But the next morning, at the moment of the attack, there were hardly any policemen on guard duty. They only came in force three hours later after the crowd had dispersed.

The role of the law enforcing agencies in this case needs to be thoroughly investigated because they have deliberately neglected their duty, even after being warned.

The sentiments of the Christian community are profoundly shocked and hurt by these heinous acts of desecration on their sacred places of worship.

We strongly condemn these attacks as acts of terrorism against a weak and defenseless religious minority.

These are not the work of an emotional mob but well trained militants who came from outside armed with sophisticated incendiary powders that produce high-density heat. The ceiling fans and roof girders melted from the intense heat.

The incident sharply reveals the ineffectiveness of the new rules of the Blasphemy law. And once again we call for a total repeal of this Law.

Our people feel very much afraid and insecure and only strong affirmative action on the part of your government will reassure them about the truth of your of repeated statement that “Christians are equal citizens of this country”.

To register our deep dismay and sadness at the wanton desecration of our three churches and Sisters’ convent and schools, we intend to close all our educational institutions on Thursday, November 17, 2005.

If no action is taken, this will be followed by others forms of protest.

Signed by

Mgr Lawrence John Saldanha, Archbishop of Catholic Archbishop of Lahore and President Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Reverend Alexander J. Malik, Moderator, Church of Pakistan,

Victor Azariah, National Council of Churches in Pakistan,

Col. Gulzar Patras, Territorial Commander, Salvation Army.


Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Pakistan blasphemy review -26/11/05

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called on President Musharraf of Pakistan to review the country’s controversial blasphemy law. The Archbishop is in Pakistan to visit quake-stricken zones in the north, to meet with church leaders, and to promote inter-faith understanding.

The appeal from the spiritual head of the world’s 77 million Anglicans comes a few days after the violence perpetrated against the Christian community of Sangla Hill.

On 12 November 2005, a crowd of 2,000 angry Muslims vandalized and then set fire to three churches, a convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a pastor and a parish priest and a hostel for girls, as well as the homes of some local residents.

The rioting was the result of hard-liners alleging that Yousaf Masih, a Christian, burned copies of the Qur’an on 11 November 2005.

But neighbours say that he is an innocent illiterate caught up in a local argument about money which has spawned a potent urban myth.

In Pakistan the blasphemy law hands down the death penalty for apostasy or for desecrating the Qur’an, together with severe penalties for other more minor offences.

Dr Williams has been careful to develop mutually respectful dialogue with Muslim leaders in Pakistan. In a lecture to Islamic scholars in Islamabad earlier in the week he sought to correct popular misunderstandings of Christianity, such as the idea that it worships three gods.

The Archbishop has also said on his visit that “Islam and Christianity are part of the same story that is told differently.” He added that that Christianity is not a Western religion, but one with its founding roots in Asia.

Turning to blasphemy, Dr Williams questioned “a law whose penalty is so severe and whose practice gives so many loopholes [as] to allow people to indulge in arbitrary violence by appealing to blasphemy.”

He called on the Pakistani government to review the law, and to ensure justice and fair treatment for Christians and other minorities alongside the Muslim majority.

In trying to reduce the support base of militant Islamists, President Musharraf is known to be in a quandary over this issue. He has condemned the violence against Christian communities.

However he has also been keen to be seen denouncing the alleged desecration of the Qur’an, in spite of the lack of evidence for it.

Meanwhile Christian and other minority leaders say that the police and the military are not doing enough to stamp out communal violence and abuse.


The Christian presence in the Islamic State: By Nadeem Zia, France

The Islamic republic of Pakistan appeared on the world map on August 14, 1947. The struggle for independence started much earlier than official partition. The population of the country is about 148 million. The minorities form approximately 3% of the total population and the Christians constitute 1.8% of the total population. The purpose is to explore the opportunities and challenges that are faced by the minority Christians in the context of the majority Muslims with whom they have to interact in Pakistan.

The Religion of the Majority

To understand the opportunities and difficulties of the Christian minorities in Pakistan, it is essential to know about the religion of the majority. In order to understand the religion of the majority one has to familiarize oneself with the belief, worship, practice and their application in daily life. The kind of religion that has developed in subcontinent is intolerant and intransigent. Dr. Kamran Ahmed writes in the interpretation, “there is no room for doubt, no chance of multiplicity of truth-claims, no freedom for Muslims to convert to other religions and there is a very strong sense of duty to fight in the name of religion. Thus the doctrinal apparatus of formal Islam that has developed here is against the spirit of pluralism.” Although the Sufi tradition was quite tolerant but intolerance overpowered this tradition. In this context the Christian minority has availed itself of some opportunities and has encountered some difficulties as well.


One area or field in which the Christians can interact with the Muslim brethren and sisters is the Christian school. The Christian schools, especially catholic schools, run by the nuns are considered the best educational institutes in the country, where moral, social, spiritual and religious values are imparted in the daily discharge of duties. They cater to the integral development of the students. During their entire stay in the school, the parents and students experience something of the Christian religion such as love, goodness, peace, concern, tolerance, honesty, hard work, discipline, responsibility and punctuality. They too in return influence them and they try to change their attitudes.

This is a place of dialogue where teachers meet from time to time not only to discuss the progress of the students, but also to interchange ideas on social and cultural affairs. This gives them an opportunity to meet other parents and exchange ideas. Thus schools become a place for a dialogue of life.

Another positive attitude that is furnished by the schools is active participation of all the parents towards the welfare of the weak and the needy. The people offer financial help to schools. This experience is also another way of dialogue of life.


In general the life of the minority Christians is a little hard. It contains some elements of violence, corruption, and revenge. It is therefore, very natural that this aspect operates in the schools as well. Since Christian schools cannot accommodate all the students of the area, at the time of admission, there comes a lot of pressure, threats, bribes, donations and recommendations. If none-of these work, then the heads of the school and even teachers become the victims of revenge in different forms.

Another difficulty, which is faced by our people, is the school Syllabi. The textbooks used in schools are politically and ideologically influenced and only provide a limited and one-sided viewpoint. This leads to student intolerance and prejudice. The remedy to this problem could be the introduction of universal and global issues in the textbooks and the contents of the course. The textbooks could be made more universal than local. The private sector is more open to this, but the Government policies encourage and foster the introduction of ideology.


The Christian Hospitals too have played a crucial role in building up positive and good relationships with all the people. In these hospitals, the real dialogue of life takes place when the doctors, nurses and paramedical staff go beyond their role playing. The service of healing without consideration of caste, creed, and race and gender distinction creates an impact on the people. The dignity and self-esteem of the patient is hereby maintained. These hospitals are also models and examples of good care, discipline, good service and hygiene.

These Christian hospitals have also provided opportunities for training of nurses. Nurses trained in these Christian hospitals, are much respected and have more chances of jobs in any good hospital in the country as well as abroad.

One of the main difficulties faced by our Christian students is that the administration of many hospitals has been given to Muslim Doctors. As a result the number of admissions of the Christian students in these hospitals is very limited and it is much more difficult for them to get admission in Government run hospitals and nursing schools. Sometimes, the interaction between the Christian nurses and the Muslim doctors leads to a marriage, which creates a lot of social and religious problems.

Faith Education

The early Missionaries in general and those in Pakistan in particular made many conversions to Christianity in the subcontinent. The converts were mostly from the lower class or the scheduled class. Being originally from low class Hindu and Muslim background, their attitude towards life and people were very passive and submissive and without self-esteem. Conversions did not change their attitude. Most Christians are sanitation workers in Pakistan. And they are looked down by people of the majority and those holding high offices.

The Muslim community in the subcontinent has always been a ruling class. They have not forgotten their role as rulers and therefore they carry this complex in normal life. On the other hand, the majority of Christians has always experienced discrimination. The Christians have never, in the history of the sub-continent, played any key role at the Government level. Even illiterate and uneducated Muslims consider themselves superior to the educated Christian.

The janitors and those who work in the houses of Muslims are humiliated, maltreated and degraded in many ways and forms. The women and young girls who go to different houses for laundry and cleaning are many times raped and sometime forcefully converted to Islam. Many times when there is no other reason to fire them, the owner will simply accuse them of theft, knowing that there is no one to back them. Therefore, it has become imperative that these people have to be conscientized and restored to dignity and self-esteem. Inter-faith dialogue has to begin after addressing these issues.

There is no doubt that there are many educated Christians and many educated Muslims who are working for the harmony and mutual understanding of both faiths, peace and tolerance. But this is confined only to the intellectual circle, whereas the majority of the people are uneducated. We are not denying the great impact of the dialogue maintained at this level, but this does not fill the gap, which lies between the common people of two religions.

Common people are always involved in the dialogue of life in their daily routine work. At the level of ordinary life people are quite open to extend a helping hand to their neighbors. This dialogue operates at the level of exchanging food at the time of feasts and other celebrations; borrowing foodstuff, requesting favors from children to perform petty jobs. The children of the same street become friends and maintain this friendship even after they are grown up.

Another need that requires careful attention for people of both religions is to reconsider and reevaluate the concept of sacred and profane. The notion of sacredness plays an important role in the lives of Muslims. In the name of religion, one goes against the sacredness of life. It can create chaos and people can unintentionally hurt the religious and sacred feelings of their brothers and sisters. To deal harshly with such cases, there exists a law in the penal code of Pakistan known as "The Blasphemy Law." 29SC.

Popular Devotions

The common people usually follow popular devotions. It provides spiritual, psychological and social satis6dion to the people of both religions at the national Marian shrine at Mariamabad one can meet Muslims as well as Christians paying their homage to Mary. On the other hand, Christians go to the shrine of Bahauddin Zakariya or Bhaga Sher at Multan and Data Darbar at Lahore. Many people return to Mariamabad every year to thank God for the favors received. Most of the time, Muslim women visit the shrine in order to ask for the favors of a child. The Holy Quran mentions Jesus, Mary and other prophets as worthy of reverence.

Social, Legal and Political System

The religion has been the cause of discriminatory laws in the country. It is the society, which interprets it for its own benefits. The subcontinent had experienced caste system; feudal system in India and Pakistan, and some elements of the colonial mentality is still prevalent.

On the other hand, the poor are humiliated, discriminated against, degraded and punished even for a minor fault. Because of this experience, the social, cultural, moral, and religious values of both the groups differ from each other. To fill this need we need to provide education to the poor to help them begin the upward mobility. And avail them of the economic progress.

The Process of Islamization and the legal and political system are a threat to the Christians. The most serious and deeply felt threat is that they are not included in the main stream. Thus they are considered “second-class citizens”, and this means that they are deprived of many basic rights. The blasphemy laws, quota system for admission in different professional institutes, and family and marriage problems are some of the instances of discrimination. This is against the wishes of the founder of Pakistan, the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who in the charter of the rights on 11th August 1947 said: “we are all citizens and equal citizens of the state. You may belong to any religion or caste and creed that have nothing to do with the business of the State. You will no doubt; agree with me that the first duty of the Government is to maintain law and order, so that the life property and the religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected”.

As Pakistan is considered an ideological state based on religion, all non-Muslims are treated as religious minorities. It is the government’s obligation to protect all the rights and interests of the non-Muslims. We have already entered into the third Millennium. We earnestly wish that the world may become the place of peace for all who are discriminated, suppressed and oppressed. It is believed that Christianity is a religion of Law and Islam is the religion of peace - law and peace brings harmony. And harmony means bringing a faith dialogue. A human being has to develop himself into a man of hope, faith and love. And “Love alone can heal the world”.

Nadeem ZIA

Paris Arch-Diocese



Pakistan's gleaming surgical instruments, export tarnished by child labor

Thursday, December 7, 2006

SIALKOT, Pakistan

The ceaseless sound of tapping metal echoes through these muddy, garbage-strewn alleys where thousands of workers in crumbling brick hovels churn out one of Pakistan's most successful exports — surgical instruments.

Home to more than 2,000 instrument makers, this city is one of the world's top producers of high-precision scalpels, forceps and retractors, almost all of which are bound for emergency rooms in the United States and other rich countries, where they help to save lives.

Yet, most patients a world away are unaware that the gleam of these spotless tools are often tarnished by the toil of child workers slogging away in dank workshops clouded with metal dust and earning just a few dollars (euros) a month.

That is starting to change, thanks to a United Nations-backed industry initiative to put child laborers back in school.

While the program underlines Pakistan's growing determination to tackle one of its biggest social scourges, it highlights how difficult eradicating child labor can be in a country where per capita income is only US$736 (€553.51) a year.

"I like to work," says 12-year-old Kabir Qadeer, who has done odd jobs at a dental instrument maker for the past year-and-a-half for 1,100 rupees (US$18; €13) a month. "I had no interest in school and quit. So my mother told me to get a job."

Today, Qadeer is back at school — albeit for only two hours a day after his seven-hour shift — under a program sponsored by the U.N. International Labor Organization and the Surgical Instrument Manufacturers Association of Pakistan, or SIMAP.

Launched in 2000, the program is modeled after a similar initiative that has won international acclaim for reducing child labor in Sialkot's booming soccer ball and sports equipment industry, which supply companies like Nike and Adidas.

When the program wraps up its second phase on Dec. 31, it will have taken more than 2,600 of an estimated 5,000 child laborers out of the surgical tool industry.

The next phase, through 2008, will target the remainder.

"We felt it was our responsibility to do something," said Syed Waseem Abbas, senior vice chairman of SIMAP, and chief executive of Professional Hospital Furnishers.

No children are employed by SIMAP's 2,300 members, according to the ILO.

The problem, however, lies with subcontractors that do as much as 70 percent of the finished product for bigger companies in town. There are 2,000 of these tiny workshops, sometimes employing only a couple of people each and often operating below the radar of monitors. Precision work on heavy equipment such as lathes is not usually done by children, but they are routinely employed in jobs such as cleaning and sorting.

Nike's recent clash with its Sialkot supplier of hand-stitched soccer balls shows how child labor often slips through the cracks. Last month, Nike canceled orders from Saga Sports after accusing the company of farming out work to subcontractors that used underaged workers.

International outcry about surgical instruments is quiet, by contrast, partly because Sialkot's medical goods are resold countless times by international wholesalers.

Sometimes equipment made here is even stamped "made in Germany" at the request of middlemen worried about Pakistan's image — further obscuring their origin.

Sialkot's roots in surgical instruments stretch back centuries to the Punjabi swordsmiths of the Mogul empire. But it got its modern boost during World War II, when British colonial authorities called on the city's craftsmen for badly needed medical supplies.

Nowadays, the city pumps out 100 million instruments a year, and the United States and Germany are its biggest markets. International buyers may pay Sialkot suppliers US$2 (€1.5) for forceps that eventually fetch upward of US$60 (€45) when sold to a hospital, Abbas said.

The gap is part of the problem, say some labor rights activists.

Fairer trade would give Sialkot companies a bigger slice of the final sale and allow them to raise pay and improve working conditions of their employees.

"The solution lies in purchasers promoting fair trade, rather than a simple 'we won't buy child labor.' This only makes the poor poorer," says Mahmood Bhutta, a doctor in Britain who has written on surgical instrument labor and is trying to set up a fair-trade supplier.

But many poor Pakistani families rely on incomes from their children to get by. UNICEF, the UN's child agency, estimates there are 3.6 million working boys and girls under age 14 in Pakistan, mostly engaged in carpet weaving, brick making, agriculture and deep sea fishing.

"The problem with our country is that we accept child labor as a way of life," said Fazila Gulrez, spokeswoman for the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. "There's not a single economic sector in Pakistan where children are not employed."

Twelve-year-old Qadeer is among those apparently satisfied with the status quo.

Gathering half-finished dental probes from the grit-covered factory floor, he says he can't wait to turn 15 so he can graduate to the grinders, lathes and other machines reserved for his elders. His boss, who started work at 14, has promised 100 rupees (US$1.60; €1.2) a day then.


Pakistan's crisis deepens Declan Walsh in Islamabad
Friday July 6, 2007
Guardian Unlimited  

The sense of crisis gripping Pakistan swelled today as a bloody mosque siege stretched into its fourth day, suspected militants targeted President Pervez Musharraf's plane and a suicide bomber killed six soldiers near the Afghan border.

Gunfire rang out in a congested district of Rawalpindi in the morning, shortly after a plane carrying Gen Musharraf took off. The aircraft was not hit and police traced the shots to a nearby house where they found a rifle and an anti-aircraft gun on the roof.

Security officials described it as a failed assassination attempt but the main military spokesman, Major General Waheed Arshad, said that only the AK-47 rifle had been discharged, suggesting the president was in only limited danger.

Gen Musharraf's plane landed safely in western Baluchistan province, where recent floods killed 200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. The military leader has already survived two assassination attempts, a fact that has burnished his reputation as a warrior against militancy amongst western allies.

The degree to which extremism has taken root during Gen Musharraf's eight-year rule of Pakistan was clear in nearby Islamabad, however, where his troops continued their siege of the Red Mosque complex.

Bursts of heavy gunfire coupled with deafening explosions erupted from the mosque throughout the day, interspersed with loudhailer appeals from officers calling on the militants inside to give themselves up.

An estimated 400-500 students were inside the mosque, 60 of them heavily armed with automatic weapons, grenades and petrol bombs, according to the interior minister. The remainder are said to be mostly children, about half of them girls. Their leader, the radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, declared he would rather die than surrender.

"We can be martyred but we will not court arrest," he said in a defiant interview with a local television station. "We are more determined now."

The minister of state for information, Tariq Azim, dismissed the talk of martyrdom as a bluff, noting that Ghazi's brother Abdul Aziz had already been captured trying to flee the mosque under the disguise of a burka.

Ghazi denied he was forcing students as young as five to remain inside the bullet-marked mosque, but worried parents waiting outside told a different story.

At lunchtime his militants opened fired on a group of relatives as they approached the mosque, shooting one man in the foot. He limped back to army lines and was sent to hospital.

"They say they are Islamic but they go outside in a burka," raged Babar Khan, who was waiting for his two teenage cousins. "Meanwhile poor children are going to die."

The siege has traumatized Islamabad, a carefully planned and often lethargic city where residents like to joke about the dullness of life. The Red Mosque is in the heart of G-6, a tree-lined neighbourhood popular with Pakistani bureaucrats and foreign diplomats.

Since Tuesday G-6 has been cut off from the outside world by barbed wire and troops with orders to shoot on sight. Residents have been roused from sleep by barrages of gunfire and explosion. "It's been absolutely terrifying," said one.

An indefinite curfew was briefly lifted today to allow residents to seek food or escape to a safer sector.

The rise of violent extremism was also highlighted in Dir, a remote town in North West Frontier province, where a suicide bomber flung himself at an army convoy. Six soldiers were killed and three injured, Reuters reported.


Urban Pakistanis split on militants

As violence intensifies once again in the tribal areas, polls reveal divisions among the middle class on whether a military response is the best answer to extremism.

By Shahan Mufti

Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor from the October 31, 2007 edition


Reporter Shahan Mufti discusses how the Pakistani middle class is affected by the ongoing struggle between the army and militants.

Islamabad, Pakistan - The suicide bombing a few kilometers away from the Army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday afternoon left at least seven dead and dozens wounded. It also reinforced fears that Pakistan's more rapidly modernizing major cities and towns may now feel the fight that the Pakistani Army has lately taken to the militants in its remote tribal areas.

Despite the increasing violence, many educated urban-dwellers – part of a growing middle class of moderate, educated Pakistanis – find themselves stuck in the middle of a war that they are still reluctant to embrace as their own. The public's lack of ownership for the conflict has led to an emerging dialogue here as to whether meeting the Taliban threat with conventional military attacks will do more to incite violence than to quell it.

There is also a growing perception among educated Pakistanis that it is America's failure in Afghanistan that has pushed Pakistan into the global war on terrorism and has emboldened extremes on both sides in the process.

A poll released Wednesday by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that less than half of urban Pakistanis favor sending the Pakistani Army to the Northwestern tribal areas to "pursue and capture Al-Qaeda fighters." Only 48 percent want the Pakistani Army to act against "Taliban insurgents who have crossed over from Afghanistan." [Editor's note: The above data was embargoed until early Wednesday morning.]

Yet even as a majority expresses disenchantment with the military's involvement in politics, many people still acknowledge that Pakistan depends upon that same Army to prevent retrograde religious militants from making deeper inroads into the country from their bases in the tribal territories and the more remote sections of the North West Frontier Province.

The bombing comes after intense battles in the Swat District in the Frontier Province this week, which has left more than 100 security personnel and militants dead. Once a thriving mountainous tourist town with some of the best skiing in the country, Swat and surrounding areas have, in recent weeks, become a bloody battleground.

An army of some 5,000 militants, led by Maulana Fazlullah, a local cleric notorious for his illegal radio channel on which he preaches jihad against the American-backed state, have also taken security officials hostage. Some were decapitated and their heads paraded through the streets. Pakistanis had heard of such gruesome violence in the far-flung, autonomous tribal regions, but never in "settled areas" like Swat, which are under state jurisdiction.

"People are viewing the Army's fight against terrorism as an extension of America's agenda in the region," says Khalid Rahman of the Institute for Policy Studies in Islamabad. "And the government also seems to be using this as a chance to secure its own place" at a time when its own popularity is plummeting.

Despite their apprehensions, many still say that historic negligence of the North West Frontier and tribal areas lies at the root of the problem.

"The people in these regions have never really developed faith in the system," says Asha Amirali, a political activist with the People's Rights Movement of Pakistan, an Islamabad-based social justice advocacy group. "They have lost faith in the politicians, and the judicial system at the grass roots is still impotent and disconnected from the rest of the country."

Even though Ms. Amirali, and many like her, fear what has been termed "talibanization," they also think the country is at a critical juncture, where it can be free from Army rule after eight years under President Pervez Musharraf.

The events in Swat have a haunting resonance to the confrontation in July between religious militants and security forces that resulted in the deaths of nearly 200 people at Islamabad's Red Mosque. But things were slightly different a few months ago. Then, prominent secular civil society leaders, academics, and activists had decried the militants' flaunting of the law and many in Pakistan had backed the state to take on the holdouts in the mosque compound. When the state finally did act, it left behind rumors of mass graves full of children and hostages.

"The way it was handled, it just created more hate and violence in the country," says Khurram Jamali, an investment fund manager in Karachi. Few felt much safer in the aftermath; major cities began witnessing their first suicide bombings. Mr. Fazlullah, the leader of the militant group in Swat, publicly decried the Army's operation then. Now, Mr. Jamali says, people might think twice before taking a stance. "At some level, I want the Army to act," he admits. "But I am also worried about where the battle will appear next if the violence continues."


Attacks on Khyber trucking threaten US supply line


May 20, 2008

KHYBER AGENCY, Pakistan (AP) — Thieves, feuding tribesmen and Taliban militants are creating chaos along the main Pakistan-Afghanistan highway, threatening a vital supply line for U.S. and NATO forces.

Abductions and arson attacks on the hundreds of cargo trucks plying the switchback road through the Khyber Pass have become commonplace this year. Many of the trucks carry fuel and other material for foreign troops based in Afghanistan.

U.S. and NATO officials play down their losses in these arid mountains of northwestern Pakistan — even though the local arms bazaar offers U.S.-made assault rifles and Beretta pistols, and the alliance is negotiating to open routes through other countries.

The most high-profile victim of the lawlessness has been Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan. The 56-year-old was snatched from his Mercedes limousine three months ago while driving toward the border. He wasn't freed until Saturday. Pakistan's government denied it was part of a prisoner swap last week with militants.

A senior government official said Azizuddin's kidnapping was carried out by one of dozens of criminal gangs operating in the region, who then sold the ambassador to the Taliban. The official agreed to discuss the case only if not identified, citing the sensitivity of the efforts that led to the envoy's release.

"The security is absolutely becoming precarious and this poses a threat for U.S. and NATO supplies, but it is also a source of concern for Pakistan," said Mehmood Shah, former security chief for the region. "It's a complex mix (of factors), but it is getting more dangerous."

Regular trade is also being disrupted by the raids on trucks traveling what is a vital lifeline for impoverished Afghanistan, but there is disagreement about how serious the problem is.

Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, who heads an association of Pakistani customs agents helping traders move goods through the customs post at Torkham, claimed the average number of trucks has dropped to 250 a day from 500 early this year, before violence escalated.

However, Abdul Ghani, a commander of Afghan border guards, said there had been only a "small drop" in the number of trucks crossing. He had no numbers.

Fuel tankers, in particular, have become a target for militants seeking to disrupt supplies to NATO and the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.

In April, a bomb strapped to a truck carrying 11,440 gallons of fuel exploded as the vehicle sat near the Torkham customs post waiting to cross from Khyber. In March, a bomb attack destroyed some 40 tankers in a parking lot. Dozens of people were injured by the raging fires.

Most material for foreign troops in Afghanistan arrives by ship at the Pakistani port of Karachi in unmarked shipping containers and is loaded on South Asia's colorfully decorated "jingle" trucks to be driven to destinations like Bagram Air Base, north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

NATO and U.S. officials won't say whether the trucks carry weapons and ammunition in addition to food, fuel and other supplies. They suggest that theft — not a disruption campaign by militant groups — is the main problem behind the raids on trucking.

The coalition has "no indication of a pattern by the enemy to attack our supplies," said a coalition spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green.

Yet NATO is seeking to reduce its dependence on the Khyber route by negotiating with Russia and other nations to allow it to truck in "non-lethal" supplies to Afghanistan through Central Asia.

"It's always good to have alternatives," spokesman James Appathurai said at NATO headquarters in Brussels. "One route for supplies is not necessarily the best way forward."

In Khyber, a mountainous enclave that abuts the main northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar, U.S. weapons and other supplies — boots, camouflage uniforms and rucksacks — are offered openly for sale.

Saifur Rahman Zalmay, a weapons dealer of 30 years, hawks U.S.-made assault rifles and pistols. For a new Beretta, he demands $10,000. New and used M-16s rifles are a few thousand dollars less — far more than Western armies pay.

Zalmay claimed some of the second-hand rifles were sold to arms dealers by Mullah Ismail, a Taliban commander killed in April in Pakistan. Ismail led a June 2005 ambush of U.S. commandos in eastern Afghanistan and shot down a Chinook helicopter sent to rescue them. Sixteen American special forces soldiers died on the chopper.

Shah, the former regional security chief, said local tribes are paid a government stipend to secure the route for regular trade as well as military supplies. But the authority of tribal elders in Khyber has been weakening, as it is all along the frontier.

Ikramullah Khan Afridi, a tribal leader, blamed that trend on the proliferation of radical clerics who are sympathetic to the Taliban and have established parallel administrations and their own militias.

"The traditional mechanism of controlling the area through the jirga (council of elders) of the tribal area has been weakened while the mullahs are taking the law into their own hands," Afridi said. "Now they are out of control."

Rivalry between extremists has also spawned violence, such as a May 1 suicide bombing that wounded dozens of people near Bara, one of Khyber's main towns. It targeted the headquarters of an Islamic fundamentalist group calling itself Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The group accused Taliban militants from nearby Waziristan of sending the bomber.

Khyber was once regarded as one of the safest of Pakistan's seven semiautonomous tribal regions on the rugged frontier. It was one of the few that foreigners, including diplomats and aid workers, were allowed to venture into, although only to travel to Afghanistan.

The deteriorating security comes despite a relative lull in violence in other parts of Pakistan's frontier regions in recent months. The Pakistani government that came to power in February elections is using tribal intermediaries to try to forge peace with militants, most notably in South and North Waziristan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida are strongest.

Maulvi Abdul Rahman, a Taliban leader, claimed the militants have strong enough ties with influential clerics in Khyber to scuttle any peace talks.

Washington is skeptical that the government's strategy will work anyway. Taking a longer view, it is planning to spend millions of dollars upgrading Pakistan's Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of tribesmen that is struggling to provide security in the region, including along the crossborder highway.

"They would be the force that should protect U.S. and NATO supplies to Afghanistan," said Pakistan's military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. The U.S. training program will start in the last half of this year, he said.

But Zalmay, the gun dealer, is skeptical the Frontier Corps can stop either thieves or the Taliban.

"The Frontier Corps does zero," he said.

Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Fisnik Abrashi in Kabul and Paul Ames in Brussels contributed to this report.