Friday, May 22, 2015

Pakistan's Shia Genocide - Two Shias gunned down in Peshawar

Two Shias were killed and two others injured as gunmen opened fire at their vehicle in Hayatabad area of Peshawar on Friday.
“Unidentified assailants opened fire at a vehicle in which four people were traveling in Hayatabad Phase I,” a police official told The Express Tribune.
“They belonged to the Shia Muslim community and it appears to be a sectarian attack,” the official added.
In February, heavily armed militants stormed a Shia mosque in Hayatabad killing at least 19 people in an attack claimed by the Taliban as revenge for the execution of one of their cadres.
Three attackers with grenades, Kalashnikovs and explosive suicide vests struck at the Imamia mosque at the time of the main Friday prayers.

Pakistan's educated jihadists

Several people have been arrested in connection with Pakistan's Shiite killings and the murder of activist, Mahmud. These suspects are well-educated, urban youth. DW analyzes the "modern jihadist" phenomenon in Pakistan.
Pakistani Shiite Muslims burn tyres during a protest against the suicide bombing that killed dozens of their community members in the Lakhi Dar area of Shikarpur, in Karachi, Pakistan, 30 January 2015
(Photo: EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++)
The militants involved in killing some 50 Ismaili Shiites and murdering human rights campaigner Sabeen Mahmud in April have been arrested and are now in custody, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan told reporters on Wednesday, May 21.
Around 50 people were killed and more than a dozen others injured on May 13 when armed men fired at a bus carrying members of the Ismaili community - a minority Shiite Muslim sub-sect - near Safoora Chowk in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi. It was the worst anti-Shiite assault in Pakistan since January 30, when a suicide attack in a mosque in the southern Shikarpur district claimed 61 lives.
A month earlier, rights activist Sabeen Mahmud was also killed in Karachi by unidentified gunmen. She was on her way home in her car after organizing a seminar on the Balochistan conflict and thePakistani military's alleged atrocities in the restive province.
Pakistani authorities said that the arrested suspects confessed to various other crimes, including grenade attacks on schools and security forces and an assault on an American educator.
Screenshot Twitter
Mahmud's death has broken the silence surrounding alleged military atrocities in Balochistan
It is not clear whether these men belonged to a known Islamist group, but the security officials claim at least one of them was in contact with al Qaeda's chief, Ayman al Zawahiri.
But what is more concerning is that many of these suspects are university graduates, having studied disciplines as diverse as engineering, business and Islamic studies.
Suspects' profiles
On May 21, Qaim Ali Shah, the chief minister of the southern Sindh province, shared the suspects' details with reporters at a press conference in Karachi.
According to Shah, Tahir Hussain Minhas, who masterminded the Ismaili killings, was a trained terrorist with an expertise in bomb-making. Minhas had personally met al Qaeda's slain leader Osama bin Laden and the current chief Zawahiri on number of occasions, he said.
Saad Aziz, who confessed to murdering Mahmud, had a degree in business administration from one of Pakistan's most prestigious business schools, the Institute of Business Administration (IBA). He has been involved in terrorist activities since 2009, the chief minister said.
Another captured suspect, Mohammad Azfar Ishrat, is an engineer by profession, whereas Haafiz Nasir received a Masters degree in Islamic Studies from Karachi University. Nasir was particularly involved in motivating people for "jihad."
Urban jihadism
The jihadist activities in Pakistan are usually associated with organizations like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Most people in the West tend to believe that poor madrassah students in parts of Pakistan, particularly in the semi-governed northern tribal region near Afghanistan, are behind the ongoing militancy in the Islamic country. It is true that the Taliban and other Islamist groups with roots in the restive tribal areas do carry out violent attacks in Pakistan (the assault on Malala Yusufzai and the December 16 carnage in a Peshawar school are examples), however, the phenomenon of urban jihadism is not new in Pakistan, and is largely overlooked.
"Political Islam is very much an urban phenomenon and we can't ignore this aspect, while analyzing the growth of extremism in Pakistan," Asad Butt, a Vice Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an independent rights group, told DW.
"The West only focuses on the madrassah education, but what is equally important to look at is the curriculum taught in Pakistan's mainstream educational institutions, which nurtures a jihadist mindset and preaches violence," Butt added. "The growth of extremism and intolerance is not only related to poverty, otherwise we wouldn't have seen the urban-based affluent people resorting to hard-line Islamist ideologies and pan-Islamism, which talk about global jihad."
Tanveer Ahmed, a student at Karachi University, agrees with Butt's analysis: "There is no room for liberal voices at our university. The authorities don't allow dissent. A clear example of this is that a secular forum of teachers and students wanted to hold a seminar on Balochistan and Mahmud's murder at the campus earlier this month, but the authorities didn't allow it." Ahmed said the seminar organizers had to hold the talk outside the university auditorium in open air.
Identity crisis, Islam, and political Islam
Butt believes that youngsters, like Saad Aziz, suffer from an identity void which they try to fill in with an Islamist ideology.
Karachi, Pakistan
(Photo: Shamil Shams/DW)
Extremism is not restricted to Pakistan's rural and impoverished areas
"They look at the Middle East. They talk about the US policies in the world, the wars in the Muslim countries. They are actually searching for an identity," he said, adding that the Pakistani state had deliberately tried to build an "Arabic identity" for its citizens, linking their history to the Arab states and detaching them from their Indian roots to cement their regional strategic interests.
"I don't know what is taught at madrassahs, I can tell you with authority that what they teach at universities can force anyone to become a militant," Ahmed emphasized.
But there are people in Pakistan who argue that political Islam is a global phenomenon but those who are becoming radicalized in the country also get impetus from their own ruling elite's corruption and governance failures. They say that Pakistani Muslims, particularly the youth, are "overly sensitive" not only about the vulnerability of Islam globally but also about a lack of direction domestically.
"Islam is in a particularly vulnerable point of the arc in present times. Pakistani Islam experiences more elaborate anxieties, and therefore acts out more, compared to other Islams because of our national anxieties," Ali Hassan, a Pakistani writer in Karachi, told DW.
Experts say that if these "anxieties" - no sense of direction, unemployment, rampant corruption, the failing economy - are not addressed by the government, the country's youth will continue to seek answers in extremist doctrines. The state cannot defeat terrorism by force - secular education and a change of course vis-à-vis Pakistan's Islamic ideology could play a big role in reversing the tide.

Takfiri militants running terrorist network inside Pakistani Universities: Report

Arrested in connection with the Safoora Goth carnage and killing of rights activist Sabeen Mahmud, the “well-educated” criminals also have confessed to grenade attacks on schools, bomb attacks on police vans, a naval officer and a Rangers brigadier, a gun attack on an American educationist and targeted killing of police officials and Shia community in Pakistan.
This was disclosed by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah while addressing a crowded press conference at CM House on Wednesday evening. He was accompanied by Speaker of the Sindh Assembly Agha Siraj Durrani, Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro and the provincial police chief.
About the arms and ammunition recovered from the militants, the chief minister said that the police seized three Kalashnikov rifles, seven 9mm rifles, five grenades, seven laptops, explosive material and terrorism literature.
Without naming any political or banned organisation involved in the terrorism activities, the chief minister said it would be premature to identify the group involved in the heinous crimes until a joint interrogation team completed its investigation.
However, he said, in recognition of outstanding performance of the police in solving such high-profile cases, he announced a cash award of Rs50 million for the DIG of the recently set-up anti-terrorist department Arif Hanif Khan and another official Raja Omar Khattab.
He said the officials were praiseworthy in that they had also detected the criminals and their facilitators behind the Shikarpur Imambargah blast and the killing of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro.
The chief minister said he would recommend their names for promotion in recognition of their performance.
Mr Shah said many more disclosures were expected as investigation was yet to be completed. He said he had asked to set up a JIT comprising the Sindh police and our other personnel who also had rendered valuable services and offered sacrifices, Rangers and other agencies officials who are member of the Sindh apex committee for verification of their offences.
He asked the police chief to file a report within a week after the formation of the JIT. Although the militants had already confessed to their involvement in terrorism activities, it would be appropriate that JIT be given the task to interrogate them as the cases were important and sensitive.
In reply to a question about involvement of the Indian intelligence agency RAW in the Safoora Goth bus tragedy, Mr Shah said RAW had been active right from Balochistan till Karachi, but at this stage he could not name the agency with confidence. It would only be determined after the JIT completed its work, he added.
In reply to a question, Mr Shah said that so far he had report about the four criminals but it could be possible that many others were also involved in the cases.
He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had congratulated him by phone over detection and arrest of the culprits and asked him to also appreciate the Sindh police.
On the occasion, the chief minister read out the names of the militants, their profiles and the crimes they confessed to have committed.
Tahir Hussain Minhas alias Sain Nazir alias Zahid, alias Naveed alias Khalil, alias Shaukat and alias Mota-matriculate, who is the mastermind of the Safoora Goth carnage, has been involved in terror activities since 1998. A trained terrorist who has expertise in making bombs and using arms such as RPG-7 and Kalashnikov.
He had personally met Osama Bin Ladin and Aiman-uz-Zawahiri of Al Qaeda on several occasions.
Saad Aziz alias Tin Tin alias John, who is the mastermind of the attack on civil society representative Sabeen Mahmud, has done BBA from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi. Taking part in terrorist activities since 2009, Aziz is a trained militant with expertise in producing different types of literature. He provided funds for terror activities in the city.
Mohammad Azfar Ishrat alias Maajid is an engineer having passed out from the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology. Involved in terrorist activities since 2011, Ishrat is a trained terrorist who has expertise in making bombs and electronic circuits used as timers in such bombs.
Haafiz Nasir alias Yasir, who completed MA in Islamic Studies from Karachi University, has been involved in terrorist activities since 2013. A trained terrorist, Nasir has expertise in brainwashing and motivating people for ‘Jihadi’ activities.
The confessions made by these terrorists include the carnage of Safoora Goth, murder of Sabeen Mahmud in Defence, firing on American educationist Debra Lobo in the Ferozabad area, bomb attack on a naval officer and suicidal attack on Brig Basit of the Rangers, grenade attack on schools and throwing pamphlets in Nazimabad and North Nazimabad, bomb blast and targeted killings on the Bohri community in the area of Arambagh, North Nazimabad, Bahadurbad Karachi and Hyderabad, bomb attacks on police vans on M.A. Jinnah Road, Arambagh, Gulberg, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, NIPA Chowrangi, North Nazimabad and North Krachi and in the targeted killing of police officials in Gulistan-i-Jauhar, North Nazimabad, North Karachi, Shah Faisal Colony and Landhi.

Over 4,000 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan and Afghanistan granted Indian citizenship

Over the past one year, the Narendra Modi-led government has granted Indian citizenship to over 4,200 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan and Afghanistan which is nearly four times the number of the preceding five years.
Figures at the end of April 2015 showed that the BJP government approved citizenship for 4,230 Hindus and Sikhs from the two countries who have sought refuge in India. This was in stark contrast to the 1,023 granted by the Congress-led UPA-II.
BJP had declared its aim of positioning India as a refuge for Hindus fleeing persecution anywhere in the world and the increase in these grants seem to fall in line with their aims.
In its election manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had declared India as “a natural home for persecuted Hindus” who “shall be welcome to seek refuge”.
“The numbers of those granted citizenship are miniscule as compared to the country’s population. Government has taken a call resolve the problems being faced by people of Indian origin who in anyway were staying in the country for long,” a home ministry spokesperson said.
As the home ministry steps up efforts to expedite long-term visas and citizenship to those fleeing Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, Hindus from the neighbouring Islamic countries would see a sharp increase in getting Indian nationality government officials confirmed.
Almost 19,000 migrants have already been handed long-term visas after the BJP government took over in Delhi last May.
Some 11,000 persons have been granted visas, which precede citizenship, in Rajasthan, while in case of Gujarat, the figure is around 4,000, said officials familiar with the drive.
The changes in the Citizenship Act that ensure faster disposal of citizenship requests have the potential to open up the floodgates, swelling the number of those eventually allowed to be permanently based in India to around 10 lakhs by December 2016.

Pakistan - 69 Christian families searching for their youth picked by police from Youhanabad

Unfortunately Youhanabad’s tragedy still continues. Originally 69 families had contacted CLAAS for legal aid help as their loved ones were missing. CLAAS is trying its level best to get justice for all the victims who have been charged under the anti-terrorism act, public nuisance and disorder and in connection of the lynching of two Muslims.

Altogether three FIRS have been registered and several Christians have been arrested. Since CLAAS applied in court for their post arrest bail, 10 people have been released, namely Faisal Masih, Sadaqat Masih, Sunny Bhatti, Moon Panu, Shamoun Masih, Shamshad Masih, Sharafat, Irfan Masih, Neela, and Patras.

Also, on May 15, 2015 CLAAS has further applied for post-arrest bails of 18 Christians in the court of Mr. Muhammad Qasim Learned Judge Anti-Terrorism Court, Lahore which was originally fixed for May 19, 2015 for arguments and on the said date arguments not heard and next date is May 23, 2015.

All these Christians come from Youhanabad, where on 13 March two churches and their Sunday congregations, were attacked by suicide bombers, leaving 14 people dead and more than 70 injured. Many Christian have been arrested mere on suspicions. While there are rumors that the government have another list and is still looking to arrest more people who are presently on the run.

Meanwhile, the appeal of self-confessed killer Mumtaz Qadri has been granted, while innocent Aasia Bibi is still waiting for a hearing date.

Qadri has confessed to killing former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer over alleged blasphemy remarks, and has been granted leave to appeal his death sentence.

After hearing his lawyer’s arguments, the judges decided on five questions that needed to be answered – whether the governor had committed blasphemy, whether Qadri thought he had, if Qadri was motivated by religion, if Qadri confessed to the killing before the trial court then would it not attract the death sentence, and whether there were mitigating circumstances to reduce the sentence.

His appeal to be set for a date in October, Meanwhile, Aasia Bibi lodged a final successful appeal at the Supreme Court last November, but a date is yet to be fixed, but surprisingly Mumtaz Qadri’s appeal has already been fixed for hearing. Aasia Bibi has been charged under the blasphemy law and since 2010 is on death row. The Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer supported getting Aasia Bibi justice, but in January 2011 his own bodyguard, Qadri, killed him for supporting her.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Video Report - UNESCO 'very concerned' about ancient Syrian city of Palmyra

Video Report - Obama: ISIS strategy isn't failing

Be honest: ISIS fight will be a long one

Despite months of an American-led bombing campaign, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syriahas conquered the Iraqi city of Ramadi. It is a major setback, and it should compel policymakers to assess whether our strategy -- which in the near term boils down to containing and disrupting ISIS while we bolster stable governance in Iraq -- is working. What it should not do is prompt half-baked calls for inserting more American troops into Iraq.
The current campaign is far from perfect, but Americans should be deeply suspicious of politicians promising quick, simple military solutions to the ISIS problem. Unfortunately, that is exactly what seems to be happening.
On Wednesday, former New York Gov. George Pataki argued for a more aggressive military posture against ISIS, but explained that he does not "want to see us putting in a million soldiers, spend 10 years, a trillion dollars, trying to create a democracy ... but send in troops, destroy their training centers, destroy their recruitment centers."
It is not exactly clear what Pataki meant by this, although on the surface, it may seem like a reasonable middle ground: a more aggressive military posture, but without the grandiose political goals that were the hallmark of the first invasion of Iraq. The trouble is that although that sounds good, framing the possibilities like this creates an option that is not actually viable.
A relatively minor expansion of the military mission in Iraq will not lead to the defeat of ISIS. What it is likely to mean, though, is that Americans get killed. And it is also a recipe for mission creep toward a larger, longer-term military commitment.
The United States has the military power to trounce ISIS on the battlefield, but we should only do so with the clear-eyed acknowledgment that it is likely to be a long, dirty, expensive fight.
    During "the surge" of U.S. troops into Iraq in 2007, the United States had around 150,000 Americans on the ground to fight ISIS' predecessor and convince Iraqi Sunnis to abandon the group, which then called itself the Islamic State of Iraq. But while the Islamic State of Iraq -- itself previously known as al Qaeda in Iraq -- was thrown on the defensive, three years later it still had 800 members and was one of the most powerful terrorist groups on the planet. Five years later, it renamed itself ISIS and was back on offense, largely because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cracked down on Iraqi Sunnis so hard that many who had abandoned the Islamic State of Iraq rushed back into the arms of ISIS.
    The current ISIS is significantly stronger than the Islamic State of Iraq was in 2007: It has more soldiers, is better organized and operates in a much larger area on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. It took 150,000 Americans to push the Islamic State of Iraq into a corner in 2007; how many will it require today?
    The United States should not take any options off the table for dealing with what has grown into an extremely dangerous organization -- including large-scale military operations. But no option will bring long-term security without more political stability in both Iraq and Syria. We have seen what happens when a military solution is not backed with a comprehensive (which means sustainable) political strategy: it is called ISIS, and we are dealing with it today.
    Ultimately, whatever course we choose for confronting ISIS, the American people need to be in it for the long-haul. A big part of the failure with the war in Iraq is that Americans were promised a relatively easy fight, yet the war dragged on and on -- the war in Iraq was not the fight that Americans signed up for.
    Political leaders need to learn from that experience: Americans will not put up with a bait and switch. That is a recipe for expensive failure. Of course, Americans do not necessarily have to agree on the best method to fight ISIS. But what we must understand about the conflict raging in Iraq and Syria is that it is grounded in political dysfunction and will take a long time to fix.
    So, as we head into campaign season, our political leaders, rather than making empty promises of short-term fixes, ought to be focused on steeling the American people for that longer effort. Hopefully voters, whether Democratic, Republican, or independent, will reward candidates who do.

    Obama says to designate Tunisia a major non-NATO ally, offers aid

    Video - Obama tells cabinet "our work is paying off."

    USA: State Dept. urged to designate Pakistan "Country of Particular Concern"

    "I would say it's probably one of the worst countries that has not been designated by the State Department. We really feel that Pakistan meets the statutory definition."

    More attention is on Pakistan as it remains one of the worst countries for religious freedom.

    In its 2015 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) calls on the federal government to designate Pakistan as a CPC (Countries of Particular Concern).

    "I would say it's probably one of the worst countries that has not been designated by the State Department," notes USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett. "We really feel that Pakistan meets the statutory definition."

    She tells OneNewsNow that though Pakistan is a democracy, it faces plenty of challenges.

    "Just to give you one example, there are more people on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy in Pakistan than any other country on earth," Dr. Lantos Swett reports.

    USCIRF believes penalties should be in place for false accusations of blasphemy.

    "What we have been told from many different sources is that a lot of these accusations that are brought by citizens, and the way the Pakistani law works is anybody can go file a complaint and make the accusation," the Commission chair explains. "Many of them are really a means of settling other scores amongst people in a community, and at the moment there's no specific mechanism in the law for prosecuting people who file false charges."

    According to USCIRF, an independent advisory board to the federal government, promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief must be an integral part of U.S. policy in Pakistan.

    Pakistan - Menace of Child Labor in Quetta

    Everyday when sunrises; Jummah Khan and Razzaq leave their homes to collect garbage. Carrying large plastic bags on their tender shoulders, to store garbage, both of them search for saleable garbage items all day. In evening, they sell their daily garbage collection to earn their livelihood.
    Jummah is 12 years old and Razzaq is just 11 years old. Domestic circumstances have compelled them to indulge in child labor.
    Jummah Khan says he earns Rs. 150-200 a day by selling the collected garbage. “I work to support my family because my father doesn’t do any job,” said Jummah Khan. He has one brother and two sisters and all of them are involved in child labor.
    “If we don’t work then our family can’t get anything to eat,” lamented Jummah Khan. “I have been working since I was 4 years old and I don’t think I would stop collecting garbage any time soon,” said Jummah Khan while disappointment clearly expressed on his face.
    Razzaq is an orphan; his father had passed anyway few years back. “I work because I don’t have a father,” said Razzaq in an innocent tone. He states that he has been working ever since he remembers anything.
    Razzaq refused to tell this reporter how much he earns on daily basis. He feared that this reporter might snatch his earnings from him.
    Jummah Khan and Razzaq denied facing any sort of abuse during their job of garbage picking. Whether they were actually not abused or hiding their abuse experiences due to shame, one can’t say with certainty.
    However, majority of child laborers are not fortunate and they are often physically and sexually abused.
    Abdul Samad is one of the vendors who buy garbage picked up by child laborers like Jummah and Razzaq. Mr. Samad admits that garbage picking children are not only abused but often under-paid by the traders who buy garbage from them.
     “Child Laborers don’t have anyone to look after them and that makes them vulnerable to all sort of abuses,” claims Mr. Samad. “I can’t share stories of child labor abuses because I feel disgusted,” revealed the Garbage vendor.
    Most of the child laborers are either afghan immigrants or orphan children that have migrated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, claimed Mr. Samad
    Child labor is a growing menace in Quetta city. There are no official statistics available about number of child labors in Quetta. Society for Empowering Human Resources (SEHR), estimates that more than 10,000 children are working as laborers in Quetta. SEHR estimates that 60% of the child laborers are involved in garbage picking.
    Government of Balochistan is not seen doing anything to curb the practice of child Labor. In fact there is No Anti-Child labor legislation in Balochistan.
    After 18th amendment in constitution of Pakistan, provinces are entrusted with the duty of legislating against Child Labor. Balochistan, like the rest of provinces has failed to come up with any legislation that prohibits Child Labor or stipulate any protection for child laborers.
    In the absence of robust legislation against child Labor and the apathy of society to child laborers, it’s likely that the menace of child Labor would continue unabated.

    Pakistan - Parents struggle to enrol children in public schools

     Admission to public schools has become a daunting task for under-privileged in the capital.

    Enrolment of kids in public schools has become a daunting task for the parents in the capital, Daily Times has learnt.

    The only option left behind for the parents is to enrol their children in private institutions which is very challenging for them financially.
    Over all 422 educational institutes are functioning under the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) including 20 model collages. Officials in the FDE said that 90,000 to 100,000 students are studying in the different government backed institutions of the capital which is more than the desired strength and the strength is also increasing day by day given the number of institutes.
    A principle of the school commented that the capacity of the school is up to 400 students but about 600 are enrolled. Giving details, he said that the school is at the other corner of the city that is why students come from Rawat, Shakirial, PWD and different areas from the twin city.
    “We daily refuse 30 to 40 students for admission, we need 24 teachers but we only have 16 that is a big hurdle for us,” he said.
    A principle of a school blamed the FDE that he had written letters to the Federal Directorate of Education several times to construct new building amid the increased number of enrolled students but no reply came from the department concern.
    Abeel Hussain, a father of a couple of kids said that enrolment of the kids in schools is very difficult for them because they have no access to the higher authority to get his children enrolled in the school.
    A mother of a kid said that she had been searching here and there for the admission of her child but failed, “I have no money for the private school fee so what should I do”. she added.
    Another principal of a school said that already 40 to 45 students enrolled in a class but he is forced to enrol 70 to 80 schools as he has received telephone calls from influential officers and ministries.
    One of the education expert said that this is alarming condition for the students of the capital, day by day the strength of the students is increasing while no new institutes are being built in the city. “This is the government’s responsibility to increase the budget, basic education is a constitutional right for the every kid of the country, public sector of education infrastructure have a lot of flaws”, he said.
    The scribe of the Daily Times tried his level best to connect with the director general FDE or department concern of the FDE but they don’t gave a positive response. “We were aware of the problems of the children and thousands of out of school children have been enrolled since last year,” sources in the FDE told the Daily Times.

    Pakistan - #RIP - DSP Bahadur Khan - Hit-List

    Deputy Superintendent Bahadur Khan was shot dead by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Peshawar on Wednesday. Most recently in Karachi, there was a bloodbath. Peshawar and Karachi are strongholds of insurgents, little did we realize that they would become the twin cities of terror. DSP Bahadur Khan was on his way to drop his daughter to school, when motorcycle-riding gunmen opened fire on him. His daughter survives him, but the fact is that ordinary life in Pakistan has been hijacked by terrorism. Victims don’t even have to unequivocally offend religion to die now, it could be anything, so as citizens, we cannot protect ourselves anymore; we are at the mercy of these men on bikes with guns. Coincidentally, DSP Bin Qasim Abdul Fateh Sangri was shot dead in Karachi, on May 1, again by the TTP. “DSP Fateh was number 37 on our hit-list,” was the statement by the TTP spokesperson, Muhammad Khorasani.
    How long is this hit-list and who else is on it, only time will tell. But lets look at what ensued after the December 16 APS attack. Nine Military Courts were set up to function for two years by passing the 21st Amendment to the 1973 Constitution and amending the 1952 Army Act. They were seen as a dangerous option, with the risk of miscarriage of justice. But while analysis of the courts was in depth, and rightly so, there was no significant public pressure for action to be taken against militants like Hafiz Saeed (who has a bounty on his head and is still allowed rally’s and conferences), and his allied brethren Ludhianvi of Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) (proscribed under Pakistani law for spreading sectarian hatred against Shia Muslims), and Lakhvi (of Mumbai attack fame). Yet we are apologists for madrassas, for the violence of the TTP and its like and continue to blame the US and RAW for the acts of these people. When it was suggested that `a fifth military coup’ may have silently taken place with the unanimous consent of the National Assembly at the time Military courts were established, religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JuI) chimed in! Maulana Fazlur Rehman denigrated the government’s “non-serious attempt to convert an Islamic state into a secular one”. Because that is our biggest problem, that we are becoming secular! Is that why there are hit-lists? Is that why the TTP and Jundallah are racing to taking responsibility for any killing they can use for their fear-machine?

    Video - Asif Ali Zardari Exclusive Interview in Capital Talk (20th May 2015)

    Why the U.S. officially ‘believes’ Pakistan’s bin Laden story

    By Elizabeth A. Cobbs

    Why do allies sometimes pretend to believe one another’s lies? There are good reasons and bad, as new evidence about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan demonstrates.
    Throughout its “war on terrorism,” the United States has had to rely on Pakistan. Though Washington may occasionally have believed its trust was abused, the Pentagon’s need for overflight rights or landing bases, crucial for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, trumped diplomatic niceties.
    The American people may wonder if this trumped self-respect as well. Seasoned investigative reporter Seymour Hersh recently wrote about Pakistan’s possibly problematic role in the U.S. capture of Osama bin Laden for the London Review of Books. Hersh, who broke both the My Lai massacre story during the Vietnam War and the Abu Ghraib torture story during the war in Iraq, alleges that Islamabad kept bin Laden under lock and key in Abbottabad for six years — even as U.S. intelligence urgently tried to track him down. Combing treacherous mountains and ravines for the world’s most wanted man, Washington may have risked and lost lives unnecessarily.
    New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall agrees with some of Hersh’s allegations. She wrote last week that the U.S. government realized Pakistan was undermining its efforts but chose not to make the problem public. Gall confirmed that she learned right after bin Laden’s death that a Pakistani army officer probably sold the secret of the al Qaeda leader’s whereabouts to the Americans for a cool $25 million. That piece of intelligence — not six-years worth of CIA blood-hounding — may be what led right to the compound in Abbottabad.
    Would Washington ever tolerate such lies from a friend — or condone U.S. leaders covering up for them? When President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s death, he said, “cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding.” According to Hersh’s reporting, the reverse may have been true.
    There are often excellent reasons for not outing a bad ally. In dangerous times, for example, the consequences of a diplomatic rupture can be far worse than swallowing a lie. Poland discovered this during World War Two.
    In 1943, Radio Berlin broadcast the discovery of a mass grave of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest, a region previously occupied by the Soviet Union under the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact by which the Nazis and the Soviets had divided Poland between them. The grave contained the remains of more than 20,000 people shot by the Soviet secret police to thwart resistance.
    Joseph Stalin at the Tehran Conference in 1943. Wikipedia
    Not long after, Germany turned on Joseph Stalin’s empire, took Poland for itself and attacked the Russian homeland. Nazi officials saw revelations of the massacre as an opportunity to drive a wedge between Moscow and its new Western allies, including the Polish government-in-exile.
    Stalin resolutely denied the shocking charges, despite the findings of an international Red Cross forensics team that the Nazis invited to Katyn. The British and U.S. governments refused to confront their ally, and tacitly accepted the subsequent conclusions of a Soviet special report that blamed the execution and mass burial (including approximately 8,000 Polish officers) on Nazi Germany. Russia pretended innocence — and the allies pretended to believe it.
    Not surprisingly, the prime minister of the Polish government based in London challenged the story. Wladyslaw Sikorski angrily demanded a thorough, independent investigation. Stalin retaliated by accusing Sikorski of collaborating with the enemy. Russia then broke off diplomatic relations with Poland, nullifying the Sikorski-Mayski treaty that pledged wartime cooperation. The gloves were off.
    The consequences for Poland reverberated for 40 years. The Soviet Red Army camped on the opposite side of the Vistula River, waiting while Germany burned Warsaw in 1944. Moscow then refused to recognize the Polish government in 1945 and forced its substitute Communist Polish regime on the country until 1989.
    For Poland, it turned out honesty was not the best strategy. Russia finally acknowledged Stalin’s crime only in 1990, as part of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of transparency, or glasnost.
    The Katyn massacre is an egregious example of a common phenomenon that is usually far more benign. Nations often look the other way at bad behavior for the simple reason that a cost-benefit analysis would show no point in confrontation. Governments are aware that friends sometimes spy on them, for example. It’s obnoxious but not damaging enough to risk the rewards of continued good relations.
    The American people, however, have placed a high value on transparency since the founders wrote the Constitution in 1787. The Constitution requires Congress to publish its proceedings. With this, the United States became the first nation in history to require government transparency by law.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Pakistan's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz shortly after arriving in Islamabad
    Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz (L) in Islamabad, January 12, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
    Even if one assumed Pakistani duplicity and that the U.S. government was aware of it, telling the truth would not be anywhere near as catastrophic as the wartime rupture between Poland and Russia. Washington is roughly 7,000 miles from Islamabad; Pakistan’s regular military cannot hurt the United States and would not wish to. But a public breach of trust may have erased any possibility of future cooperation between the two “friends.”
    Pakistan was then providing logistical support for the U.S. intervention in neighboring Afghanistan. If Obama knew Pakistan was disloyal, he made the correct short-term choice not to reveal it.
    Yet Americans should question their nation’s long-term policy. Had the United States not linked its fortunes with Pakistan in the first place, Obama would not have had to accept Islamabad’s possible lies — and tell fresh ones (or at least dissimulate) to the American people.
    In 2004, Washington dubbed Islamabad a “major non-NATO ally” in the war on terror, which entitled Pakistan to foreign aid and new weapons. The United States also lifted economic sanctions previously imposed for illegal nuclear testing. But Pakistan’s usefulness as an ally has proved questionable.
    Since 1947, the United States has added nation after nation to its roster of allies. From the progressive expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the widening of the war on terror, the United States has entangled itself with a larger, increasingly diverse cast of countries.
    Not all these relationships work equally well.
    Choose your friends wisely, the old saying goes, because you’ll end up being like them. Now is the time to evaluate Washington’s longtime friends and reinvigorate relations with the most reliable, honest ones.
    Pakistan might not make it into the mix.

    Now Ismailis Massacred In Pakistan. Who Next?


    Just the other day, Pakistan was mourning the murder of human rights activistSabeen Mahmud. Her fault: she spoke out and perhaps freedom of speech is becoming forbidden in Pakistan. And now, we mourn the killings of 43 people from the Ismaili community. Their fault: They belong to a minority religion and do not deserve the freedom to exist. In a country where Ahmadis don't openly share that they belong to their community, the days are not far when Ismailis and even Bohras will hide their identity just for the sake of survival in this country.
    On the day of the bloody incident, gunmen entered a bus carrying 60 people of the Ismaili community, leaving 43 dead and the remaining critically injured, according toDawn. Eyewitnesses reported that the armed men were disguised as security guards. Ahmed Marwat, a spokesman for Jundullah which is a splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, talking to Reuters. There were also reports that pamphlets reading "Daesh Khorasan" (ISIS) were seen inside the bus.
    "They are killing Pakistanis today and will continue to kill Pakistanis tomorrow."
    A question on everyone's minds: Why them? The Ismaili community is a sub-sect of the Shia community, and makes up 20% of Pakistan's largely Sunni population. They are considered to be a peaceful community and are concentrated in particular areas. The founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was an Ismaili himself. Had he been alive today, would he also have become a victim?
    It is impossible to deny that this attack is yet another example of sectarian violence. More worryingly, these terrorists/killers are finding an increasing number of religious groups to target. In the end, though, they are killing Pakistanis. They are killing Pakistanis today and will continue to kill Pakistanis tomorrow. As for those of us in the majority community, we shall mourn for a few days and then forget about it. The government and security forces will have meetings and make promises to the people, and then forget about it too. But the killers will carry on what they've been doing for years now. Only the families of those killed and injured will be forever scarred.
    How much longer can we be complacent? Only have five months of this year have passed and almost every month has been marked by sectarian violence. In January, aShia Imambargah was attacked in Shikarpur (Sindh) which left 60 dead. Then in February, 20 people were killed in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar. Later in March, there were attacks on two churches in Lahore which left 14 dead and almost 80 wounded. In the same month, a Bohra mosque was targeted, leaving two dead and many injured. And now, of course, the incident with the Ismailis.
    And how can one forget the persecution and killings of Hazaras? And then thePeshawar school attack which left about 150 dead? How about the usual target killings and bomb blasts in public places?
    These incidents prove that Pakistan is gradually becoming a dangerous place to live, especially for minorities. They may own a Pakistani National Identity Card or passport, and treated as brethren by their neighbours, but who will explain this to the killers?
    The burials have taken place and prayers have been said. The nation will stay sad for a few days and then life will be back to normal. High-level meetings between the military leader, prime minister and government will probably amount to little. Pakistanis may feel safe for a short time when they hear about some action being taken by the authorities. But with one question at the back of their minds: Who is next and when?

    In Pakistan, Playing the Blame Game


      Blaming India and failed domestic policies for insecurity in Pakistan has become a habit. Instead, constructive criticism of current operations against militants needs to bring about true reform.
      On May 13, six armed men on motorbikes carrying 9 mm pistolstargeted a bus carrying minority Ismaili Shias to their place of worship in Pakistani city of Karachi, killing 45 people, including 16 women.
      Hours later, while the Pakistani investigators were busy searching the scene for clues as to the perpetrators, and layer upon layer of government and state functionaries were releasing statements of condemnations with the proverbial resolve of tracking down the culprits, a telephone caller introducing himself as spokesman for the proscribed Jandullah groupclaimed responsibility for the attack.
      The same day, Karachi police officials said they had found pamphlets of the Dawlat-e-Islamia, the Pakistani version of the Islamic State or ISIS, claimingthat the killing was “revenge for what is happening in Iraq and Syria.”
      While the killing in broad daylight of members of the Ismaili sect, one of the most peaceful sects, raises concerns about the effectiveness of the year-long police and military operation against militants in Karachi, the incident also galvanized a debate in the Pakistani media: point an accusing finger at “foreign intelligence” (meaning India) or blame decades-old policies.
      The animosity between Pakistani and Indian intelligence is not new. Just a week before the May 13 attack on the bus, Pakistan’s top military commanders openly accused India’s spy agency RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) of “whipping up terrorism” in Pakistan. The blame was reiterated just a day after the attack when Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry was addressing a seminar; he said that RAW was involved in creating unrest in Pakistan.
      Earlier, on May 12, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul along with a high-level delegation that included top officials of the Foreign Office as well as Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, one of Pakistan’s key points that came under discussion with the Afghan authorities was not to allow India’s intelligence agency to operate from Afghan territory against Pakistan’s interests.
      Government insiders suggest Pakistan’s main concern was Indian intelligence support for Mullah Fazlullah, a Pakistani Taliban chief, who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan’s mountainous Kunar and Nuristan provinces, and the alleged training camps for Baloch separatists in Kandahar, the southern city of Afghanistan. They say the Pakistani delegation also provided some evidence of India-provided arms to the Fazlullah-led Taliban.
      Lately, Sharif and his team have started accusing the Indian intelligence oftrying to sabotage the recently-signed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which is supposed to be completed with a Chinese investment of $45 billion used to build a network of roads and railway lines from China’s western-most city, Kashgar, to Pakistan’s Arabian seaport of Gawadar.
      The agreement has been under criticism from Pakistani nationalists, mainly in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, who accuse the ruling Pakistan Muslim League of changing the original route plan and diverting it towards Punjab, the home province of Sharif and most of his cabinet ministers.
      Even one of Pakistan’s leading English-language daily newspapers, the News Internationalsuggested that RAW forged the CPEC route map and provided a fake route plan to some Pakistani legislators to sabotage the multi-billion dollars project.
      India, too, has been lobbing accusations at its neighbor. For years, the Indian side has been accusing Pakistan of sending Kashmiri fighters across the border besides the allegations of running training camps for the Kashmiri “mujahideen” on the Pakistani side of the border.
      Pakistan’s recent release of Pakistani Zia-ur-Rahman Lakhvi — an accused mastermind of the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai — from prison caused India to send a letter to the United Nations’ al Qaeda sanctions committee.
      Given the history of bloodshed, wars, and border disputes between India and Pakistan, it is simply unbelievable that spy agencies of the two neighboring countries will ever sit with ease without interfering in each other’s affairs.
      Critics of the entanglements of intelligence agencies in Pakistani society are often the victims of attacks or threats.
      For example, just a day before the killing of members of the Ismaili sect, an eminent figure in Pakistan’s education policy field, Bernadette Dean, abruptly left Pakistan, explaining to friends: “I have to leave Pakistan fearing for my life on the advice of family, friends, colleagues and police.” Dean, who accused a political party of unleashing a hate campaign against her, was one of the 12 members of the Government of Sindh’s advisory committee on school curricula reforms in the province.
      “She was accused of being a foreigner woman who has single-handedly made changes to the curriculum and textbooks that made them secular… The truth is that she was targeted for trying to ensure that school textbooks meet the requirements of the Pakistani Constitution,” writes A. H. Nayyar, a university teacher, in the English language daily newspaper Dawn.
      Article 22(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan states: “No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instructions, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.”
      Another unfortunate example occurred on April 25, when armed men shotand killed Sabeen Mehmood, director of the T2F, an organization working to provide a space for dialogue for minorities on social issues, hours after she organized a conversation on Balochistan, the Pakistani province where groups of ethnic Baloch are fighting an armed struggle for their independence from Pakistan. The Pakistani intelligence agencies accuse India of supporting the Baloch insurgency.
      In a similar attack on journalist and TV anchor Hamid Mir just over a year ago, on April 19, 2014, Mir accused the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, of involvement  and the allegations led to clash between his TV channel and the security establishment.
      To believe that the intelligence agency of a country that has been seen as an existential threat for decades will keep its hands off any chance to harm Pakistan is equal to living in a fool’s paradise. But it’s also necessary to consider the circumstances that help create opportunities for a foreign hand to interfere with the affairs of another country.
      “Instead of complaining about the oft-repeated involvement of a foreign hand, Pakistan needs to set its own house in order first,” says defense analyst Brigadier (ret.) Saad Muhammad Khan.
      The first question Pakistanis should be asking then, is how has the jihadi spectrum started operating in Pakistan and continued to grow, both in size and strength, despite numerous military operations and promises of paradigm shift in policies?
      Speaking at the National Defense University on May 16, Karachi Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar rightly pointed out vested interests, political expediencies, sponsored militancy and ethnic, sectarian and political disharmony as the factors effecting ongoing operations in the densely-populated Karachi. But one may rightly ask: What are the causes of failure in restoring peace in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas despite several operations over the past decade?
      Did Pakistan really do away with the past approaches of discriminating between the “good” and “bad” Taliban and is the strategic depth policy toward Afghanistan really a thing of the past now?
      When shrewd politicians and intellectuals, such as Sherry Rehman, stress the need for indiscriminate action against all groups, what people should really hear is that discriminate action is being taken against some groups. If this is true, it is better to blame oneself first before pointing an accusing finger at others.