Thursday, September 22, 2011

ISI ‘exporting’ violence: US

The US military’s top officer bluntly accused Pakistan on Thursday of “exporting” violent extremism to Afghanistan by backing militants that attack American and NATO troops.

In a scathing and unprecedented public condemnation of Pakistan, Admiral Mike Mullen said the country’s main intelligence agency ISI was actively supporting Haqqani network militants blamed for an assault on the US embassy in Kabul last week.

“The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” Mullen told the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

Haqqani militants this month carried out a truck bombing on a NATO base in Afghanistan that wounded 77 Americans; assaulted the US embassy and NATO headquarters in the Afghan capital; and in June staged an attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul.

“In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan - and most especially the Pakistani Army and ISI - jeopardises not only the prospect of our strategic partnership, but also Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence,” he said.

“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.”

His tough language follows a series of stern warnings from top US officials on Pakistan’s failure to crack down on the Haqqani network, raising the possibility of unilateral US action.

The Central Intelligence Agency already carries out drone bombing raids on al Qaeda and other militants in the Tribal Areas, strikes which US officials do not explicitly acknowledge.

Washington’s relations have deteriorated with Pakistan, which was angered and embarrassed by a US raid on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

US leaders did not notify their Islamabad counterparts in advance of the nighttime operation by US Navy SEAL commandos deep inside Pakistan, fearing that officials might tip off bin Laden’s circle.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, appearing at the same Senate hearing, decried ‘Pakistani support’ for the Haqqani network, saying the Pakistani authorities have been told in unequivocal terms that the US will not tolerate a continuation of the group’s cross-border attacks.

But when asked by Senator Carl Levin to elaborate, Panetta declined to say what steps the government might take.

Mullen, who is due to step down at the end of the month as chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff after four years, defended his efforts to build a dialogue with the Pakistani military.

He said more than a dozen meetings with army chief General Ashfaq Kayani were crucial despite Islamabad’s refusal to meet Washington’s demands.

“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. I disagree,” he said.

“Indeed, I think we would be in a far tougher situation today, in the wake of the frostiness which fell over us after the bin Laden raid, were it not for the groundwork General Kayani and I had laid - were it not for the fact that we could at least have a conversation about the way ahead, however difficult that conversation might be.”

While Pakistan has maintained ties to some militants as a hedge to counter its arch-foe India, the gamble has proved a failure, Mullen said.

“They may believe that by using these proxies they are hedging their bets, or redressing what they feel is an imbalance of regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet,” he said.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Dengue fever cases on the rise

Dengue fever cases are recording a gradual rise in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the number of patients who tested positive increased to 109 with five deaths so far.

The officials in Health Department on Wednesday said that 216 patients were suspected of contracting the disease while 56 confirmed patients were under treatment at various hospitals of the province.

The officials said that 158 patients had been discharged after undergoing complete treatment.

Talking to The News, Director General Health Services (DGHS) Dr Mohammad Sharif said the situation was under control and the department had taken all precautionary measures. He said that all the district hospitals as well as tertiary care hospitals had diagnostic facilities for the disease.

The official urged the people not to get panicked as the virus could be tackled by adopting proper precautionary measure. He said the disease was not a new one though it was one of the highly contagious diseases. He said it had seasonal distribution affiliated with rain and had one percent death rate.

The health official said that to prevent the bite of the mosquito, which carries dengue virus, people should take extra care in early morning before sunrise as well as soon after the sunset. He said people should use insect repellents, fully cover the body avoiding shorts and sleeveless shirts as well as limit exposure to mosquitoes by avoiding stagnant water. He urged people to empty stagnant water from old tires, trashcans and flowerpots.

Our correspondent adds from Kohat: Two persons affected by dengue virus in Darra Adamkhel were shifted to a hospital in Peshawar on Wednesday, a health official said. Talking to The News, Agency Surgeon Frontier Region Kohat Dr Fahim Khan said that Wasim, 25, and Ilyas, 28, residents of Zarghunkhel in Darra Adamkhel, were suffering from fever that showed the symptoms of dengue fever. He said after diagnosis of dengue fever, both of them were shifted to the Hayatabad Medical Complex for further treatment. He said the medicines and other equipment required for the treatment of dengue fever were not available in the Darra Adamkhel hospital.

Shias Of Mastung killings

Editorial:The News
September has proven the cruellest month for the Hazara tribe in Balochistan. This Tuesday, a bus carrying Shia pilgrims to Iran was intercepted by armed men who lined up the travellers and shot 26 of them dead in cold blood in Mastung. In September last year, 65 Shias were killed in Quetta when a procession became the target of a bomb blast. This May 6, six members of the Hazara Shia community were gunned down while another seven were killed on May 18. In June a Hazara policeman was killed only two days before Olympian boxer Syed Abrar Hussain was shot dead. The list of attacks is long but only one group has claimed responsibility: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. In the ever-deteriorating security conditions in Balochistan, sectarian outfits have found the perfect playground. The Hazara community has been the target of violence since the mid-1980s though the attacks have intensified since 2000 when their top leader Sardar Nisar Ali Hazara was gunned down in Quetta.

According to confessions of arrested LeJ activists, independent experts as well as the Hazara Shias themselves, the violence against them is not ethnic but sect-based. The Hazaras, divided between the Alamdar Road in the east and Hazara Town in the west of the city, feel cut-off and besieged in the wake of the violent attacks on them. Representatives of the Hazara Democratic Party have repeatedly informed the provincial home department and the IG police that extremists are planning to step up attacks against them. But not much action seems to have been taken. All Hazara killings during May and June this year took place only a small distance from security check posts. The LeJ has given the Hazaras an open deadline to leave the province by 2012 and has warned of further attacks. But the police have still remained helpless, leaving the Hazara community to believe that the security establishment is protecting the perpetrators. The mysterious escape of the local head of the LeJ, Usman Saifullah, and a key leader, Shafiq Rind, from a very well guarded Anti-Terrorist Force jail in Quetta Cantonment, is a case in point. A deadly pattern is emerging: terrorists are on a murderous rampage against Pakistan’s minority sects while authorities have failed to prove themselves capable of taking them on.

Mastung sectarian killings: Committee formed to probe massacre

Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani formed a committee on Thursday to probe the killing of 26 pilgrims in the Ganjidori area of Mastung on September 20.
The committee comprises Interior Secretary Major (R) Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, Inspector General (IG) Balochistan Police Rao Mohammad Amin Hashim, Commissioner of Quetta and Khuzdar Division Naseem Lehri, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Quetta Ehsan Mahboob, Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Quetta Shaukat Ali Maraghzani and Mastung DC Noorul Haq Baloch.
(Read: Yes, Muslims kill Muslims)
The committee has been asked to present its report in 15 days.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Mir Zafarullah Zehri chaired a meeting in which he ordered the cancellation of routes of the company which was transporting the pilgrims.
The decision was taken because the company had not informed the authorities about its itinerary, which resulted in the authorities failing to provide security to the pilgrims.
It was also decided that two levies force squads will assist pilgrims during their future journeys. Transporters will now have to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the concerned authorities before travelling.
At least 26 people were killed and six others injured in Ganjidori area of Mastung, about 30 kilometres southeast of Quetta, when a group of armed men attacked a passenger bus carrying Shia pilgrims from Quetta to Iran.
Hours later, three more people, hailing from the Hazara community, were gunned down near Akhtarabad area of Quetta as their rescue team made its way to the site of the bus attack. Two others were also shot.

Pakistan's holocaust :An official act in ruins ,Shias slaughtered

Editorial:The Frontier Post
As 26 unfortunate Iran-bound pilgrims lay slaughtered in terrorist attack on their bus in Mastung and another three murdered in an ambulance targeted thuggishly while rushing to the holocaust spot to transport the injured to hospital, lying prostrate flatly was the official counterterrorism act, if any. The terrible carnage followed in close heel the deadly terrorist strike on a senior counterterrorism police officer’s residence in Karachi that snuffed out as many as eight lives, including six policemen’s, and a murderous blast in Peshawar that killed at least five innocent people and left many more injured just a day earlier. Those too were no solitary or sporadic terrorist assaults. Lately, the thugs who have never shut down their murder shop have gone on a stepped-up slaughter spree. They evidently are on the offensive. And, more worryingly, the state is palpably in retreat. Appallingly, over there no nerves are perceptibly even in jitters. And this official unconcern is unsettlingly astonishing, to say the least. One indeed gets the troubling sense that the officialdom doesn’t even appear to realise that what the vile phenomenon the nation is confronted with is a hydra-headed monstrosity that cannot be grappled with and beheaded by condemnatory messages and brave talk. It needs no-nonsense meticulous strategies, imaginative plans and robust actions to prostrate. But the ruling echelons are yet to demonstrate if they have even an inclination for this kind of activity, leave alone the extraordinary capability that the tough fight against this stubborn blood-thirst monstrosity necessarily entails.It is a multifaceted evil and accordingly calls for a multidimensional campaign to curb. And about two yeas ago the prime minister chaired a top-level inter-provincial security conclave that did hammer out an all-embracing counterterrorism strategy. It indeed was a comprehensive charter, laying down elaborate systems and mechanism for collaboration and cooperation among the federal and provincial security and intelligence agencies as well as spelled out far-reaching administrative, security, political and reformatory initiatives to weed out militancy and extremism from the country. But, bluntly, the ruling echelons have not given even a passing shot to this strategy, which apparently has been pushed into some obscure official shelf to gather dust. Had the strategy been donned the apparels of execution, the nation in all probability would have not been so pathetically placed as is it now. But so insouciant have been the ruling hierarchies that a draft bill to amend the anti-terrorism law to rid it off some debilitating lacunas and toughen it up has been left to cool in some parliamentary chamber for over a year because of the clerical orders whose religiosity come to them first and foremost. And yet the officialdom cries that for those holes in the law terrorism suspects walk out free from courts without being punished. And more than a year has passed since the bill for the establishment of a national counterterrorism authority is idling on the federal cabinet’s table for a mere footling if the authority should be headed by the prime minister or the interior minister. And yet the authority is contemplated to be the nodal point for the whole of the counterterrorism effort all over the country. Indeed had these draft enactments not been left to official stealth and secrecy and had been exposed to public light, the public pressure would have acted like a cudgel on the recalcitrant and broken the pockets of resistance for their quick passage by the lawmakers. It is this cudgel that the ruling hierarchies, say in Britain and the United States, have employed for enactment of terrorism-related laws. Even though very contentious and divisive, the heat of public pressure forced the partisans to soften up their hard positions, smoothen their ruffles and reach compromises for the passage of those enactments within days, not even months. But such promptness comes where the ruling clans are moved intensely by the concerns for public safety and weal. The tardiness swaying our officialdom is a tell-tale of its lack of concern on that score.Had indeed the officialdom been any alert, it would have not left the pilgrims’ bus all unescorted, especially when the sectarian thugs are waging a bloody war in parts of Balochistan and are prowling the province for quarries of their thuggery. An unsecured bus was just a sitting duck for them, which the vile souls made of it actually. Had the provincial security apparatus been an agile and vigilant, it could have certainly averted this massacre at the vile hands. The rulers must understand that the military can fight the organised militancy. Fighting urban terrorism, in whose lap we are so bloodily, is essentially the civil security apparatus’s job. And they have to shake it up to do this job. Even now, the shelved counterterrorism strategy may be dusted off and put to implementation. Otherwise, the urban terrorism is getting increasingly entrenched; and once it gets dug in, it would be hard to dislodge. And the nation may eventually then hit a rock, whose consequences one shudders even to think of.

SHIA worshippers Killed:The forgotten war


The horror. The Shia worshippers on their way to a pilgrimage, who were intercepted and murdered in Mastung, were all taken out of a bus, lined up and shot mercilessly. Bombing places of worship is no less stark a barbarity. But somehow Tuesday’s viciousness is a reminder of the point-blank rage that sectarian divides fuel in the radicalised.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the attack. This is Pakistan’s forgotten war. The turf war in Karachi gets enough media attention. So do the Taliban up north. And so does (sparingly, albeit) the Baloch insurgency. But it is the dragon’s teeth of militant networks that make themselves visible from time to time in the form of sectarian violence that have constantly been evading attention. As opposed to those who lord over Karachi or the bulk of the TTP, these networks are present all over the country. Much has been made of the presence of militants in South Punjab but that would mean to imply, erroneously, they aren’t active in north and central parts of the province.

In terms of constituency realpolitik, the campaigns of election candidates can be absolutely gutted if they manage to get on the wrong side of these networks. The political class, open always to debate, discussions and, usually, the maintenance of inclusive values, might make it to the chambers of legislature and even local executive positions, but in vast swathes of the land, it is these seminaries and their allied militant wings that call the shots; they are increasingly making those who are elected to power irrelevant. For those Pakistani hypernationalists who chuckle at India’s Naxalite red corridor, perhaps a look at Pakistan’s own soft underbelly would be in order.

That is indeed a depressing answer to the question that members of the Hazara community have been asking of late: where is the state?

This war, when it is finally fought, just might turn out to be bloodier than the ones we are currently engaged in. But it is one that cannot be avoided. Be it in Balochistan or the Punjab.