Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists impose Islamic rules, ban music, shisha in Syrian province

An Al-Qaeda-linked group has issued new decrees restricting the personal freedoms of the Syrians in the areas under its control in Raqqa province. New laws prohibit music and smoking cigarettes and shisha. Violators will be “punished by sharia law.” The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (abbreviated as ISIS or ISIL) has issued four statements that decree new laws on Monday. The new laws come into force three days later, the group said, i.e. January 23. Starting on that day, women are obliged to wear the niqab, or full face veil, and cover their hands with gloves. They will also not be allowed in public without a male guardian. Walking late at night will also be prohibited for the women of Raqqa, the first and only city to have fallen completely under the jihadist group’s control. “Any sister who does not comply with this moral code will be punished by the rules of sharia, her male guardian will also be punished,” reads the statement, cited by the Syrian Observatory of Human rights. In its second statement, the jihadist group has also prohibited music from being played in public and photographs of people being posted in shop windows. It has also declared selling music CDs or musical instruments illegal, and the playing of scandalous music in cars or shops will be strictly forbidden. The ISIL has explained the ban saying that musical instruments and singing are “proscribed in Islam because they distract from remembering God and the Quran.” The sale of cigarettes and shisha water pipes has also been banned across the beleaguered province. “Whoever insists on selling these products will have the quantity in his possession burnt and will be punished under sharia law,” reads the third statement. The group demands that all shop owners shut their stores 10 minutes prior to calls to prayers and absolutely all men must head to the mosque and “fulfill God's commandment rather than sitting in the street and talking while Muslims are in their mosques.” “Whoever is found outside at the time of prayer” will be punished. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant retook full control of the Syrian city of Raqqa, after fierce fighting for the northern provincial capital on January 14. Clashes between ISIL and coalitions of rival Islamist and moderate rebels erupted nearly two weeks ago. The group is holding hundreds of rival rebels, activists and journalists captive, among them Westerners, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last week. In its report in December, Amnesty International accused an Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group of abductions, torture, killings, sharia courts, and secret prisons with “inhuman” conditions. The report revealed victims included children as young as eight.

Pakistan: The Media and The Taliban

By Malik Siraj Akbar
In Pakistan’s most populated city of Karachi, a deadly battle waged by the Taliban against the country’s independent news media is alarmingly getting out of the control of government authorities. The Muslim extremist group is the newest but the most lethal among many actors that unleash brute force to gain control of the port city and fully influence its media that also caters to the whole country.
On January 17, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (T.T.P.), claimed responsibility for the killing of three media personnel of the Express News, a private channel, in Karachi. According to the police accounts, armed men riding motorcycles opened fire at the digital satellite news gathering (D.S.N.G.) van of the news company. The attack killed a technician, driver and their security guard. It was the third organized attack on the Express News since the first one in August 2013. The Taliban are believed to be behind the last two attacks as well although they were not as deadly as Friday’s incident.
Ironically, a T.T.P. spokesman called up Express News itself and confirmed his organization’s involvement in the attack. The T.T.P. poses itself as a victim of the news media’s “pro-government propaganda”. It complains that the news channels depict them as the “bad guys” which, according to the T.T.P. viewpoint, violates journalistic standards.
“I promise you that if Pakistani media comes out of this war [between the government and the Taliban] and limits itself to its journalistic role, then we will not carry out any attack on them,” said the T.T.P spokesman who was quoted in Express Tribune, an English language newspaper published by the same company that runs Express News channel.
The Taliban do not only justify their attacks but they also demand equal air time for propagation of their extremist ideology in the news media. This is a bizarre expectation but completely snubbing their demand is likely to endanger the lives of several other journalists in the future. If one media group concedes to the Taliban wishes out of fear of being attacked, the free media will ultimately end up compromising its integrity and reliability among the masses.
The Taliban have brutally engaged in killing innocent people, mostly in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K.P) and now in the city of Karachi. They have not spared women and children in their attacks as they have shot dead several female polio workers. When the media in Pakistan highlights these human rights abuses by the Taliban, the latter describes it as media’s partiality and submission to the government propaganda.
The fresh attacks on the media houses and their personnel in Karachi are not the mere reflection of intolerance toward independent reporting. They are an extension of apreexisting ethnic and ideological conflict that has already claimed thousands of lives in Karachi dating back to 1980s. This conflict has only recently gained momentum and engulfed the local media.
Karachi is the epicenter of an incessant tussle between various indefatigable ethnic groups that fight to establish their control over the city. The Urdu-speaking Muhajirs, who emigrated from India in 1947 to the newly created Muslim state of Pakistan, are thedominant ethnic group who account for nearly 49% of the city’s population. They are largely represented by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (M.Q.M.), a party that identifies itself as “liberal” but is frequently blamed for applying violent methods to achieve political goals.
Since the inception, the natives of Karachi, the Sindhis and the Baloch, have viewed the Urdu-speakers as “colonizers” and usurper of their land. The latest phase of anti-Muhajir resistance now involves the Pashtuns who, according to one estimate, constitute nearly 11% of the city’s population. Since the beginning of the war on terror in 2001, Karachi has witnessed an exodus of Pashtuns from the country’s tribal region who escaped the military operation in their areas and found protection and better economic opportunity in Karachi. The significant influx of the Pashtuns has alerted the M.Q.M as it is destined to cause demographic imbalance in the city.
There are reports about the presence of the Taliban in Karachi but the way the M.Q.M. blows the issue out of proportion, it further alienate the Pashtun citizens who feel they are intentionally billed ‘terrorists’ or supporters of the Taliban. Of course, it is unreasonable to blame the entire Pashtun population for the actions of the Taliban.
Unfortunately, the increasing attacks on the media in Karachi also has an ethnic touch that traces its roots to the ongoing tensions between the Taliban and the M.Q.M. Just like the Taliban, the M.Q.M. is also blamed for killing journalists.
Last week, I appeared along with a senior representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (C.P.J.) and two other senior Pakistani journalists on a Huffington Post live panel discussion to mark the third death anniversary of Wali Khan Babar, a 28-year television reporter. An ethnic Pashtun, Babar worked for Geo Television and, according to C.P.J., was killed on the instructions of the M.Q.M. Three years after Babar’s murder, justice has not been served because the M.Q.M. has deeply penetrated in the local and regional government. Even the governor of the Sindh province, where Babar was killed, belongs to the M.Q.M. At least seven people, who could testify in Babar’s murder case, have all been systematically killed one after the other.
What appears to be a wave of violence against journalists in Karachi is actually a battle between the M.Q.M. and the Taliban for their survival. It is appalling that journalists are becoming the victims of this nasty battle. If the Pakistani authorities do not immediately tackle the Taliban and end ethnic violence in Karachi, more journalists will have to face the heat of this senseless violence.
The more the media is terrorized, the more it will lose its ability to report independently on critical national issues. A media that falls in the hands of the Taliban terrorist or the M.Q.M. goons will only become a tool for spreading communal disharmony, chaos and tensions instead of deepening the roots of the free media and democracy in Pakistan.

Pakistan: While politicians squabble, the TTP gears up

While Pakistan’s politicians show only indecisiveness over a strategy for dealing with militants, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has quietly been making the most of the situation and is gearing up for what it conceives of as the “long war ahead”. Some of Pakistan’s politicians appear to believe that the country’s militancy issues would be resolved once the US and its allies exit Afghanistan. But commanders of the officially banned TTP and even the Afghan Taliban are convinced otherwise.
According to them, the withdrawal of US-led troops would merely mark the end of one phase of operations and their “long war” will continue until the establishment of a global caliphate. They make no bones about their desire to extend their expansionist designs into Pakistan, once they are powerful enough.
The TTP has been holding marathon meetings here in Afghanistan as well as Fata, and inducting some known hawks into prominent positions.
Qari Shakeel Ahmed Haqqani, the deputy chief of the banned organisation’s Mohmand chapter, has been appointed the head of the TTP’s political shura.
“He has previously served as the head of the TTP’s grand shura and is known as a person who does not compromise on his principles,” a TTP leader based in North Waziristan told Dawn, adding that some of the earlier commanders had not been as “ambitious” and “decisive” as Haqqani.
This scribe recently met Qari Shakeel Ahmed Haqqani here and questioned him on the chances of a successful dialogue given that the TTP is refusing to halt attacks in Pakistan.
“A ceasefire is a two-way process,” he said. “You expect us to cease attacks when the government is continuing its operations in Fata and in the cities. We want to make it clear that if we are talking about dialogue then it is not from a position of weakness. We are very capable of fighting.”
Dawn spoke to dozens of TTP fighters based in Afghanistan and different parts of Fata; they displayed unanimity in their position on talks.
“Everyone knows that Shariah cannot be implemented through talks,” said Asad Khan, a fighter from the TTP’s Mohmand chapter.
So why bother with considering talks in the first place? This was asked of Ehsanullah Ehsan, former chief spokesman of the TTP and currently serving as a senior member of the political shura. “We also long for peace and are willing to explore all options if that benefits the people of Pakistan,” he said.
But a member of the TTP’s grand shura acknowledged on the condition of anonymity that the real motives are different. “Alhamdulillah we have managed to gain many of the benefits that were obtained by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the sulah of Hudaybiah,” he said.
“Some of the benefits gained through the treaty of Hudaybiah included political legitimacy, the time and space to regroup and the opportunity to engage with the public,” explained Mufti Tahir Jami, a Karachi-based religious scholar.
An analysis of the statements coming from TTP (central) and its Mohmand branch suggests internal differences. The TTP Mohmand comes across as trying to sabotage the talks process.
Some, however, believe that this is part of the game. “It seems that the TTP has deliberately created the impression that there is a difference of opinion between different factions, such as the Mohmand group and the centre. I believe this is a ploy — good cop, bad cop,” said Tariq Habib, an investigative journalist who reports on militancy.
“We are willing to hold talks even at this stage but the government is not sincere,” said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.
“The government does not even have the power to take key decisions. We are prepared for a ceasefire but the government must first announce a ceasefire from its side.”

Lahore: Drama Writer Asghar Nadeem Syed Injured In Gun-Fire

Unknown gunmen opened fire at the vehicle of famous drama writer Asghar Nadeem Syed near Shaukat Khanam Hospital, Lahore, hitting him two bullets on Tuesday. Talking to Jaag TV, Asghar Nadeem Syed said that he was targeted with two bullets and currently under treatment. Asghar Nadeem Syed was taken to Jinnah Hospital after the incident. - See more at: http://www.jaagtv.com/Drama-Writer-Asghar-Nadeem-Syed-Injured-In-Gun-Fire-news-19788.html#sthash.pnCMaMj6.dpuf

Iraqi lawmaker says Saudi Arabia behind carnage in Iraq

An Iraqi lawmaker says Baghdad has evidence that points to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in terrorist attacks inside Iraq. Salman al-Moussawi said the documents prove that the Saudi government is backing the al-Qaeda-linked group of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), state TV channel al-Iraqiya reported. Moussawi also said that Baghdad has obtained new documents indicating that the Saudi government is providing the ISIL with arms, money and vehicles to hit Iraqi army and police. The Iraqi government also has information indicating that the Saudi spy agency trains ISIL terrorists for street wars, the lawmaker added. The revelation comes as the Iraqi army and Sunni tribesmen continue their battle to drive out ISIL militants in the western province of Anbar. Iraq is experiencing its worst cycle of violence since 2008, with al-Qaeda-linked militants flexing their muscles on Baghdad’s doorstep. Earlier in January, Iraqi security officials said a senior ISIL commander, identified as Shaker Vahib al-Fahdavi, had met with a top Saudi intelligence official in Anbar, just weeks before he was killed by Iraqi forces. An unnamed al-Qaeda commander recently arrested by Iraqi forces also said that the ISIL received $150 million and 60 vehicles in aid from Saudi Arabia one day before an anti-government camp was dismantled by Iraqi forces in the city of Ramadi in December. The violence in Anbar broke out on December 30, 2013, when the army removed an anti-government protest camp in Ramadi. Authorities said the camp was used as “headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda.” The bloodshed later spread to the nearby city of Fallujah.

Bilawal Bhutto strongly condemns pilgrims’ bus blast in Mastung

Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has condemned the terrorist attack on a pilgrims’ bus in Mastung today in the strongest terms and said there could be absolutely no justification of such acts. A suicide blast occurred near the Dareen Garh area of Mastung, Balochistan which resulted into loss of several innocent human lives while injuring many others. Expressing his heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved families, the PPP Patron prayed for the eternal peace of the departed souls and also for the courage of the bereaved to bear their losses with fortitude. He also demanded for the best medical treatment to all the injured in the attack.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Shia Pilgrim’s Bus Attacked Near Mastung; Leaves 20 Martyred, 22 Injured

At least twenty Shiite Muslims martyred and 22 other injured including women and children, after a suicide blast occurred near Mastung, Balochistan, managed by Takfiri Deobandi terrorists of pro-Taliban terrorists group Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal-Jamat, on Tuesday evening targeting a bus full of pilgrims who were traveling back from Iran to Pakistan, The Shia Post reported Severe firing took place following the blast which resulted in security officials cordoning off the area. Earlier, on January 1, a bomb blast targeted a passenger bus carrying Shia pilgrims from Taftan, a town in Balochistan bordering with Iran. A large number of Shia pilgrims go to Iran to visit the holy places through Quetta and most of them travel on passenger buses.

Planned Genocide of Pakistani Christians : Long View On Declaring Pakistan Secular

Many Pakistanis are unaware of the role Christians have played in the nation’s history. Christians have had a considerable impact, especially in education and health. Many of Pakistan’s most prominent leaders — including the current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, the assassinated prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and former President Pervez Musharraf, went to Christian schools. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who founded Pakistan in 1947, had also been a student of Christian schools and colleges. The targeting of Christians comes amid a widespread breakdown of public order. The ordinary Christian — hearing stories of gangs breaking into homes and kidnapping Christian girls and women — thinks only of survival. Extremist Pakistani Muslims are frequently the culprits in attacks on Christians. Christians have been especially vulnerable in cases concerning the blasphemy law, which easily converts into a tool of oppression against them This is a planned genocide of Pakistani Christians. At times it seems that it is all being done on the behest of the government. The government promises to reconstruct the homes of Christians destroyed by mobs without taking out any time to do the needful. These are stunts for the media. Those Pakistanis who do speak up for Christians have themselves become targets of violence. In 2011, a sitting governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who had criticised the use of the blasphemy laws against innocent people, was killed by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. This Johnny was then hailed as a hero. I have witnessed this during my imprisonment in Adiala prison; everyone from most junior to most senior jail officials appreciating him and addressing him as a great hero of Islam. The situation of Christians can only be improved when the Muslims of Pakistan consider all Christians of Pakistan as their countrymen, when the government will abolish all discriminatory and blasphemy laws and the world urges Pakistan to declare itself a secular state. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/a-pakistani-christians-long-view-on-declaring-pakistan-secular/#sthash.Bctc2iUL.dpuf

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Close-aide of martyr Allama Arif Hussaini martyred in Peshawar by Yazidi terrorists

Eminent Shia religious scholar and formerly a close-aide of Allama Arif Hussaini embraced martyrdom in a terrorist attack of outlawed Yazidi fanatic group in Peshawar on Monday. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that Maulana Syed Alam Moosavi was targeted by the Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorists of outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi/Sipah-e-Sahaba/Taliban in the capital of Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa Province. The martyr Maulana Moosavi was custodian of Imam Bargah Safdar Hussain Qissa Khwani Bazaar Peshawar. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of noted and senior Shia scholar. They demanded that a targeted military operation be launched to eliminate the terrorists.

Bangladesh arrests three suspected Pakistani militants

Bangladesh police said Monday they have arrested three suspected Pakistani militants who were allegedly carrying a bomb-making manual and other material in the capital Dhaka. The three arrested on Sunday night admitted under police questioning to having received training from the Pakistani Taliban in carrying out attacks, a Dhaka police spokesman said.
The arrests come as Bangladesh police step up a security crackdown following Jan 5 elections that were boycotted by the main opposition and religious allies and marred by deadly unrest.
“A bomb-making manual and a laptop containing information on military training were seized from them,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
The three migrated to Pakistan from western Myanmar and were later trained by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the statement said.
“They have special trainings in car bombs. They took training on grenade and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) from the main trainers of the TTP in Pakistan's territory of Waziristan,” Dhaka police spokesman Monirul Islam told reporters. After winning the elections, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government ordered a crackdown on Islamist activists, accusing them of leading deadly unrest in the weeks before and during the elections.
Security forces have arrested more than 1,000 protesters since the elections, which were boycotted by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its allies, including the largest religious party Jamaat-e-Islami. Throughout last year Islamists also protested at the trial of more than a dozen of their leaders for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. Hasina's secular government set up the war crimes tribunal in 2010, but Islamists and the opposition say the trials that started last year are politically motivated and aimed at eradicating their leadership.
Clashes between Islamists and police over the trials and the elections killed more than 500 people in 2013, in what rights groups have said was the deadliest political violence since independence.

Pakistan's Nawaz Regime.......'Standing still'

Amidst the heated debate over whether we should pursue negotiations or military action to tackle the TTP, the government has chosen a third, even worse, option: stasis. In the last couple of weeks alone there has been a suicide blast at a school in Hangu, two attacks each in Peshawar and Shangla, the assassination of Chaudhry Aslam and then the attack on security forces in Bannu that killed over 20 soldiers. Then, on Monday, a suicide attack at a check post near RA Bazaar in Rawalpindi killed 14 people, including six army personnel. This audacious attack, near the army headquarters, should be the last straw for a government that has shown no urgency even as the TTP has stepped up its campaign of terrorism under the leadership of Mullah Fazlullah. At least Nawaz Sharif cancelled his trip to Davos, something he did not do when he was in Sri Lanka as violence swept the country during Muharram. The prime minister has not taken any action yet but has started talking a lot about taking action. In a telephone conversation with COAS Raheel Sharif, Nawaz said that difficult decisions would have to be made although he did not explain what those difficult decisions would be. He also said at a federal cabinet meeting that out-of-the-box solutions are needed to tackle militancy, although once again there was no elaboration on what those solutions may be.
The cabinet meeting, which took on extra significance after the Rawalpindi blast, discussed the prospects of talks with the Taliban. That more than seven months after the government took power and held an APC to forge a consensus on the matter it is still pondering over it shows just how lethargic it has been. The appointment of Maulana Samiul Haq, and the prime minister’s offhand mention that people like Imran Khan and Fazlur Rehman could also talk to the TTP, now seems a mere smokescreen to buy time. Samiul Haq has welcomed a TTP offer for talks but neglected to mention that the militant group is only open to negotiations if the government shows ‘sincerity’. What the TTP means by that is unclear. If ‘sincerity’ requires the government to halt all military action in the tribal areas even as the TTP itself continues its campaign of violence then this is an untenable position. The TTP, as we are reminded anew after every murderous attack, is not to be trusted. The government should feel free to pursue negotiations but not if it requires defanging the military and ruling out future operations. Whatever it decides to do, though, the government has to take action of some kind immediately. We have had enough of the fiddling while the country is burned to the ground.

Bilawal Bhutto urges politicians to unite against TTP

Pakistan People’s Party patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said time has come to unite against Taliban. In a message on Twitter, Bilawal condemned killings of polio workers in Karachi and said “Eradicate TTP & we will eradicate polio”. He further said after elimination of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), terrorism and drone strikes will end. In his tweet he said: “End TTP & Drone strikes will end. Eliminate TTP & we will eliminate terrorism.Time 2 unite vs TTP”. Bilawal said what option was left for a nation when their 'leaders' could not agree that TTP who murder polio workers deserve to be eradicated once and for all?

UN honours Pakistani staffer and her colleagues killed in Kabul bombing

United Nations flew its flags at half-mast in honour of four staff members, including a Pakistani, who were killed in Friday's terrorist attack in Kabul, with UN chief And other officials pledging to continue working in active support of Afghans.
"As the United Nations mourns this terrorist attack and its victims, we remain committed to work for the peace, stability and development of Afghanistan," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message delivered by his special representative Jan Kubis in Afghanistan.
"We fully support the transition of Afghanistan toward a better future in peace, development and security." Dr. Nasreen Khan of Pakistan, Vadim Nazarov of Russia, Basra Hassan of the United States and Wabel Abdallah of Lebanon were among the more than 20 people killed in an attack on a popular Lebanese restaurant, La Taverna du Liban. "Vadim, Nasreen, Basra and Wabel represented the highest ideals of our Organization," Kubis, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said at a memorial meeting at the main UN compound in Kabul.
"Today, the United Nations family stands with you in grief and solidarity. Our thoughts and full support are with you, and with the families," he added.
UNICEF 's Country Representative, Akhil Iyer, said that Dr. Nasreen Khan was a highly experienced and respected specialist in reproductive health, and in public health in general, "with a passion for saving the lives of new born children and pregnant mothers."
The entrance to the restaurant has since been covered in daffodils and roses, according to media reports, and placards reading "We Stand Against Terrorism and Peace is What We Want by local residents." The Taliban have taken responsibility for the attack, which has been condemned by the secretary-general and a host of UN officials, as well as the 15-member UN Security Council.
The UN has also reiterated that the deliberate targeting of civilians is a gross violation of international humanitarian law, and urged a stop to the violence throughout the country.

No more than four civilians killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan in 2013: study

U.S. CIA drone strikes against militants in Pakistan killed no more than four civilians last year, according to an annual study by a British-based organization, the lowest number of reported civilian deaths since the drone program began in 2004.
The study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism released this month showed that the number of civilian casualties stood at between zero and four.
The findings may reinforce the position of those who support unmanned drones in a debate over the legality, effectiveness and accuracy of the strikes compared to more traditional military operations. The United States releases no information about individual strikes. Information issued by Pakistan's government is patchy. The Bureau tracked 27 suspected strikes, using news reports, field investigations and research by Amnesty International. It said drones, used mainly in remote north-western areas, killed altogether 112-193 people in 2013. The death tolls varied as different sources often gave conflicting accounts.
Increased scrutiny, political pressure and a sharp drop in the number of strikes may have helped cut civilian casualties, said Alice Ross, who heads the Bureau's drone research unit. "The lack of transparency surrounding the drone campaign means it's very hard to say what's causing the drop in civilian casualties," she told a foreign news agency by telephone from London.
"The fact they can now take out a single room in a building does suggest the technology and intelligence are quite advanced, but we haven't seen a commensurate fall in civilian casualties in Yemen."
In 2012, the Bureau tracked 47 strikes, with civilian casualties put at 13 to 63. The drop indicated that previous civilian casualties were genuine, Ross said. Amnesty International has documented strikes that killed a grandmother and a group of labourers in 2012.
"If civilian casualties had been fabricated, you would expect it to continue," she said. She said more reports of civilian casualties might still emerge.
Possible civilian deaths on January 8 and February 6 last year were reported by some Pakistani media. The New York Times reported that the February 6 attack may have been an air strike by the Pakistani military, something they denied. Some Pakistanis welcome the strikes, saying they kill fewer civilians and are far more effective against Taliban militants than traditional military operations.
Others argue the strikes still cause civilian casualties, terrify residents and violate Pakistani sovereignty. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he wants them to end.
Activists from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party are blocking a NATO supply route to Afghanistan to protest against the strikes. A PTI spokeswoman did not respond to requests for details of civilian casualties. The figures for civilian deaths in Pakistan are much lower than those reported for Yemen. Yemeni officials told a foreign news agency a December strike hit a wedding party.
The bureau says 61-99 people were killed in 16 confirmed drone strikes in Yemen last year, and 11-29 of them may have been civilians. There were another 16 suspected drone strikes. In Afghanistan, NATO is investigating a September drone strike. Afghan officials say it killed eight women and children. Since 2004, Pakistan has been hit by 381 drone strikes, the Bureau says, and between 416-951 civilians have been killed.

Pakistan: War and peace

The 20 soldiers killed and 30 injured in the bomb blast in Bannu in a private vehicle hired to transport the men’s convoy are victims of carelessness. If a private vehicle had to be hired for the purpose, should it not have been subjected to a thorough scrutiny? This is inexplicable, perhaps criminal negligence. The military is supposed to investigate the incident, according to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar. We hope the authorities will fix responsibility and not shrink from punishing those whose lapse caused the loss of life and limb. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in revenge for the deaths of Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, both killed in drone strikes. At the same time, ironically, the TTP says it is ready for ‘purposeful, meaningful’ talks. And what does that mean? The TTP demands the drone strikes be halted and the troops withdrawn from the tribal areas. If conceded, the first would free them of the dread of what has become the most lethal weapon against high profile terrorist targets, and the second would give them a free run of the tribal areas to wreak further hell on the people of Pakistan. In the same breath, the TTP also threatens more attacks, which would obviously continue to be aimed at citizens, the armed and security forces, and now even the media. There are reports in the media of frustration within the army at the government’s almost exclusive emphasis on peace talks, which has left it ineffective and paralysed while the army’s hands are tied and it is being unable to take action despite being under attack. To avoid the negative fallout of absence from the country at the present time, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has cancelled his visit to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum.
At the time of writing these lines, the federal cabinet was poised to receive and discuss the national security policy that Chaudhry Nisar has laboured over since the government took office. He says the decision to conduct a military operation, dialogue, or both, will be taken by ‘consensus’ and in the best national interest. What puzzles one is why the word ‘consensus’ pops up here when the federal cabinet is fully empowered to take such decisions and does not need the approval of any other forum or party. The clinging to the desire for that elusive ‘consensus’ can only be described as a hangover from the All Parties Conference confusion. The Chaudhry insists in the face of a widespread perception that the government is not sitting idle but is taking the peace process forward under a strategy. If so, we are still in the dark who the peace partner of the government is and what the ‘strategy’ is. Consensus or not, the minister wants the political parties to stop ‘point scoring’ and unite at this critical juncture to help the government bring peace. A hint of the probable ‘strategy’ or at least way forward can be gleaned from the minister’s elucidation that a Joint Intelligence Directorate will be set up for coordination and intelligence sharing amongst the 26 intelligence agencies in the country. The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) will be the focal point of the strategy. A Rapid Response Force with an air wing will be set up at federal level and be replicated at the level of the provinces. The new apparatus will work round the clock to translate the tons of chatter collected into actionable intelligence. Mapping will be carried out in the cities to create identity databases of people. All this is neither new nor entirely objectionable. But the question remains why it is taking the government so long to get on with all this when the situation demands a rapid response to halt the growing number of terrorist attacks throughout the country. War and peace are dialectically connected. Sometimes, and especially when confronted with a fanatical, battle hardened, elusive enemy such as the Taliban, peace cannot be separated from war fighting. Only if the government gets its act together to govern, which in the present circumstances means grasping the terrorist nettle firmly, can the country hope to see a glimmer of hope on the horizon of better times.

Pakistan: ''Fiddling with fire''

While at least 25 soldiers lost their lives in Bannu cantonment area in a terrorist blast a day earlier, on Monday another 13 people, including six security personnel, were snuffed out by a suicide strike near the army headquarters in Rawalpindi. And as the outlawed TTP claimed responsibility for both the murderous assaults, the ruling hierarchy was just fumbling to get its act together. The prime minister canceled his upcoming trip to Switzerland and convened an urgent cabinet meeting to put together a security policy to counter terrorism that has lately witnessed an unnerving spurt viciously. Statedly, the cabinet has approved a policy, whose soundness could only be adjudged once the details are outed.
But this hierarchy has really stupefied the citizenry all through with its stunning casualness in dealing with the prowling terrorism ever since it took the reins of office. As it stepped into the power corridors, the stalking monstrosity was in a binge of unleashing its bloody vileness in all viciousness. It was lethally targeting both the civilians and the military. And it was generally thought that the hierarchy would set out resolutely at once to de-fang the monstrosity that had taken away from the citizenry all its sense of safety and security and frightened away many a prospective entrepreneur from investing money here. Amazingly, however, the hierarchy showed no such zest. Instead, it fell to red herring pursuits like calling an all-parties conference to think out countering terrorism.
Evidently, never ever it thought that when it comes to the crunch it is the government of the day that has to act in its own best light. Indeed, never it took a pause to understand that what was needed was not an APC but a coherent, thoroughly-considered and concerted strategy to overcome the monstrosity of terrorism. Seemingly, never ever occurred to it that dialogue alone couldn't do it. For, it has to be backed up with robust acts on various fronts like political, administrative, legislative, legal, diplomatic, developmental and educational. Dialogue could only be a part of the scheme, not the whole of it. And the forum for evolving this strategy is not a political jamboree but various arms of the state. What it failed to grasp was even in the best of times not all segments of polity are on the same wavelength. Dissents and disagreements are the common norms in polities.
And it is for the ruling hierarchy to decide what in its wisdom is the best in the nation's interest and act accordingly. It was thus imperative for it to huddle up with official agencies engaged in the national security tasks and hammer out a pragmatic and potentially efficacious strategy to wrestle with terrorism. Appallingly, it didn't and, instead, frittered away time and energies in such frivolous pastimes as APC. At least, on this score its most inept and incompetent predecessors, whose corruption and ineptitude would keep battering this unfortunate nation for times to come, were far better. They did work out a counter-terrorism strategy, at least; though, they then forgot to work it. And it was right in the infancy of their rule that they evolved this strategy; much earlier than has the incumbent hierarchy which has taken more than seven months to do it.
One can say not what it has worked out is workable, really. For, on the face of it the policy that the hierarchy has produced inherently suffers from a baneful debility. Terrorism, inarguably, is not the affliction of the centre alone; it is hurting the provinces as well. Indeed, they, particularly Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the crucial Karachi port city in Sindh and Balochistan, are being mauled variously but devastatingly by terrorism. Their part, therefore, is very critical in grappling with the monstrosity. They have thus indispensably to be part of formulating the security policy. For, it is the provinces that have primarily to fight with terrorism. But it appears they have not been associated actively with the framing of the policy. And that is wrong, indeed making for the ineffectualness of the policy right from the word go.
Not only the governments of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab have to sit down with the federal authority to make for an effective counter-terrorism strategy. As Gilgit-Baltistan has not infrequently borne terrorist assaults and Azad Kashmir too has not been all immune from terrorism's vileness, their governments too have to put in their inputs for making the strategy result-orients. Most of all, since the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have terribly turned into the hotbed of terrorism and militancy, no counter strategy could be worth it until and unless it has full say of the region in its making. But no indication is available even obliquely if the views of them all have been taken into account in the formulation of the security policy. The federal cabinet may have approved it. Even parliament may endorse it.
But it would remain just a sandcastle until it has the inputs and approval of all the four provincial governments as well as of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir and the FATA political administration. Hence, the prime minister must convene a top-level meeting of them all to review the cabinet-approved security policy. That is an inviolable must if terrorism is to be wiped out.

Pakistan: Anti-Polio drive suspended across Sindh after latest attack

Three workers of the anti-polio team were killed when unknown gunmen opened fire in Qayyumabad area of Karachi Tuesday morning. Following the incident the anti-polio drive has been suspended across the province of Sindh, Geo News reported.
According to police, armed attackers riding motorcycles attacked the anti-polio workers who were busy in administering polio drops to the infants in Karachi East area of Qayyumabad. As a result of firing, three workers including two women were killed while two others sustained injuries.
After the incident, two more workers went missing. Police feared that they might have been abducted by the miscreants or have sought refuge to safe their lives.
Deputy Director of Jinnah Hospital Dr Seemi Jamali told that three persons were brought to the hospital out of which two women had died on their way. The injured included a anti-polio worker and a passerby.

Pakistan jets bomb Taliban positions in North Waziristan

Pakistani military aircraft have bombed suspected Taliban positions in North Waziristan, following a wave of attacks against security forces.
A military official said 25 militants had been killed in the air strikes in the tribal area, which borders Afghanistan. On Sunday, 20 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an ambush on an army convoy. The Pakistani Taliban have vowed to step up attacks after their leader was killed in a drone strike.
The air strikes started at around 00:30 local time (19:30 GMT on Monday), an official told AFP news agency, adding that helicopter gunships also took part.
The air strikes were still going on, one report said. It was not immediately clear if there were civilian casualties.
On Sunday, soldiers and paramilitary personnel were preparing to leave Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, for Razmak in North Waziristan when their convoy was hit by a bomb.
On Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least 13 people near Pakistan's army headquarters in Rawalpindi, south of the capital Islamabad. Among those who died were eight military personnel. The Pakistani Taliban claimed both attacks, which follow weeks of relative calm since their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, died in a US drone strike in November.
The new leader, Mullah Fazlullah, has vowed to continue attacks against Pakistani forces. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - under pressure to take a tougher stand on militants - cancelled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos after Sunday's attack.
The two attacks were among the most serious assaults on the military in recent months. Correspondents say they will refresh concerns about Pakistan's strategy for dealing with militancy, with the government keen to pursue peace talks.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemns killings of polio workers in Karachi

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron in Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has strongly condemned brutal killings of three polio workers in Karachi’s Qayumabad area on Tuesday morning. In a press statement, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said Pakistan is under attack from a very evil enemy who not only plans to wipe us out physically but convert us into a nation of crippled and handicapped human beings. “Continuous attacks on our brave polio workers were a form of terrorism against our new generations,” he added. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed sympathies were the martyred polio workers and asked Sindh government to pay compensation to the bereaved families and best medical care for those injured. He said the terrorists targeting the innocent polio workers should be dealt with iron hand and they should not go scot-free.

Pakistan: Three dead in attack on polio team in Karachi's Qayyumabad

Three people, including two women, were killed when a polio team was attacked on Tuesday in Karachi's Qayyumabad area, DawnNews reported. The attack comes a day after Sindh health authorities began to inoculate some 7.6 million children of the province with polio vaccine as part of a nationwide drive that is to continue until Thursday. The first day of the immunisation campaign had concluded without any untoward incident. The children of Sindh are among the over 33 million Pakistani children who are being administered with anti-polio vaccine during the National Immunisation Days (NIDs), scheduled to continue until Jan 23. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic, but efforts to stamp out the crippling disease have been hit by repeated attacks on health teams. Officials blame the violence and suspicions about the vaccine for a surge in cases.