Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pakistan: Intelligence report: ‘TTP, LJ & ASWJ jail terrorists using mobile phones to plan attacks’
‘TTP, LJ & ASWJ jail terrorists using mobile phones to plan attacks’The use of mobile phones and narcotics by prisoners at jails across the country is widespread and may even be on the rise, The Express Tribune has learnt. According to an intelligence report by the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of the Ministry of Interior (MoI), Terrorists of notorious outfit Taliban, SipaheSahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi detained on terrorism charges are using cellular phones to communicate with their accomplices in the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA). Some prisoners are also using mobile phones to plan criminal activities and demand extortion money, it said. The report, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, said the under trial prisoners (UTPs) were provided cellular phones and narcotics by their relatives, friends and accomplices at judicial lock-ups. It said the policemen escorting the UTPs are often “bribed.” In some cases the officials are even drugged by those who sneak phones and narcotics inside the bakhshi khanas [judicial lock-ups], it said. “The policemen [who take bribes] ensure search-free entry of the UTPs in jails… other means to transport phones and narcotics include hiding phones in concrete blocks of construction material and food items,” the report stated. It further said that Qari Waqas, detained at Kot Lakhpat jail, and Shamsul Islam at Haripur jail, had been regularly communicating with their contacts in the FATA to plan terrorist attacks and collect monies. The report warned that preventive measures like installation or rectification of cell phone jammers were needed. It also suggested said crackdowns to recover mobile phones and narcotics at jails across the country. Pujab IG nspector General for Prisons Mian Farooq Nazir said that some prisoners had been found using mobile phones at jails. He said the vigilance cell had recovered 6,363 mobile phones in the recent campaign from jails in the province. “Action has also been taken against 539 police officials involved,” Nazir said the CM had released a Rs333 million grant for installation of mobile phone jammers at 10 prisons by June 30 in the first phase. “PCO’s will be established at jails where jammers are installed. They have already been set up at Gujrat, Gujranwala and in the Camp Jail Lahore,” he added.

Explosion on Peshawar's Charsadda road kills cop, wounds another

A blast near a CNG station on Peshawar's Charsadda road on Sunday killed one policeman and injured another, DawnNews reported. Rescue and security teams reached the blast site. Rescue sources said that one policeman died in the incident whereas another was wounded. The victims were shifted to Lady Reading Hospital. Further details regarding the incident and nature of blast were not available till the filing of this report.

President Obama Responds to the California Drought

Alla Kushnir Belly Dance Festival HALVA 2013

Bahraini protesters stage mass rally in capital

Bahraini protesters have held a mass anti-government demonstration in the capital, Manama, despite an ongoing crackdown by regime forces. The Saturday demo was organized by the main opposition group al-Wefaq, one day after protests marked the third anniversary of the uprising against the Al Khalifa regime. Earlier in the day, regime forces fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators in several towns and villages including Jad Hafs, Diraz and al-Nabih. On Friday, several demonstrators were wounded and over two dozen arrested by security forces. Regime forces also detained nearly 30 protesters in several villages around Manama on February 13, on charges of “rioting and vandalism.” On Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the Bahraini regime to respect its “international human rights obligations” in dealing with peaceful protests in the kingdom. He said that “all political constituencies and actors will need to participate freely in the dialogue for it to produce meaningful outcomes that respond to the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis.” The uprising in Bahrain began in mid-February 2011, with protesters calling for political reforms and a constitutional monarchy. However, the demand soon changed to an outright call for the ouster of the Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were called in to assist the Bahraini regime in its crackdown on the peaceful protests. Scores of people have been killed in the crackdown, and security forces have detained hundreds, including doctors and nurses. Dozens of demonstrators have also been handed jail terms for attending street protests.

Saudi Valentines defy the love police

Red roses lurk hidden in flower shop back rooms and heart-shaped chocolates are sold under the counter, but Saudis still manage to buy Valentine's gifts and defy the religious police. Florist Hussein came up with a simple solution to a ban on red tokens of love: he filled his window with white roses, orange irises and violet hydrangeas. "I've hidden everything red in the shop, so when a religious police patrol comes along, they find nothing to complain about," he said. Anti-Valentine's Day patrols by the Muttawa religious police -- formally known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice -- started on Wednesday. They began entering premises stocking chocolates, flowers and souvenirs to warn proprietors against selling anything red or heart-shaped and linked to the annual "infidel celebration" of matters romantic. Saudi Arabia applies a rigorous interpretation of Islam under which the sexes are strictly segregated and any public display of affection is completely taboo. It is also the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Hussein's shop window may be blooming with white, orange and violet, but he still has the real thing -- red roses -- out the back. "I've sold at least 350 red roses at 20 riyals ($5, 3.90 euros) a pop," he said. "Many women call us on the phone to order roses, because they fear the religious police." Kumar, another florist, was persuaded by a Muttawa visit not even to consider flouting the Valentine?s Day ban, however. "We're going to sell these to a chocolate shop," he said, pointing to bouquets of red flowers in a back room of his store. Confectioners do have chocolate hearts for discreet sale, but only to the right people. "Of course we have them, but the religious police came by and warned us against selling them," said one chocolate shop owner who asked not to be identified. - 'It's only chocolate!' - "We hid them because we don't want any problems," he added, smiling, indicating that an illicit transaction involving the chocolate contraband would be more than acceptable. In another shop in a commercial district of the capital, an Egyptian employee said the religious police had told them not to sell heart-shaped chocolate or sweets wrapped in red paper. One man browsing in the shop was clearly unhappy: "Why are they forbidden? It's only chocolate!" he complained. Another customer -- an older man -- shot him a dark look. Only a liberal fringe of Saudis actually celebrates Valentine's Day in an ultra-conservative society in which clerics and their pronouncements are widely respected. One of the most popular, Mohammed al-Oreifi, this year took to Twitter where he has hundreds of thousands of followers, decreeing that those in the kingdom who celebrate Valentine's Day "want to copy the infidels". However, not everywhere in Saudi Arabia is the ban strictly enforced. In the Red Sea port of Jeddah, the country's commercial capital in the west, a more liberal attitude towards the lovers' festival can be noted. This year, some florists have been openly selling red roses, and are unafraid to give their names. "The religious police didn't come. We're doing nothing wrong anyway," said Abu Zakaria, who runs a flower shop in the north of the city. Another man, Thamer Hussein, said some people with romantic yearnings marked the Valentine's festival a day in advance, to ensure the experience was hassle-free. "Some young people celebrated St Valentine's Day on Wednesday evening, with small parties and exchanges of gifts," he said. In this way they managed to avoid the attentions of the Muttawa, who are expected to perform their duties religiously on Friday, ensuring that for unmarried couples a quick canoodle is definitely unacceptable.

Video:Clashes go into the night in Turkey

Clashes stretch into night as violent protests mark anniversary of Kurdish leader PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's capture in southeast province of Cizre.

WInter Olympics 2014: President Obama congratulates T.J. Oshie and USA hockey team
President Obama congratulated U.S. Olympic hockey hero T.J. Oshie after his penalty shootout goals lifted the United States to a stunning 3-2 victory against Russia on Saturday. “Congrats to T.J. Oshie and the U.S. men’s hockey team on a huge win!” the president wrote on Twitter. “Never stop believing in miracles.”
The tweet was signed “-bo,” indicating that it was written by the president. The president wasn't the only politician paying attention. Former presidential hopeful and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called it a “proud day for USA hockey

President Obama February 15th, 2014 - Weekly Address - Raise the Minimum Wage


Michael Kugelman
In his State of the Union address, President Obama declared, “we’ve put al-Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat.” Yet, he acknowledged that “the threat has evolved as al-Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root” across the Middle East and Africa.
Obama was articulating an oft-repeated White House mantra: Al-Qaeda Central—based in Afghanistan and Pakistan—has been weakened dramatically, but affiliates are proliferating elsewhere in the world.
This is a view supported by numerous commentators and media reports. Writing in Politico last month, terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank argued: “While there is no doubt the United States has severely degraded al-Qaeda’s capabilities in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, its affiliates and allies have grown in strength in many parts of the Arab world.” Similarly, a CNN report in December noted that while al-Qaeda “suffered significant setbacks” after Osama Bin Laden’s death, and drone strikes on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border have eliminated top leaders, “the terror group and its close allies have rebounded in Yemen, the Sinai region of Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and parts of east and west Africa, among other places.”
There’s certainly truth to this perspective, but it’s also misleading: it understates the continued clout of core al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and ignores the presence of al-Qaeda-linked organizations throughout the AfPak region. Indeed, if there’s one thing many if not most extremist organizations in these two countries share in common, it’s their ties to al-Qaeda. You needn’t go to Syria or Iraq to find evidence of the evolutionary diffusion of the al-Qaeda threat; there’s plenty to see across Afghanistan and Pakistan.
To be sure, AfPak-based al-Qaeda Central has been hit hard. Since 2001, most of its top leaders have been captured or killed. Osama Bin Laden, Mohammad Atef, and Ilyas Kashmiri are dead, while Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Abu Zubayda, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed languish at Guantanamo Bay. Ayman al-Zawahiri is one of the very few pre-9/11 leaders who remain alive and free.
Yet, al-Qaeda has successfully overcome the elimination of its top leadership. In the fall of 2012, while Obama was on the presidential campaign trail trumpeting the “decimation” of al-Qaeda, General John Allen—then the supreme commander of international forces in Afghanistan—was warning that the organization had “reemerged” in that country. An Associated Press report at the time found that al-Qaeda “remains active inside Afghanistan, fighting U.S. troops, spreading extremist messages, raising money, recruiting young Afghans,” and helping other radical groups.
Al-Qaeda’s presence in Pakistan, where the bulk of the group’s core leadership and many of its fighters fled from Afghanistan in 2001, is even stronger. According to Zahid Hussain, one of Pakistan’s most noted security specialists, drone strikes have killed many of its leaders, but have had “little effect on the group’s operations.” Analysts have speculated (though never proven conclusively) that al-Qaeda was behind three attacks on Pakistani nuclear facilities in 2007 and 2008, and that the group helped orchestrate a massive jail break last summer in northwestern Pakistan that freed Taliban militants. Hussain also believes that the group has gained a steady stream of new recruits from Pakistan’s urban middle class. This makes sense, given two troubling discoveries allegedly made by Pakistani police last year: one, an al-Qaeda cell at Punjab University in Lahore, and the other, an al-Qaeda safe house in Islamabad (admittedly, this latter discovery was not widely reported, suggesting it may be a fabrication).
Additionally, even as al-Qaeda’s centers of gravity have shifted to the Middle East and Africa, it has maintained—if not intensified—a strikingly Pakistani identity. As Stephen Tankel pointed out in a War on the Rocks piece last year, Urdu (a major language in Pakistan) has become the “predominant” language of al-Qaeda propaganda material, and Pakistan is the subject of many al-Qaeda videos.
Given this “Pakistanization” of al-Qaeda (the term is Tankel’s), it’s wholly unsurprising that so many Pakistani and Afghan militant groups have connections to the group. Lashkar-e-Taiba, the organization responsible for the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, offers a case in point. Documents found in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound reveal that Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed enjoyed long-standing ties to Bin Laden—and that the latter even helped plan the Mumbai attacks. When high-ranking al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubayda was discovered in Pakistan in 2002, he was staying at a Lashkar-e-Taiba safehouse.
President Obama’s own government has explicitly laid out the links between al-Qaeda and another well-known Pakistani extremist group, the Pakistani Taliban. The State Department describes a “symbiotic relationship” between the two outfits—one in which the Pakistani Taliban (whose leaders often appear in al-Qaeda propaganda videos) benefits from al-Qaeda ideology while providing safe havens to its fighters. In the words of one analyst, the Pakistani Taliban has “become the foundation within which al-Qaeda’s original leadership has been able to survive and adapt.” The Pakistani Taliban (like many other area militant groups) has also partnered operationally with al-Qaeda; in 2009, they collaborated on the suicide attack that killed seven CIA personnel at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province.
Pakistan’s most feared sectarian militant group—Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has staged attacks in all four Pakistani provinces (a feat few other Pakistani terrorist groups can boast of)—has provided supplies to al-Qaeda, and overseen its fighters’ movements through safehouses.
Meanwhile, since being overthrown in 2001, the Afghan Taliban’s leadership has continued to confer with al-Qaeda officials (including about joint operations against NATO troops in Afghanistan). And an influential 2011 West Point study asserts that the Haqqani network—which regularly carries out high profile attacks in Afghanistan—functions with al-Qaeda “as an interdependent system.”
Then there’s the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a foreign outfit operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the UN, al-Qaeda leaders encouraged its formation and provided much of its start-up funding—and its top leaders have held jobs with al-Qaeda. These groups represent a mere sample; consult a complete list of the region’s terror organizations, and you’ll find many more (from Jaish-e-Mohammed to Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and many in between) with al-Qaeda ties.
To be sure, none of these entities are formal al-Qaeda affiliates; al-Qaeda’s senior leadership has only recognized groups in the Middle East and Africa as such. But an overemphasis on the semantics with which we define jihadists’ intergroup relationships obscures the practical significance of those that involve groups to which the “formal affiliate” designation doesn’t apply. Despite the informal nature of their ties to al-Qaeda leaders, the threat that these groups pose is equally, if not more, serious than that of the affiliates. In Congressional testimony last year, Thomas Joscelyn of the Long War Journal pointed out that in 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described the AfPak-based groups as part of a terrorist “syndicate” developed by al-Qaeda. “The success of any one of these groups leads to new capabilities and a new reputation for all,” according to Gates.
Consider as well that some of these organizations nurture global ambitions. The Pakistani Taliban has threatened to attack American cities, and provided training to a man intent on doing so: Faisal Shahzad spent weeks in Waziristan with the group before his attempt to blow up Times Square in 2010 (more recently, the Pakistani Taliban has claimed to have dispatched fighters to Syria). Meanwhile, members of Lashkar-e-Taiba have fought in the Middle East and Balkans, and the group has cells in Spain and Australia. This is why it’s wrong to argue, as President Obama did in a recent New Yorker interview, that the new generation of al-Qaeda-aligned and inspired organizations is focused exclusively on local affairs. Perhaps this is the case in the Middle East and North Africa, but it’s certainly not true in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
These two nations’ extremist groups have already scored a major victory for al-Qaeda. “Bin Laden’s original vision,” Michael Nelson recently wrote for War on the Rocks, “was of a loose confederation of like-minded regional jihadist groups.” Today, evidence of the success of this objective is visible on both sides of the Durand Line.
Now is the time to acknowledge al-Qaeda’s continued presence and clout in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With Afghan President Hamid Karzai so far refusing to sign a bilateral security agreement with Washington, some prominent American commentators are issuing misguided warnings that al-Qaeda will make a “comeback” in the region if no U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan next year.
In reality, there won’t be an al-Qaeda comeback in the AfPak region because al-Qaeda never really left. A more valid fear is that a residual force (which would be modest in number and capacity) does remain after next year, yet is helpless to prevent a fearsome terrorist syndicate from extending its tentacles across some of the world’s most militancy-ravaged real estate.

Russian Praises Veterans of War in Afghanistan

Russia's defense minister has praised veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan as "true patriots" as the nation on Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal. Sergei Shoigu said in a statement marking the anniversary that Soviet soldiers' heroism in the war was part "of the best combat traditions of the Motherland." He added that the experience has proven useful for counter-terrorism and peacekeeping duties. The Soviet invasion began on Dec. 25, 1979 and ended when the last units withdrew on Feb. 15, 1989. On Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's initiative, the Soviet parliament in 1989 declared the Afghan war a mistake. According to Shoigu, more than 14,000 Soviet soldiers died and about 50,000 were wounded. The government of Soviet-backed Najibullah fell in April 1992 after Moscow withdrew support following the 1991 Soviet collapse. Franz Klintsevich, the chairman of the Afghan Veterans Union, has urged the government to revise the Soviet parliament's condemnation of the war. But Col.-Gen. (Ret.) Boris Gromov, who served as the commander of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and led their withdrawal in 1989 and currently serves as a lawmaker, dismissed the request as "stupid," according to the Interfax news agency. Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov also that revising the assessment of the war would be "inappropriate" now.

Afghanistan: The USSR left, the US wants to stay

By Pepe Escobar
Just before noon on Feb. 16, 25 years ago, Lieut. Gen. Boris Gromov, top Soviet commander in Afghanistan, solemnly walked across the Friendship Bridge over the Amu Darya River into Uzbekistan. He uttered the words: “Our 9-year stay ends with this.” The USSR was officially out of Afghanistan. It was a unilateral withdrawal – even as Daddy Bush, then US President, wanted to keep weaponizing those Afghan “freedom fighters” .
Rewind to the Soviet invasion, in December 1979. Few will remember how then US President Jimmy Carter – a hick Hamlet – almost burst into tears because the USSR had invaded that “profoundly religious” country. Well, a few months earlier, the US ambassador in Afghanistan had been assassinated by those “profoundly religious” characters. And guess who tried to save him? The KGB. Dr. Zbig Brzezinski himself – the man who years later we would learn “invented” the USSR’s Vietnam, six months before the Soviet invasion – gleefully told the story to White House correspondents. By the way, this all happened before the fall of the Shah of Iran, which sparked in the mind of Hamlet Carter the demented idea that the USSR was about to invade Iran and take over “our” Persian Gulf oil. The extremely cautious Soviet leadership would never even contemplate that notion.
It was the USSR, for instance, that had prevented the US from using nuclear weapons in Vietnam. And it was the USSR that prevented the US from intervening in Iran to save the Shah. The leadership in Moscow was very much aware that were the USSR to “invade” Iran to take over all that oil and gas, the US would launch no less than a nuclear war. But to brandish the threat of a nuclear war after the Soviets entered Afghanistan was exactly what Carter did – something that frightened even the US establishment, as in George Kennan, the author of the “containment of communism” strategy. Wily Dr. Zbig, though, knew better; unlike pumpkin Carter, he wanted nothing else than the USSR to meet its Vietnam.
Let me hammer you towards progress
The USSR was helping Afghanistan since the aftermath of the October Revolution. The left had been very strong in the country since the 1950s. Then, in 1973, Mohammed Daoud led a coup against his cousin, King Zahir Shah. After the coup, communists and their allies kept playing an important role – even as they routinely cut each other’s throats. In the middle of one of these very murky scraps the USSR decides to step in, privileging its favorite faction (led by Babrak Karmal) and, at least in theory, advancing the cause of socialism. Big mistake, with dizzyingly complex consequences – from the rise of jihadism to the fall of the Soviet Union itself, and up to Russian historians to evaluate. The key problem was that both Daoud and Moscow tried to implement progress in Afghanistan with a hammer – with no effect. King Amanullah had tried as early as 1919, also supported by the Russians. It’s impossible to impose a progressive form of government onto peasants and warriors without changing a feudal structure perpetuated through millennia. Still after the Soviet exit, and now the tentative American exit, the problem remains. We all know what happened after the Soviet withdrawal. The Afghan government remained in place as long as there was Soviet support. But then the USSR dissolved itself in December 1991. And collapse was followed by chaos, from 1992 to 1996. Every mujahid made a play for Kabul – from the “Lion of the Panjshir” Ahmad Shah Masoud to former Saudi favorite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and former American favorite Abdul Haq.
Masoud is dead, killed by al-Qaeda two days before 9/11. Haq is dead, killed by the Taliban in November 2001 as the Americans were grooming him for a bright political future. Hekmatyar remains one of America’s top public enemies, but no more than a side player. What finally emerged in 1996, when they captured Kabul, was the Taliban – a Pakistani invention. Gen. Zia ul-Haq, the ultra-fundamentalist general who ruled everything from 1977 to 1988, had “Islamicized” Pakistani society and especially the military-intelligence complex to a point of no return. Then, during the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad, Pakistan controlled virtually every single mujahid via the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI. Those most lavishly weaponized were (what else?) hardcore Islamists; the CIA, partners in crime, were easily fooled. But Brzezinski, among others, knew what that would imply. He was fully aware of the American tradition of supporting every nasty bunch of medieval religious fanatics against nationalist and/or progressive movements in the then called Third World – and the myriad chances of blowback. As Pakistan goes, for decades we have had an ISI continuum; support to the hardcore mujahideen in the 1980s; the Taliban in the 1990s; and since 9/11, more discreetly, the Afghan Taliban but not the Pakistani Taliban. Today we also know that the US bombing and mini-invasion of late 2001, followed by NATO’s long occupation, was in fact devised even before 9/11, as the first Dubya administration got fed up with discussing Pipelineistan and Osama bin Laden with the Taliban and wanted to impose its own rules. 9/11 was the perfect pretext. I vividly remember that even before Tora Bora, in late November 2001, Afghans of all stripes were convinced King Zahir Shah would return to the throne. Instead, they were presented with American puppet Hamid Karzai. Over the years, the American-led occupation fed on the rationale of “fighting al-Qaeda,” when in fact the whole operation turned into a white man’s war against Pashtuns, the overwhelming majority of them Taliban.
The ghost of Saigon 1975
Now the puppet has grown a set of balls; he won’t sign a Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) with the Americans. Washington’s quite predictable furious reaction is to finally ignore him and pray to clinch a deal with his successor.
Everyone knows the storm in the making. There’s absolutely no evidence a strong central government will emerge in Kabul after April’s elections. Not even minimally as strong as the Afghan government that survived for almost three years after the Soviet withdrawal 25 years ago. There are the so-called “Afghan security forces” which totally depend on Western money and weapons. The Afghan government simply cannot afford them. Who will pay them? A consortium of Europeans, Russians and Chinese? And then there’s the game Pakistan will play. Pakistan’s Afghan policy has always been “strategic depth,” as in controlling a weak Afghan state. This implies, in a nutshell, a “friendly” government; too weak in military terms to question the Durand line – the 2,500-kilometer artificial border “invented” by the British empire; and absolutely incapable of raising the intractable Pashtunistan issue, which is at the heart of the border controversy. Every each way we look at it, Islamabad sees Pashtun nationalism as an existential threat. The Obama administration couldn’t care less – not to mention the Pentagon and the whole Beltway for that matter. The only thing that matters is to keep those prime real estate morsels in the Empire of Bases – especially Bagram, which Karzai defined as a “Taliban factory.” These military bases are essential to survey, harass or simply intimidate both Russia and China – thus key assets in the ever-evolving New Great Game in Eurasia. The pretext used to be al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda relocated to Libya and the Levant. The fight against the Taliban can’t qualify as a pretext anymore as Karzai himself is trying to clinch a deal with them, and NATO will be out of Afghanistan before the end of the year. As nasty as they can be the Taliban played, and keep playing, a very long game; they want to dictate the terms of post-American Afghanistan. So what’s left to Washington after an interminable, multi-trillion-dollar war that ends with a monumental whimper - for all practical purposes a hardcore Pashtun victory? Not to abandon the battlefield entirely, as in Saigon 1975 (Gromov crossing the Friendship Bridge 25 years ago would pale in comparison). The solution is to leave a “residual” force of at least 10,000 that will keep enabling the CIA drone war in the Pakistani tribal areas, which will go on as long as Islamabad cannot clinch a deal with the Pakistani Taliban.
No powerful regional actors want this state of affairs, from Iran to Russia and China, not to mention the AfPak consortium. Throughout 2014, expect Iran, Russia, China and India to weigh heavily toward an Afghan solution without the Americans. Yet the “residual force” will remain the Pentagon’s wet dream. If they can't have Full Spectrum Dominance, even partial spectrum will do. That certainly beats crossing the Amu Darya back to Uzbekistan with a Saigon taste in their mouths.

pashto song dedicated to DIEHARD PASHTUN_AFGHAN DR.NAJIB

د نړۍ د ماشومانو دامن نړیوالې جایزې نومانده ملاله

FATA women and the question of Taliban sharia

By Mona Naseer
The Taliban have achieved their aim of becoming non-state national actors by pretending to be concerned about the constitution and the future political agenda it wants to set
As Pakistan prepares to define the parameters of talks with the Taliban, certain questions and concerns are missing from our media. Specifically, the question of women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has, so far, been omitted from the discourse in the mainstream media. During the past decade, reporting on FATA has largely been limited to drone attacks, martyrs versus non-martyrs, the US-led war or our own war, military operations and the subsequent displacement of a large number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The human side of this war — especially its gender effects — is rarely discussed in our media. The miseries of women in FATA because of mass migration, internal displacement, rape, abuse and killings in this war have received little attention or sympathy. No help is available for women widowed or sexually abused, and their children, semi-orphaned, during this war.
Women and children in camps and different villages are traumatised but, because of conservative cultural norms and traditions, they cannot seek help or counselling. According to a recent study, a great majority (71 percent of respondents in IDP camps), believe they suffer from depression, anxiety and other psychological issues, particularly among women and children. Women are less likely to share their burdens however, and have learnt to dull their feelings and remain silent. The already existing vacuum created by Article 247-B of Pakistan’s constitution, which put FATA outside the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s Supreme Court (SC) and parliament, had already isolated the region, particularly in times of ongoing militancy. That vacuum was filled with traditions, local customs and tribal jirgas (councils) and was further widened when the Taliban entered the area, exploiting the situation and making the administrative system ineffective. Their stern, dogmatic views have made women’s rights to education, voting and free movement the main casualty in the current situation.
With the estimated seven million population of FATA, women constitute up to 60 percent of the workforce in the agricultural sector, mainly to earn their sustenance and support their families. With the Taliban takeover, many were restricted to staying indoors. The loss of their workforce has pushed some families, especially those families that have no male breadwinner, into extreme poverty. The Taliban’s foremost ideological agenda seemed to be annihilation of educational institutions across FATA. Bombings of girls’ schools in FATA by the Taliban were coupled with girls being banned from attending schools. There are news reports that the remaining schools were taken over by the army as base camps. According to official data from the FATA Secretariat, 450 schools in FATA were bombed in recent years. With less than three percent literacy rate among FATA women, the destruction of infrastructure, and forcefully stopping girls from going to school has further affected the lives of women in one of the poorest regions in the world. While the education sector suffers from bombing of schools by the Taliban, the health sector has also had a major setback in the targeting of polio workers in the region. The already non-existent health infrastructure in FATA has further deteriorated with ongoing militancy. FATA has 41 hospitals for its estimated seven million population. There is one bed for every 2,327 people as compared to 1,450 in the rest of Pakistan. For a population of 8,189, only one doctor is available and a mere 43 percent of people have access to safe drinking water. The Taliban banned women from stepping out of the house without a mehram (male guardian). With restricted mobility, women and children cannot visit health clinics, thus affecting their health and wellbeing. During Taliban sharia rule in Afghanistan, many women died of minor ailments because of their restricted mobility, and the added restriction that women could only by treated by female doctors. Taliban control in FATA has created a system that runs parallel to the one already operating (albeit dysfunctionally), making it more oppressive and further subjugating women in the region. The recent development of talks with the Taliban and the subsequent demand of Taliban-imposed shariat ignore the question of women. In fact, they ignore the lives of people in FATA. Does this mean that the impending imposition of official sharia will replace the old system operating in FATA? Will imposition of sharia with state blessing acknowledge the basic rights of women? Will women’s right to education, healthcare and free movement be ensured? The implementation of sharia by the Taliban, even in its very strict sense, ideally should not have affected the education, health and work rights of these women but the Pakistani Taliban version of sharia is more regressive and ‘Arabised’ in nature than Islamic. The Taliban in Pakistan have given the same edicts that were made by the Taliban in Afghanistan regarding women, making it one of the most misogynist movements in the world. Unfortunately, with their myopic sharia, girls were forced to stay indoors, schools were closed and their mobility was restricted in the Taliban-controlled areas of FATA. It is very clear that the Taliban are averse to even a limited role for women, like the one women in FATA had before. This is their policy agenda of sharia, regarding women.
The Taliban have achieved their aim of becoming non-state national actors by pretending to be concerned about the constitution and the future political agenda it wants to set, but we know that these concerns will only be entertained by Pakistan in areas that do not come under the constitution like FATA. However, with state approval, this tyranny will become official. All these basic concerns of the women in FATA — who are already burqa-clad, have restricted mobility and are suppressed in the name of patriarchy — should be addressed if we want to talk about durable solutions in the region. Women become the worst victims of war and the biggest stakeholders of peace. How does our country expect a ‘return’ to peace when women, who are already a part of the marginalised system, will be further persecuted with state blessings and tribal selective sharia? The precedent of Taliban rule and their treatment of women are visible next door to us. Ignoring the question of women and their stake in the possible imposition of the Taliban version of sharia in FATA in our dialogue with the Taliban is criminal neglect, and one that our liberals are quiet about since achieving peace is a desperate priority for the state. Recently, the Senate passed a resolution asking the government to protect the rights of women and minorities in the peace talks but how is that resolution extendible or binding on the government when Article 247-B puts FATA outside the jurisdiction of parliament? Achieving ‘peace’ by ignoring half the population of FATA would be a farce.

Peshawar University: Roses are blood red

Everyone was expecting some sort of calamity on Valentine’s Day this year considering the extremist mindset that is prevalent in society nowadays. That the hooliganism came from Peshawar University (PU) is not surprising considering that the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is now the main focus of militant ire. A clash erupted on the campus premises when members of the vigilante Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba (IJT) confronted students belonging to the Pakhtun Students Federation (PkSF) because of the observance of the romantic holiday within the university premises. Apparently, the enraged hoards of IJT ruffians could not fathom the fact that the pious youngsters of Pakistan are able to possess feelings of affection for the opposite sex and they therefore interrupted the festivities. This was just too much for the members of the PkSF. It did not take long for matters to escalate from there, leading to the vandalism and burning of hostel blocks by the IJT.
The IJT, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and others of their ilk have been harping on about the ‘sin’ and ‘immorality’ of Valentine’s Day for some years now, labelling it a western phenomenon and unworthy of Muslims. They have been on a roll trying to substitute this romantic occasion with another one: haya (modesty) day as a substitute. The very proposition is ludicrous. How on earth is the display of affection and love from spouses, partners, friends, family and children anything to oppose? The fact remains that these narrow-minded people see everything related to any sort of human pleasure as atrocious and, mostly, their anger lands on women whom they consider to be the cause of all sin and vice. This allows them to push forward patriarchal attitudes in which women are viewed as nothing but slaves and child bearers confined to their homes. Showing any love for them is strictly forbidden it seems. That is why they wish to promote their own brand of ‘modesty’ in the place of love and compassion. They fail to understand that the innocent mingling of the sexes does not create filth in society — it is the dirty minds possessed by these elements that disperse all sorts of filth imaginable into the minds of the impressionable, where women are shown as little more than sex objects. What a warped mindset and what a warped society that allows it to flourish. The PkSF members appear to have had enough of their lunacy and decided to answer fire with fire. Understandable, yes, but we prefer the adage: ‘Make love, not war.’

Pakistan: Two Sikh men abducted in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa province

Two men kidnapped along with two Pakistani Sikhs were on Friday released by their abductors in the country's restive northwest though the other captives remain untraceable, police said. The two men freed were employees of Pawinder Singh and Nand Singh, who deal in natural medicines. Police said the Sikhs continue to remain untraceable. The four men were abducted by unidentified people at gunpoint in Dera Ismail Khan district bordering South Waziristan tribal region on Thursday. The kidnapping occurred near the Daraban area in the restive Khyber-Pakthunkhwa province. Sardar Singh, a resident of Peshawar, registered a case against unknown terrorists in Daraban police station for the abduction of his son Pawinder Singh and nephew Nand Singh. The Sikhs had gone to Dera Ismail Khan from Peshawar in connection with their business. Further investigation is on in the case, police officials said. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. Peshawar has a sizable Sikh population and there have been several instances in recent years of members of the minority community being kidnapped for ransom.

VIDEO: Bilawal Bhutto Speech at Sindh Festival

Bilawal Bhutto Speech at Sindh Festival by abbtakktv

Negotiations won't solve anything: Bilawal Bhutto

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said here on Saturday they have shown to the world through Sindh Festival that ‘we are not terrorists’ but a victim of it adding that the blood of martyrs won’t go in vain. Addressing the closing ceremony of Sindh Festival, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman said that the people are fully aware of what the Shariah, Islam and civilization is; asking “who are they to teach us Islam?” Bilawal said that they won’t bow before terrorists and do not recognize the terrorists as torchbearers of Islam. “Terrorists want to impose their own law of terrorism,” he said. “We do not recognize terrorists’ system of jungle; they want to open the gates of heaven by building piles of corpses.” Chairman PPP said that these are the same people who oppose Pakistan; the same people who termed Quaid-e-Azam as infidel. He further said that they won’t let the blood of martyrs go in vain. Bilawal asked if the nation has forgotten Sufi Mohammad and how PPP led government established writ in Swat. “Ask the nation’s daughters what terrorism means” he said. “Will the nation’s daughters be treated like Malala?” PPP Chief said they are not the product of the West but “our own civilization is under threat.” The terrorists should fear the time when the nation will unite and do ‘damadum mast qalandar’ against them, he warned. Sindh Festival piloted early this month and concluded today. The festival comprised a number of cultural festivities and events reflecting the 5000-year-old Indus Valley Civilization.

Pakistan: Government school blown up in Hangu; watchman injured

Unknown assailants blew up a government high school in Hangu’s Tora Warai area on Saturday, DawnNews reported. According to police, explosive material was planted in three classrooms of the school which went off with a loud noise. The attack also left the school's watchman injured. He was immediately shifted to a local hospital where his condition was reported as out of danger. As a result of the blasts, three rooms of the school were badly damaged. Following the explosion, police cordoned off the area and a search operation went underway. Hangu borders the northwestern tribal region of Orakzai, one of Pakistan's seven lawless districts on the Afghan border considered to be the hub of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants.

Bilawal Bhutto lashes out at 'stone-age' Taliban

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party, on Saturday slammed the Taliban for trying to drag the country back to the “stone-age.” Addressing a gathering during the closing ceremony of a two-week cultural festival in his home province of Sindh, Bhutto also urged the country to rise up against the threats. “The Taliban want to impose the law of terror in the country, but I want to tell them, if you have to live in Pakistan you will have to follow its constitution,” he said. “We don't accept the law of terrorists,” he added. “Some people are trying to bring back the stone-age era in the country in the name of Islam.” “The terrorists should think of the time when the whole nation will stand against them,” he said in Makli, around 100 kilometres north of Karachi. “We are Muslims and the terrorist groups should not try to teach us Islam.” Nearly 7,000 people have been killed in the insurgency by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) since it began in 2007, according to an AFP tally. The start of 2014 has seen a surge in militant violence with more than 130 people killed. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government has been under fire from political opponents for failing to mount a strong response to the upsurge in attacks. The government has for months said it favoured talks with the Taliban but 25-year-old Bilawal has spoken in favour of military action against them. The Taliban's demands include the nationwide imposition of sharia law and an end to US drone strikes. Former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 by the Pakistani Taliban after leaving a campaign rally of her Pakistan People's Party. Her husband and Bilawal's father Asif Ali Zardari was president from 2008-2013.

Enter Bilawal.............. On the right side of history

By Nadeem F Paracha
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the eldest son of late Benazir Bhutto and grandson of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), has stormed his way into political prominence.
But unlike his grandfather and mother, Bilawal never went to jail for his political beliefs and actions.
His ‘street-cred’ – a vital badge to earn and keep by populist politicians in South Asian countries – was instead gained almost overnight by a fiery, rip-roaring speech that he delivered in the Bhutto family’s hometown, Larkana, on the sixth death anniversary of his mother (who was assassinated in December 2007).
Suddenly, the 25-year-old Bilawal, who till last November, was being seen to be nothing more than a harmless caricature of his family’s political legacy, roared his way into becoming the main news item on the evening of December 27, 2013, when during his speech in Larkana he pumped his fists, beat his chest and rolled up his sleeves (like his grandfather), and threw swinging sarcastic jibes at political opponents (like his mother), on his way to publicly ‘declare (his) war against religious extremism.’
His pumped-up declaration made him one of the few mainstream politicians in the country to openly castigate extremist outfits that have been accused of slaughtering over 50,000 Pakistani civilians, cops, soldiers and politicians since 2002.
The move to unleash radical anti-extremist rhetoric during a huge public rally was what Bilawal and his close aids believed would give him the opening he was looking for to become the Pakistan Peoples Party’s next big thing. The opening was successfully created. It was done by cleverly placing Bilawal and the future of his party on that side of the political/ideological landscape in Pakistan that has remained vacant for more than a decade now.
Ever since the 1990s the left side of the Pakistani political divide that was once firmly occupied by outfits such as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the (now defunct) National Awami Party (NAP), had begun to be abandoned by most left and left-liberal parties that (after the collapse of the Cold War in 1991), began to move more to the centre, and even towards centre-right platforms.
Though ever since the conservatism of the 1980s a surge in politics based on theological assumptions and pretentions were already a growing phenomenon in Muslim countries, in the last ten years or so (or after 9/11), the societal and political shift towards the rightest sides of politics in Muslim countries saw a two-fold growth.
When Imran Khan and his once tiny party, the Pakistan Thereek-i-Insaf (PTI), suddenly erupted into prominence (and size) after a series of successful rallies in 2011 (especially in the Punjab), the rightest side of the divide became immensely cluttered.
On this side are not only the country’s two large centre-right parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and the PTI, but also mainstream religious parties such as the fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islami (JI), the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), and various smaller religious outfits.
On the other hand, the left-liberal parties such as the PPP and the Awami National Party (ANP), found themselves on shaky ground. They were not on the left side of the divide and certainly not on the right. They remained in a limbo of sorts. PPP and ANP were coalition partners along with the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) during the last PPP-led government (2008-2013). They were also constant targets of religious extremists. The third main party of the former coalition government, the MQM, also faced a series of brutal terrorist attacks by the extremists. But unlike the PPP, the attacks seemed to have pushed the MQM deeper into the left sides of the Pakistani political divide.
So what is this left side about? In the last decade or so, being on the left side of the political landscape in Pakistan has come down to mean holding left-liberal views on politics, economics and morality. MQM has been placed here for quite a while now. So one cannot claim that this side was entirely empty before Bilwal decided to shift in. But the MQM is a regional party, whereas the PPP is a federal-level party.
As terrorist attacks against civilians and military personnel continue to grow at an alarming rate, and the narrative of centre-right and religious parties begins to thin, the counter-narrative to this has started to find its way into the mainstream. The centre-right and rightist narrative explains the attacks (by the extremists) as being the consequence of US drone strikes, Pakistan’s involvement in America’s War on Terror, or something being engineered by a ‘third force.’
The counter-narrative to this suggests that the proliferation of extremist thought and outfits in the country is mostly due to the follies of the Pakistani state/establishment, and of weak, appeasing politicians. This counter-narrative first began to develop in the early 2000s on the fringes of the country’s intellectual circles. The counter-narrative also seeks radical action from the military, the media and the government to depoliticize religion in the country and (if necessary) use force to eradicate the violent extremist and sectarian groups that have been emerging (many with state-backing) from the 1980s onwards.
After the mid-2000s, the first mainstream party to adopt the counter-narrative was the MQM along with the Pushtun nationalist outfit, the ANP. Though the PPP too agreed with certain sections of the counter-narrative, it opted not to use it to inform and design the policies it formed and followed during its last ruling tenure (2008-13). The reason for this was that by the time the PPP, MQM and ANP managed to form a shaky coalition government at the centre in 2008, the centre-right/rightest narrative had been fully ingrained in the collective psyche of large sections of the country’s polity and society by the centre-right, religious parties and even by the electronic media.
Some believe that the Pakistani electronic media has been a major player in facilitating the proliferation of right-wing narratives in (urban) Pakistan. However, things in this respect began to mutate at a rapid pace when centre-right parties such as the PMLN and PTI (allied with the fundamentalist JI), managed to dislodge the PPP, MQM and ANP from the centre, Punjab, Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), during the May 2013 national and provincial elections. But the violent extremist activity did not halt with the coming into power of parties that are sometimes accused of being ‘apologists’ of the extremists. On the contrary, there was actually a 40 per cent rise in attacks on military personnel, civilians and on members of non-Sunni sects as well as on some Sunni sub-sects and Christians by the banned extremist organizations.
PMLN and PTI are still not sure how much currency the counter-narrative holds in the mainstream Alas, by the end of last year, parts of the counter-narrative began to even echo in and around the PMLN government. The counter-narrative grew in strength in the armed forces as well where it had already been gaining acceptance and ground from 2012 onwards.
Though now under tremendous pressure to explain the recent unprecedented rise in militant and terrorist attacks, PMLN and PTI are still not sure how much currency the counter-narrative holds in the mainstream. Both the parties are still unsure about the outcome of them fully adopting the counter-narrative. They aren’t sure whether by adopting the counter-narrative they might anger their main middle and lower-middle-class constituencies (especially in the Punjab).
This is a worry that does not bother the MQM because the nature of its main electoral centres – the urban middle-class and lower-middle-classes in cities like Karachi and Hyderabad – are somewhat different in this respect compared to those of their class contemporaries in the Punjab.
The majority of Karachi and Hyderabad’s middle and lower middle-class polities are not as vehemently right-wing as those in the Punjab, so this gives the MQM enough room to wholeheartedly weave the counter-narrative into its overall appeal. Same is the case with PPP’s large vote bank in Sindh. The PPP is still the only party with the ability to win seats in all the four provinces of the country; but it was routed by PMLN and PTI in the Punjab and KP during the 2013 election. The defeat is what led to the factors that played a major role in helping Bilawal to formulate his strategy to enter mainstream politics and rejuvenate the PPP by pushing it back towards the left side of the divide. The three factors influencing this push are: (1) The party’s cautious approach towards the counter-narrative had left it sounding ambiguous, and this, coupled with its shaky performance as a ruling party between 2008 and May 2013, made the party seem rudderless and ideologically void; (2) No federal-level party was willing to adopt the counter-narrative even when the narrative finally began to make its way into mainstream media and the military after the recent rise of extremist militancy. (3) The left sides of the political landscape have begun to attract the attention from various sections of the polity, but this polity found only regional parties there (MQM and ANP). Consequently, Bilwal decided to launch himself and rejuvenate the party by storming into the left sides of the post-9/11 political landscape. The gambit has largely paid off because by the time he wrapped up his speech in Larkana, he found a receptive audience that has been steadily growing on the left side of the country’s political landscape. As the clutter on the right side of the divide rapidly turns into confusion, the PPP, MQM and ANP are replenishing themselves on the left side. A side once abandoned, but now attracting the attention and interest of a growing number of Pakistanis perturbed by the rising cases of extremist and sectarian violence, and by the gradual erosion and possible collapse of the once well-entrenched centre-right and rightist narrative.
Bilawal has understood this is the side to be on to be on the right side of history.
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Karachi residents live in fear as Pakistan Taliban gains strength

Armored car sales have soared, and some new luxury apartments feature bulletproof glass. Local police officers, slain this year at an average rate of one per day, are demoralized. And now even the journalists are trying to arm themselves. Pakistan’s biggest city has been plagued by crime and political violence for decades, with Urdu- and Pashto-speaking groups battling for influence. But the bloodshed is worsening as the domestic Taliban insurgency expands. The militant group was largely responsible for a 90 percent spike in terrorist attacks in Karachi last year, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, which monitors violence. In the latest such attack, an explosion tore through a bus carrying police Thursday morning, killing a dozen officers. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. The bloodshed in this city reflects the Pakistani Taliban’s growing national offensive against the government and religious minorities. But the insurgents are also using violence to take control of some city neighborhoods, where ordinary residents are forced to contribute to their cause, analysts said. The mayhem is raising concerns that one of the world’s most populous cities is teetering on the brink of lawlessness. “Something must be done soon, if Pakistan is to be saved,” said Nasir Jamal, a deputy director of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a major political party.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif insists that Karachi can be tamed through targeted security operations and peace talks launched last monthwith the Pakistani Taliban. But residents of the country’s economic and cultural hub are deeply worried.
“Everyone is just waiting their turn to be killed,” said Zamin Ali, son of a prominent Shiite attorney who was fatally shot outside a Karachi courthouse in July, part of a surge of sectarian killings being carried out by the Taliban and other Sunni-dominated militant groups. For all the unrest, Karachi hardly resembles Baghdad or Mogadishu. It is home to dozens of international corporations, the Pakistan stock exchange and two major ports. Streets remain busy well into the night as residents flock to upscale shopping malls and events such as a new dolphin show at the aquarium and Pakistan’s first performance of the Broadway musical “Grease.” Yet, that semblance of normality is increasingly being tested by Islamist militants surging into the city from northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan, part of a larger migration that has caused the city’s population to nearly double in just over a decade, to about 22 million.
The city has long suffered from violence linked to gangs, drug traffickers and political mobsters. But now, some areas of the city look increasingly militarized. In the Kati Pahari neighborhood, where a mountain of orange-tinged rock looms over the city, heavily armed officers man checkpoints, stopping cars in search of militants traveling from police no-go zones in the vast slums on the outskirts of town. The influxbegan after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 caused al-Qaeda fighters and Afghan Taliban to flee that country. More recently, Karachi has become a haven for militants escaping U.S. drone strikes and Pakistani military operations in northwest Pakistan. When The Washington Post recently asked a senior Karachi police commander how many Taliban sympathizers live in the city, he bluntly said, “A couple hundred thousand.” He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fears for his safety. Other officials and analysts estimated that the number of active militants is far less — 10,000 to 15,000, including those aligned with groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The Pakistan Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), formed when various Pakistani militant groups coalesced in 2007 and early 2008. It claims to be independent of the Afghan Taliban. But the groups are believed to coordinate activities. Both are dominated by Pashtuns, the biggest ethnic group in southern and eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. For years, Karachi had been plagued by ­clashes between Mohajirs, Urdu speakers who long dominated this economic hub, and Pashtuns, who were newer arrivals. But now, even Pashtuns say they feel threatened.
Zia Ur Rehman, author of the book “Karachi in Turmoil,” said at least 10 percent of the city’s residents live in neighborhoods effectively controlled by the Pakistani Taliban.
“Day by day [the Taliban] is increasing their power, and there is no hope of betterment,” said Abdul Rauf, a local leader in the Pashtun-dominated Awami National Party. He said 17 party officials were killed in his central Karachi district alone last year by Taliban insurgents seeking to control Pashtun neighborhoods. Huma Yusuf, a Karachi-based researcher, said the rise of Taliban influence is making the city more ungovernable. She said that during prior conflicts between politically and ethnically based groups, there was usually someone who could step in to ease tensions because the various actors had financial and cultural stakes in the city. The Taliban, she said, “doesn’t answer to anyone.” According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 3,251 people died in violence in Karachi last year, which local news media outlets called a record high. Official police statistics show 2,507 killings last year, up from 2,124 in 2012. In January, 216 people were killed, including 28 law enforcement officials, police said.
In one killing that shocked this city, the head of the police Criminal Investigation Department was assassinated in January when a car packed with explosives rammed his convoy. The Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack against Chaudhry Aslam, who had gained a reputation for relentlessly pursuing militants in the city. A week after Aslam was killed, Karachi was jolted when three employees of Express News Live television network were shot at point-blank range as they sat in their news van. The Taliban asserted responsibility, saying it was taking revenge for the station’s recent reporting on the group’s activities. The assassinations came on the heels of a grenade attack in December and a shooting outside the TV station in August. Reporters and other station employees are now seeking permission to carry weapons, said Aslam Khan, the bureau chief. “And it’s not just because of the Taliban,” Khan said. Indeed, as the threat from militancy grows, Yusuf said, other criminals are finding “more space” to terrorize residents through kidnapping, extortion and robbery. Karachi’s police force is roughly the size of New York City’s — even though its population is three times as big — and its officers are overwhelmed, Yusuf and several officials said. Criminals increasingly claim to be working for the Taliban, when they have no actual ties to the group, police said. Muhammad Taqi Alvi, a local newspaper editor, said he was driving with family recently when gunmen threw tires in front of his car. His wife and three small children were taken hostage, and the gunmen — who said they were affiliated with the Taliban — demanded $20,000 for their release. After three hours of negotiation, they settled for $120. “For three hours, we hung between life and death,” Alvi said. Ibrahim M. Zafar, a 33-year-old dentist, recently hired a 24-hour armed guard for his office after being robbed at gunpoint at a traffic light. He said he and his friends have also stopped using smartphones and wearing expensive watches in public.
Others are rushing to reinforce vehicles, at a cost of up to $50,000, amid a wave of killings being carried out by men on motorcycles.
“It used to be protection from small-arms fire, but now there are hundreds of thousands of Kalashnikovs and high-powered rifles on the street, so now people want protection from that,” said Khurrum Hamirani, a businessman who relocated his armored car business to Karachi several years ago after business slowed in Baghdad. He said his business grew by 100 percent last year. Perhaps the most telling sign of the city’s troubles is the sense of helplessness gripping the police force. “The bombproof cars we have can only handle 25 kilos” — 55 pounds — of explosives, the senior police commander said, adding that the Taliban had used more than 200 pounds of explosives in killing Aslam. If the militants attack, he said, “it’s just not possible to secure us.”

Karachi: Five killed in gun attacks, 4 injured in Orangi blasts

At least four people were injured in two back to back explosions in Orangi Town area of the troubled metropolis on Saturday morning, Dunya News reported. The explosions took place within the premises of Mominabad police station. As per details, the first explosion was caused by a hand grenade and later a planted device exploded. Windows of Mominabad police station shattered and a police van was also damaged in the blasts. Police and Rangers personnel arrived at the scene, whereas, rescue teams shifted the injured to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. The injured were identified as Nafees, Yousaf, Hussain and Sirajuddin. Police are investigating the incident. On the other hand, five people lost their lives in gun attacks in different areas of the city. Two people were shot dead in PNT Colony in Korangi area. Their identities remain unconfirmed. Another person identified as Munir Ahmed was shot dead in Ranchore Line area. Separately, a woman’s body was found from a house in Anda Mor area in North Karachi. Karachi, the country’s largest city, has seen scores of attacks against citizens, security personnel and political workers in recent years. In 2013, more than 2,700 people were killed in the city of around 15 million people.