Saturday, May 23, 2015

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Saudi Arabia's Shiite community protest sectarianism after deadly mosque attack

n estimated 10,000 people joined a protest on Saturday rejecting violence and sectarianism in Saudi Arabia, local activists told Middle East Eye. The protest in the Eastern Province took place the day after a lone suicide bomber attacked a mosque in the village of Qudaih, killing at least 21 worshippers and injuring scores more. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack and promised more “black days” ahead for Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community, the target of Friday’s attack. On Saturday men, women, and children marched through the streets of Qudaih and chanted: “At your service martyr,” in reference to those lost in Friday’s bombing. One protestor told Middle East Eye the rally was aimed at highlighting worrisome levels of sectarianism in the ultra-conservative kingdom. “We demand an end to hatred and Takfirism (accusations of apostasy) against Shiites,” Sayed Mohammed, a Qudaih resident and community activist, said by telephone from Qudaih. “The people of Saudi Arabia are one. We demand our rights as citizens.” “The Takfirism did not begin with the person that committed the attack on Friday. The real problem is the preachers who say that Shiites are not Muslims, the curriculum that teaches children, from the first year of primary school, that Shiites are not Muslims – these opinions are also being spread by media outlets.” Protesters angry at the role the media has played in fostering sectarianism chanted: “Those who carry the slogans of IS are the media and men of religion.” Protesters also denounced Wesal TV, an outlet whose offices were shut down in Saudi Arabia last year after accusations it was spreading sectarian hate - despite this the channel, which has international offices, still broadcasts in the country. After the attack on Friday a prominent Arab activist shared a clip, from January 2013, featuring Saudi journalist Khaled al-Ghamidi threatening the Shiite community. Ghamidi's perceived sectarian comments on Wesal TV last year contributed to the channel's Saudi offices being closed down. Saturday’s protest was the second since the mosque bombing in Qudaih. On Friday evening thousands of people also gathered in the streets to protest the targeting of the Shiite community. Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community make up around 10 to 15 percent of the country’s 28 million-strong population. They live mainly in the oil-rich, but poverty-stricken, Eastern Province. Shiite leaders have long complained that the government marginalises the community in the provision of housing, jobs, and education. Authorities have repeatedly denied that they discriminate against the Shiite community, and government officials have pledged to find the people responsible for planning the attack in Qudaih. “What is important now is that we stop the masterminds behind this cowardly act and arrest them,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Mansour al-Turki told reporters. Saudi police have been leading a crackdown against IS supporters in the kingdom. More than 75 people were arrested in November in connection with an attack in the Eastern Province in which multiple gunmen shot eight Shiite Muslims dead. And in April this year 93 people were detained on suspicion of supporting IS and planning terror attacks. However, Qudaih resident Mohammed told Middle East Eye on Saturday that he does not hold out much hope that authorities will take serious steps to tackle the sectarianism peddled by groups including IS. “I hope the state will offer us some protection,” he said. “The authorities’ response to the attack is just a short-term reaction – within days or weeks they will have forgotten about us.” “We [the Shiite community] need to be portrayed as brothers, as human beings, deserving of equal rights. We are not just brothers in religion [with the Sunnis]; we are brothers in humanity.” - See more at:

Saudi Arabia only seeks to destroy Yemen: Activist

Press TV has conducted an interview with Hussein al-Bukhaiti, an activist and political commentator in Sana’a, to discuss Saudi Arabia’s fresh airstrikes on Yemen.
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Talk to us about the ongoing Saudi bombardments of infrastructure in civilian territories in Yemen and also about the endgame that the Al Saud is pursuing in this scenario?
Bukhaiti: It is not clear what their goal is because they keep changing their goal every now and then; and the thing that is clear [is that] they just want to destroy Yemen, to destroy Yemeni army and all infrastructure. They have continued the strikes; and yesterday and today we saw the heaviest strike on the capital of Sana’a and mainly they kept attacking same places they have been attacking from the beginning of the war.
This shows you that they have not reached their goal and they are not sure have they destroyed this area or not? So their intelligence and whatever they use is useless and the only thing that is damaging Yemen is targeting infrastructure, targeting power stations and as well giving cover for extremists and al-Qaeda especially in the south and in Ma’rib because those al-Qaeda, with the Saudi strike, they regroup themselves, they get supplies from airplanes and they get as well intelligence and this is the main thing that is affecting Yemen because… is the cause of all problems we had before this Saudi aggression in Yemen.
Press TV: Mr. Bukhaiti, are you surprised at the inaction of the international community with the United Nations at its helm? We know that this aerial campaign and the bombardment started without United Nations mandate and it continues in that form, and we see civilians are bearing the brunt of the attacks?
Bukhaiti: This is actually expected because especially the UN Security Council is controlled by the United States, Britain and France and Western countries. And those Western countries, they always look for their interest and their interest is to have trouble in the Middle East so that they can keep selling weapons and their companies can come to rebuild those destroyed countries; and we have seen during the invasion of Iraq, there was not any UN mandate and as well with the Saudi attack, there was not.
Just after they attacked Yemen, they went to the UN and  they went to the Arab Council, tried to legalize this attack but the UN actually did kind of legalize this attack in a different way by their Resolution 2216 when they give their thank to the Saudis and to the [Persian] Gulf states for their support of Yemen. And this is clear that they took the side of the invader not the side of the victims.

Saudi Arabia has Unrealistic Goals in Yemen

By Adam Simpson

On March 26, 2015, a Saudi Arabian-led military coalition — composed of ten Sunni Muslim states, including all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members except Oman — launched “Operation Decisive Storm” in Yemen. The coalition’s objectives were three-fold: to roll back the gains made by Ansar Allah (Yemen’s dominant Houthi militia), to restore President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, and to bring security and stability to the country. Though the Saudis have since declared their mission accomplished, military operations have resumed under the re-branded moniker “Operation: Restoring Hope.” It is difficult to imagine how a military campaign, especially one limited to air strikes, could achieve these objectives.
The coalition’s strikes, albeit aggressive in nature, have thus far had little effect on Ansar Allah’s advances. One of the original goals was to prevent the Houthis from seizing Aden. Although the city remains heavily contested, the Houthis were able to seize portions large enough to force Hadi to flee to safety in Riyadh. As of this writing, the Houthis are making a final push for the Tawahi district, perhaps one of the last remaining bastions of the Hadi government within Yemen.

The Houthis have advanced far outside their northwestern province of Sa’ada, beyond the capital city of Sana’a, and are now fighting local groups for control in several southern provinces, including Abyan and Shabwa. Interestingly, the strikes led by the Saudi Arabian military coalition are not focused on the critical southern front. Though coalition bombs have struck hotspots in Aden and Taiz, they have also pummeled Houthi strongholds in northern Sa’ada province, in Sana’a, and in the coastal cities of Hodeidah and Haradh. If the coalition strikes are aimed at immobilizing the Houthis, their mission has patently failed. While there have been notable raids into Saudi territory, Houthi manpower remains focused on the local resistance in Yemen’s southern provinces where the outcome of the war will be decided.

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Memorial Day 2015: The Real Story Behind the Holiday

Memorial Day Weekend usually conjures up images of backyard parties, beaches and beer.
But Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer. It's actually been an official national holiday for over 40 years aimed at remembering those who served in the armed forces.
Here is a brief look at the history behind the holiday and how people are expressing the true meaning of Memorial Day through photos on social media.
A few years after the end of the Civil War, May 30 was established as "Decoration Day" -- a day to decorates veterans' graves with flowers. May 30 may have been the selected day because flowers would be in bloom throughout the country, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
In 1971, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday and placed on the last Monday in May, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website says.
In December 2000, the president signed into law The National Moment of Remembrance Act.
"The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation," the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website says.

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Afghan Music - سیتا قاسمی ـ انگور شمالی

Isis actively recruiting in Afghanistan, says US general

The commander of international forces in Afghanistan said on Saturday that theIslamic State group is actively recruiting in the country, but is not yet operational there.
General John F Campbell said the group’s sophisticated social-media campaign was attracting Taliban fighters based in Afghanistan and Pakistan disgruntled with the lack of progress in more than 10 years of fighting to overthrow the Kabul government.
As a result, many were pledging allegiance to Isis, which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, Campbell told reporters.
“We don’t want it to continue to grow,” he said, adding that efforts were being made to ensure its presence did not reach levels similar to Syria and Iraq.
He said Afghans largely did not agree with the ideology of the Islamic State, a factor that could limit its growth in Afghanistan. But he contradicted his earlier statement that Isis was not active on the battlefields of Afghanistan by saying it was reportedly fighting the Taliban for control of territory and men.
“In fact, Taliban and Daesh are reportedly fighting each other,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “It is absolutely a concern.”
Some Afghan officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, have said the group does have an active presence in Afghanistan. Campbell said the group’s presence has grown considerably in the past six months, though he did not provide numbers.
The Taliban leadership, believed to be based in Pakistan, is under pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and start a dialogue with the Kabul government. Some positive overtures have been made by both sides, as well as by Islamabad. Although it is likely to be years before any peace talks begin, the movement is said by some analysts to be splitting between moderate and extremist elements. It is the more extreme Taliban followers who are seen changing their allegiance.
Campbell said many Taliban had become disillusioned with the leadership and saw the Islamic State as offering “an opportunity to maybe gain resources and so they pledge allegiance”.

Dollars Disappear in Afghanistan With Exiting U.S. Troops

As American troops leave Afghanistan, U.S. dollars are also heading out the door.The Afghani has dropped about 5 percent this quarter, the fifth-steepest fall among 84 so-called exotic currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It touched 60.8020 a dollar on May 20, the lowest in data going back to 2003, when currency reforms were completed after U.S. forces regained control from the Taliban.The currency’s slide threatens to increase pressure on President Ashraf Ghani as he battles Taliban insurgents looking to retake power. Food and fuel prices are set to rise, worsening what the World Bank last month called a “fiscal crisis” in a nation where foreign donors finance two-thirds of its budget. “This could be a turning point for the Afghan economy,” said Ahmad Masood, an economics professor at Kabul University. “If Ghani doesn’t bolster the currency, we could see widespread economic instability that would also help further the current security crisis." The Taliban are continuing to fight Afghan forces after a 13-year war that saw more than 2,300 American troops killed and cost almost $1 trillion. About 40 percent of Afghan towns and cities face a significant threat from Taliban insurgents, according to the United Nations. At Sarai Shahzada, Afghanistan’s main financial market in central Kabul, currency traders with ample supplies of U.S. dollars were in high demand this week. In open air stalls and glass-enclosed booths, they sell everything from dollars to Pakistani rupees to the British pound.
Election Mess
The number of Afghans looking to buy dollars has risen 30 percent over the past month, according to Khan Mohammad Baz, head of the Afghan Currency Traders Association. He said the Afghani’s weakness stems from last year’s disputed election, which led to months of political uncertainty before the U.S. brokered a unity government with his main rival in September. Eight months later, key cabinet posts are still empty. A finance minister was appointed only in January, and the central bank doesn’t yet have a full-time governor. ‘‘The security and the political situation have a direct impact on the rates of the Afghani,” Baz said in an interview in his cramped office in Sarai Shahzada. He wants the central bank to increase the size of its dollar auctions to boost supply in the country.To preserve its foreign-exchange reserves of about $7 billion, the central bank has reduced the size of biweekly currency auctions to about $35 million from $100 million, said an official who asked not to be named as he’s not authorized to speak on the matter. The monetary authority is taking other steps to support the Afghani at about 57 a dollar, the official said without elaborating. ‘Big Loss’ Afghanistan imports 15 times more than it exports. Most of its goods come from Pakistan, Russia, the U.S. and India, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Growth is estimated to have slowed to 2 percent in 2014 from an average 9 percent between 2003-2012, the World Bank said in an April report. The Afghani’s value has long reflected the nation’s political turmoil.Before the Taliban took charge in 1996, various warlords and political parties printed notes and traded them in their strongholds. The rebel Northern Alliance, which once included Ghani’s deputy, successfully used cheap, Russian-printed Afghanis to destabilize the exchange rate, forcing the Taliban to close all money exchanges. The latest bout of volatility has its winners and losers. Ahmad Jawad, 32, said he gained almost $1,000 over the past week by selling dollars for a premium. Naeem Sardar, 51, made the opposite bet, hoarding millions of Afghani at home. “I will face a big loss if the central bank doesn’t do something,” he said.

Afghanistan, Pakistan Deal Causes Controversy

Cracks in Afghanistan's unity government are appearing following the signing of a controversial intelligence deal with neighbor and archrival Pakistan.
According to an inside source, the divide over the memorandum of understanding signed this week between the two countries' spy agencies is evident at the highest levels of the Afghan government. 
The so-called national unity government centers on a power-sharing arrangement between the president, Ashraf Ghani, and the chief executive officer (CEO), Abdullah Abdullah.
The source -- a government official who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity -- said Abdullah considers the document "unacceptable" and has made his opposition known to Ghani and senior security officials.
This discord prompted discussions between the Ghani and Abdullah camps at a meeting of the National Security Council on May 21 over how to change the document, according to the source.
Abdullah Sidelined?
Abdullah was angered at the lack of transparency over the deal, according to the official, who claimed that the Afghan CEO was not aware that an agreement had been signed.
Abdullah's first vice president, Mohammad Khan, told TOLO News on May 20 that Abdullah was "consulted only on the draft agreement, but he remained completely unaware of some articles which were included in the agreement later on."
One sticking point, according to Khan, was the labeling of the Taliban in the document as a "separatist movement."
"It doesn't make sense. I don't understand which separatist and where, because we do not have separatists in Afghanistan," Khan said, adding that such "ambiguous issues" needed to be amended.
The agreement, signed on May 18, puts in writing the intention of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) to share intelligence and bolster cooperation in fighting militancy.
But the specifics of the memorandum have not been released, leading to unconfirmed reports in the Afghan media about its contents, including a clause about the ISI equipping and training Afghan intelligence officers. The government has refuted that claim.
"It's really showing that the national unity government is not very united at all," says Michael Kugelman, South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "This deal could exacerbate the existing divisions within what's supposed to be a national unity government."
According to the government source, NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil refused to sign the agreement, leading Ghani to go over his head and ask Nabil's deputy to sign. Nabil has not yet resigned, despite rumors that he has stepped down. 
High-Risk Gamble
According to the government official, there is unease among Abdullah's camp over the "speed and depth of Ghani's overtures to Pakistan." While Abdullah is not against engagement with Pakistan, he expected more discussion and input on the issue.
Analyst Kugelman says that Ghani is taking a "high-risk, high-reward" gamble by reaching out to Pakistan, which many inside Afghanistan see as the enemy.
Ghani, determined to get Islamabad's help in brokering peace talks with the Taliban, has offered a number of major concessions that would have been unthinkable under former President Hamid Karzai, who left office in September.
Ghani has defended his overtures to Pakistan. He said on May 21 that clearing up "historical misunderstandings" and ending the long-standing "undeclared state of war" between the neighbors would help peace talks with the Taliban.
But that has not stemmed the tide of criticism directed at his administration. Some current and former Afghan officials, as well as ordinary Afghans, are angry that such an overture was made toward a country many accuse of supporting the Taliban and working against the Afghan government.

Pakistan - From Kabul with love (and hate)

By Afrasiab Khattak

For any future historian it will be very difficult to write about today’s Pak-Afghan relationship without quoting powerful words from the opening lines of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

The end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 witnessed for the first time in so many years a real hope for a breakthrough in the Pak-Afghan relationship. Although most of Pakistani analysts tend to pinpoint a change in the Afghan political leadership as the main factor for the new and conducive atmosphere but for any rational analysis one has to concede that equally if not more important have also been the changes taking place in Islamabad and Rawalpindi in 2013. It is of course a fact that Dr. Ashraf Ghani, with no political baggage of the Cold War era, was in a position to take some bold and fresh political initiatives along with a keen interest for developing the economic dimension of the relations. On the Pakistani side Mohammad Nawaz Sharif’s party in the general elections won the core province of the Punjab and also got majority seats in the National Assembly and formed the federal government. PM Nawaz Sharif and his party clearly stood for normalizing relations with neighboring countries and for developing economic cooperation with them. As the most prominent member of the Punjabi political elite he appeared to have a clear advantage over his predecessor Asif Ali Zardari whose coalition government’s support came mainly from the smaller provinces (a periphery) that stood no chance in the face of the mounting pressure of the Punjabi dominated security establishment. Soon after political changes there were also significant changes in the GHQ where General Raheel Sharif was nominated as the new COAS by PM Nawaz Sharif. Apparently the new army leadership was conscious of the dangers of the country’s involvement in international the “Jihadist” project.

But those of us who were celebrating the completion of the constitutional term by the National Assembly for the first time in history, and the peaceful transfer of political power from one elected government to another elected government were in for a shock to discover that there is not going to be a smooth sailing even now. The prolonged sit in at the heart of Islamabad and vigorous agitation in 2014 ostensibly against the “rigged elections” did not result in a formal coup but it considerably weakened the new elected government forcing it to not only revise its ambitious agenda of reaching out to the neighbors but to also concede a greater space for the security the establishment in shaping the country’s security as well as foreign policy. Relations with India deteriorated with growing tensions at the borders, particularly on the Line of Control. The victory of the Narendra Modi led hawkish BJP in the Indian general elections, and the hard stand taken by the new government toward Pakistan, further dampened the hopes for normalization of relations any time soon.

Interestingly hope for improvement of relations with Afghanistan remained intact despite the setbacks on other fronts. Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s successful visit of Pakistan paved ground for a new partnership between the two countries to fight against the joint enemy of terrorism. The Peshawar tragedy on December 16 last year and the apparent changes in the policy of Pakistani state towards extremism and militancy boosted these hopes as the top political and military leadership of the two countries huddled together time and again to coordinate their fight against terrorism. Pakistan’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb destroyed important terrorist infrastructure in North Waziristan, which had become notorious the world over. Afghanistan also carried out dozens of operations against TTP bases in the border area. Afghanistan has already sent military officers for training in Pakistan and to top it all the premier intelligence agencies of the two countries Pakistan’s ISI and Afghanistan’s NDS have signed a formal agreement for cooperation.

But Dr. Ashraf Ghani is coming under severe criticism in his own country for what Afghans called the lack of reciprocity from Pakistan’s side. Dr. Ashraf Ghani was assured by Pakistan that Afghan Taliban would start negotiations with Afghan government by the middle of March. That promise did not materialize but there was a loose informal get together in Qatar in late April without any tangible results. For all practical purposes it is quite evident that Taliban have no intention of going for a ceasefire this summer. They have already launched a “summer offensive” which has targeted mainly civilians including women and children. Afghans who had spent a fighting winter have a bloody summer at their hands. The problem with Afghan Taliban is that it is a dangerous fighting machine without much political capital. The only capacity that they have is to launch suicide attacks, IED attacks and spectacular terror attacks in urban centers. They would like to put these capacities to maximum use for translating  them into political leverage. For them it is the only way to overwhelm the new Afghan state. Now if their handlers don’t draw a line for them the situation can get out of hand. For Pakistan it would be increasingly become difficult to publicly own a terrorist organization as its closest ally in Afghanistan which is savagely slaughtering innocent civilians and wantonly destroying urban centers developed by Afghans over the last few years. With such a barbaric record Taliban’s case for becoming a stake holder in the peace process will be considerably weekend. If meaningful steps are not taken soon by the Pakistani side it will become impossible for President Ashraf Ghani to pursue his present political strategy. Different political factions are ganging up against him for putting pressure. It is expected to increasingly become unbearable.

The involvement of international terrorist networks in the current fighting in Afghanistan is yet another challenge for the entire region. Chechens, Uzbeks and terrorists from other countries had penetrated Northern Afghanistan to form sleeper cells during the last winter, which started fighting from April onward. It shows continuous cooperation between Afghan Taliban and international terror networks. This can only lead to deepen concerns in Russia, CARs and China. For Pakistan the choice that remains now is quite stark;  she has to either practically take a clean break from the flawed policies of the past towards militancy of all types or carry on with the half hearted measures for avoiding a flare up in the Punjab, while alienating every one else in the process. We shall soon know about the nature of our times.

Pakistan - Will Muslims walk free charged in Christian couple lynching like burning alive 8 christens of Gojra?

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) charged 106 accused in the lynching case of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan last year.

The court has also summoned prosecution witnesses to record their statements against the accused. 

Last year, on November 4, 2014, Shama and Shehzad were beaten to death by an charged mob over false accusation of blasphemy and then thrown into the furnace of a brick kiln where the couple worked.

On August 1, 2009, Muslim mob burnt alive 8 Christian Children, Women and elder man in Christian Town, in Gojra, Punjab province of Pakistan. The arrests were made against Muslim extremist’s attackers on burning alive Christian but none of them was punished but all accused were set free by courts because government presented flawed charge sheets to safe their Muslim culprit fellow Muslim. 

Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC in a statement issued from Central Secretariat of PCC said that Christian fear that culprit charged in Christian couple lynching will not be punished like Muslim charged in burning alive of 8 Christians in Gojra because real culprits involved in charge sheet of lynching of Shama Bibi and Shahzad Masih are not named in this charge sheet.

According to reports, mob of 1200 Muslims was led by one ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Group PML (N) member of Punjab Assembly along with other ruling party leaders who threw Christian couple alive in furnace of Brick Kiln Factory on November 4, 2014, on accusation of blasphemy but administration not put their names in First Information Report FIR.

Nazir Bhatti said “There are many accused on bails from lower courts from these charged 106 culprits in lynching of Christian Couple while criminal charged in murder cases under terrorism laws cannot be easily bailed out which indicates that police have not prepared charge sheet on facts”

“Will Muslims accused in charge sheet of Christian Couple punished or walk free on streets like Muslims accused in burning alive of 8 Christians in Gojra? Its big question in minds of Pakistani Christians” added Nazir Bhatti

JI, ASWJ leading terrorist network of ISIS in Pakistan

Deobandi religious-political party Jamaat-e-Islami, its student wing and banned Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal-Jamaat aka Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) are leading terrorist network for ISIS in Pakistan.
On May 13, takfiri Deobandi terrorists of jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing intercepted a bus carrying Ismaili Muslims in the Safoora Goth area of the Pakistani city of Karachi and massacred 45 of them, including women.
According to media reports, about six terrorists fired indiscriminately on the Ismaili passengers – who belonged to a sect of Shia Islam and were headed to a religious congregation – and then managed to escape.
The manner of their killing is very much familiar to Pakistani people, as Sunni jihadists in Pakistan have routinely intercepted buses carrying Shia pilgrims, pulling out passengers and identifying their faith from their surnames from the Pakistani government-issued identity cards before shooting them dead.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has documented systematic jihadist attacks on Shia Muslims and other minorities in Pakistan, noting also calls being made for Pakistan to be put on genocide watch.
While in the past members of the leading Sunni jihad group now known as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) – formerly known under different names such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan – have carried out ideologically-inspired systematic attacks against Shi’ite Muslims in Pakistan, it appears that the May 13 massacre of Ismaili Muslims was either wholly or in part the work of the Islamic State (ISIS), which in January 2015 announced the establishment of “Wilayat Khurasan,” its “province” in the India, Pakistan and Afghanistan region.
That a student from one of Pakistan’s finest and most prestigious business schools could become a “trained militant” who “provides funds for terror activities” in the city is difficult to understand for many.
The assertion that Saad Aziz, an activist of Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing who is a BBA graduate from the reputable Institute of Business Administration (IBA) – has also confessed to masterminding the murder of rights activist Sabeen Mahmud has been met with scepticism by former schoolmates.
Immediately after the attack, ISIS-affiliated accounts on Twitter released a statement in which the organization claimed responsibility for the massacre. The statement noted: “With Allah’s grace, 43 apostates have been killed and nearly 30 have been injured in an attack [carried out by] the soldiers of the Islamic State [who targeted] a bus carrying Ismaili Shi’ite polytheists, maligners of the wife of Prophet Muhammad, in the city of Karachi in Khurasan province.”The attack was also claimed by “Jundallah,” a name used by several terror groups in Pakistan but also by ASWJ factions.
The phenomenon of Jundullah is important in the perspective of urban militancy and understanding this new stream of militancy.
In the same manner as there are many Punjabi Taliban groups, many groups are also operating under the Jundullah nomenclature in Pakistan.
While the Punjabi Taliban emerged from Deobandi and Salafi militant groups, the Jundullah groups are breakaway factions of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and its student and militant wings.
With the exception of Jundullah in the Iranian Balochistan region, the remaining entities under this label, active in Karachi and the Peshawar valley, are of a similar disposition. With their Islamist background, they are naturally inclined towards the Islamic State (IS) militant group and like a few commanders of the Hizb-e-Islami — a JI-affiliate in Afghanistan — apparently intend to announce their allegiance to the IS.
The perpetrators of the May 13 massacre in Karachi left two ISIS flyers at the scene, one in Urdu and another in English, justifying the attack and threatening the “Rawafid” (Shi’ites) in Pakistan. The Urdu flier, titled “The Establishment of the Islamic State, a Message of Death for the Rawafidh!” begins with the  warning: “Know! The mujahideen of the Islamic State–Wilayat Khurasan and the jaanisar sipahis [life-sacrificing warriors] of the Caliph of the Muslims [ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi] have entered the battlefield to enforce the Sharia and exact revenge.”
Takfiri terrorists who killed 46 Islmaili Shia Muslims in Karachi were active members of Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing.
Speaking within hours of the attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the massacre of peaceful Ismaili Muslims but blamed it on external “enemies” enraged by Pakistan’s economic prosperity, stating: “Karachi is the trade hub of Pakistan. An incident happening here has great significance. [We] will not let the lights of Karachi go out. The enemies do not like our economic progress. The Safoora tragedy could be part of an international conspiracy against economic development.”
Although Pakistan may blame external forces for this attack, over the past year there have been signs that ISIS has been gaining a foothold in Pakistan. In fact, the claims of responsibility for the attack by ISIS and the ASWJ-associated Jundallah may not be contradictory, as one may have planned the attack, while local factions may have joined hands to carry it out. It will take time to establish the identity of the perpetrators, but it is clear that the ASWJ-affiliated terrorists began travelling to Syria several years ago to work with ISIS.
Karachi-based Tahreek-e-Khilafat Wa Jihad (TKJ) was the first group  outside the Middle East to offer bai’yah to ISIS emir Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi
“The Network Sending The Pakistani Sunni Fighters To Syria Is Run Jointly By The TTP And ASWJ/LeJ”
Most of the Pakistani jihadists going to Syria and Iraq come from the extremist groups: ASWJ;  Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its associated factions; Jamaat-e-Islami and the Red Mosque of Islamabad, a radical mosque that counted Pakistani military officers among its followers, both before and after the Pakistani authorities ordered a military operation against it in 2007.

Pakistan - Model Town case - Disputed clean chit

The Punjab Assembly session on Thursday echoed with slogans by the Opposition parties over a disputed clean chit given by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to the top brass of the Punjab government in the Model Town case. Led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf's (PTI's) Leader of the Opposition Mian Mehmood-ur Rasheed, the opposition members staged a protest against the findings of the JIT report and termed it biased. The five-member JIT headed by Quetta police chief Abdul Razzaq Cheema has exonerated Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and other senior police officials in the Model Town case.

In June last year, 11 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers were killed and over 60 injured when the police opened fire after the latter resisted the removal of barricades in an anti-encroachment operation in front of the Minhajul Quran Secretariat. Three of the injured workers later died in hospital. The Punjab government had constituted the JIT on Nov 13 last year that has presented its report now. There are serious concerns about the credibility of the JIT report that has failed to fix the responsibility of the killing of innocent persons in a transparent manner. It is still unclear who ordered the removal of encroachments and directed the police to crush all resistance in such a brutal way. Why has the government not made public the Judicial Inquiry Commission’s report that had clearly indicated the elements responsible for the tragedy? It is beyond logic that junior police officers took all the action on their own without consulting or taking instructions from their seniors and top level government hierarchy.

It has become obvious that the JIT report is not fair. How can the JIT issue a charge sheet against the administration it has been working for? It is a one-sided report that has absolved all the senior government and police officials and blamed junior officials for the killings. These junior police officials have been made scapegoats to save the skin of those who actually orchestrated the violence. If these kinds of brutal killings had occurred at the hands of law enforcement officials in the civilised world, the men holding top slots would have resigned from their office. But in Pakistan the situation is quite the opposite. The PAT has announced countrywide protests against this injustice while opposition parties led by the PTI have declared the JIT report unacceptable. Earlier, the government had come under severe criticism and faced massive protests for its poor handling of the Model Town fiasco. Now, it is giving another opportunity to the opposition to mobilise against it. The government needs to review its policies regarding its dealings with opposition parties. On their part, the PAT and other opposition parties should move the courts instead of resorting to street protests that may cause more violence.

Pakistan - Senate chairman for regional seminar on terrorism

Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani on Friday proposed the idea of holding a regional seminar on terrorism inviting regional states to share their experiences in countering the menace. Most of the South Asian countries have directly or indirectly suffered from it, he said.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani expressed these views during a meeting with Inter-Parliamentary Union Secretary General Martin Chungong, who called on him at the Senate of Pakistan. Martin arrived in Islamabad on Friday for a three-day visit to Pakistan. Martin appreciated the idea of the regional seminar while saying that “the IPU has obtained the mandate and a regional seminar is on the cards as terrorism is the serious most threat to the international peace”.

The senate chairman said that Pakistan was in the process of developing better ties with parliaments of the world. He said, “We are looking forward to enhancing relations with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).” He added that he was encouraged by the recent visits of the Kuwaiti and Maldivian Speakers and the discussions during the Chinese president’s visit to Pakistan.

He said Pakistan holds the post of Asian Parliamentary Union’s presidency. He added that the former senate chairman of Pakistan had floated the idea of an Asian Parliament, adding that in order to fortify the idea he would need the invaluable input from the IPU on the right model for the Asian Parliament. He said Pakistan was committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the government was ready to brief the IPU secretary general on the country’s status in this regard.

Martin appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in improving relations with world parliaments. He spoke about the international developments on the platform of IPU including the two Koreas, Syria, Maldives, Fiji and China. He said he could provide assistance in reviving cooperation between the UNDP, IPU and the parliaments. During his visit to the Senate of Pakistan, the IPU secretary general signed the Visitors’ Book and called on Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq who hosted a lunch in his honour.

Pakistan - Killers of Sabeen Mehmood - Lal Masjid Revelations

The revelation that the killers of Sabeen Mehmood, a social activist of Karachi, had active links with the clerics of Lal Masjid, would not be a surprise, if she had not died amidst the furore of the army over the Balochistan talk (banned in Lahore before it took place in Karachi). The timing of her murder will always be a question mark, even with the TTP claiming the attack, and evidence about the Lal Masjid link coming to light. We live in times when the tradition security apparatus is changing and so is the strategy of our military and intelligence forces. It is clear now that they do not stand with the extreme right, not even for purposes of strategic depth. But it is unclear where they stand and what trouble (or damage control) they have done on the issue of Baloshitan’s missing persons. In the larger sense, the point is the ultimate security of the state, but at what cost? It is natural that people will be sceptical of the killing not having the hand of the establishment behind it, and hopefully the army and intelligence agency can realize that a bit of scepticism is natural and will continue until the killings stop. However, this does not mean that the militants at Lal Masjid are exonerated.
The objectives of these clerics, and their like, are to turn the state into an entity, which only follows their own dictates in the name of Islam. Their ruthlessness in this regard became obvious when one of their leaders, Maulana Abdul Aziz shamelessly declined to declare the martyrs of Pakistani Military as ‘Shaheed’ in public. This has not yet been forgotten, we have lost many lives in the fight against extremist violence. It is ironic that the General who had the courage to wage action against these bigots is facing cases of murder in the lower courts but no one has raised his voice against those who killed the officers and jawans during the battle at Lal Masjid. As we criticise the military and the “establishment” for its hand in our crises, we cannot let people like Maulana Aziz escape the blame.
It is quite upsetting that the killers of Sabeen Mahmud are being accused of having relations with a religious political party, which has a history of directly, or indirectly being in league with these hardened terrorists. The silence and inaction of the political government in this regard is quite concerning. It is a fact that the PMLs of all hues have always had a rightist bent but the situation has now gotten to such an extent that those in power will have to significantly transform the narrative regarding the creation and running of the Pakistani state. A lot will now depend on the intellectual capacity of those occupying the corridors of power as well as how the military continues to handle the situation.