Saturday, May 6, 2017

Pakistan’s Triangle of Hate


Pakistan has found a new ally in its never-ending war against India — and he is the public face of our most ruthless killers.
For years Liaquat Ali, better known as Ehsanullah Ehsan, was a familiar and dreaded figure on national media. It seems that after every atrocity committed by the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he would make triumphant statements in audio messages or bloodcurdling videos, putting the fear of God in Pakistani media and causing revulsion among Pakistani people.
Soon after the TTP killed three employees of Express TV in January 2014, the television channel invited Ehsan on the air by phone. He very calmly explained the reasons for the murder, and the interviewer promised — respectfully, repeatedly — to give him more airtime, while begging for guarantees that there would be no further attacks.
Ehsan later claimed responsibility for an Easter Day attack in a park in Lahore last year, which killed dozens of people. He had previously claimed responsibility for an attack on a girl named Malala, who was shot in the head on her way to school, adding that the TPP would hunt her down if she survived.
With his appearance, the Pakistani Army seemed to be sending this message: You can kill thousands of Pakistanis, but if you later testify that you hate India as much as we do, everything will be forgiven.
There was some pushback. State media regulators banned a detailed interview with Ehsan before it aired after families of Taliban victims expressed outrage. The parents of students slain at the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014, where Taliban attackers butchered more than 140 people, mostly students, wanted Ehsan hanged in front of the school.
But the army has preferred to parade him and his winning smile in front of TV cameras, and to release footage of him telling salacious stories about how his Taliban colleagues had three wives or how the current TTP leader took away his teacher’s daughter by force. The purpose seems to be to suggest that the Taliban are not a formidable force with an ideology and deep roots in Pakistani society, but rather a bunch of sexual perverts bankrolled by India. India, forever our existential enemy.
There is, it’s true, evidence that India has funded groups to strike at Pakistan for interfering in Kashmir. But do we really need to enlist our children’s killers in our campaign against India? Pakistani society is still deeply divided over what the Taliban represent. Some see them as barbarians at our door who want to destroy the last vestiges of our faltering democratic and civil order. Others think of them as our misguided brothers: The Taliban, too, want a just society; it’s only their methods that are unacceptable. They are brave, and we are a little bit proud of them: In Afghanistan, these fallen brothers, our creation, are still managing to keep America at bay.
But when they wage the same brave fight in Pakistan, we recoil.
The Taliban were supposed to be our assets in our historic feud with India. When India and Pakistan were on the verge of another war in 2008, the Taliban leaders of the day vowed to fight alongside Pakistan’s soldiers.
“If they dare to attack Pakistan, then, God willing, we will share happiness and grief with all Pakistanis,” said Maulvi Omar, the Pakistani Taliban’s spokesman then. “We will put the animosity and fighting with the Pakistani army behind us, and the Taliban will defend their frontiers, their boundaries, their country with their weapons.”
Today, while the nation is still trying to decide if yesterday’s monster can be today’s patriot, the Pakistani Army has already made it clear that it wants to have the last word on the subject.
The leading English daily Dawn reported last year that the civilian and military leaderships were divided over what to do with Pakistani anti-India militant groups, which are often accused of waging attacks in India. The army declared that the story was a national security breach, and demanded stern action against both the people who had leaked information about those disagreements and the people who had dared to write about them. A high-powered investigation was set up to look into what has come to be known as the Dawn Leaks.
Last week, after reviewing the results, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the removal of two of his close aides and referred a journalist to a newspapers’ representative body. The army spokesman tweeted: “Notification is rejected.” The army won’t abide any discussion with civilians over who is a good or bad militant, or a good or bad Pakistani.
Many Pakistanis still love the army. And many politicians fear it. They look to it to remove their rivals, accusing one another of being security threats, if not outright traitors. Many political parties are asking for Mr. Sharif’s head for daring to have a closed-door discussion about what might be wrong with the army’s idea of good and bad.
Most countries have an army, but in Pakistan it’s the army that has a country, goes the saying. If the politicians want to take the country back, they’ll have to stop calling one another traitor just to please the army.

Pakistan - What should be done with Ehsanullah Ehsan(TERRORIST)?

By: Mohammad Shehzad

No soldier will fight terrorists bravely if Ehsanullah Ehsan is given amnesty in the name of ‘doctrine of necessity’
Unlike Phoolan Devi, Ehsanullah Ehsan was not a victim of social injustice that could have pushed him to join Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as its ‘spin doctor’. He was not a peasant farmer exacting revenge on the Armed Forces to reclaim his land in Okara. He was not a freedom fighter forced to wage an armed struggle against an oppressor or outlaw like Sultana Daku or Robin Hood out to rob the rich to help the poor. The unscrupulous are free to burn the midnight oil to project Ehsan as a poet like Bulleh Shah, a civil right activist like Dr Martin Luther King, a revolutionary like Che Guevara, a missionary like Mother Teresa or a saint like Ghulam Farid, but people of conscience shall always curse him as a savage that he is.
The TTP’s endless sins are known to all. There is not an inch of land in Pakistan that it has not soaked with the blood of innocent people. It has shattered the most invincible of places like the General Headquarters, Naval Headquarters, Air Force Headquarters, offices of intelligence agencies, police academies, army and police recruiting centres, courts, and airports like sand piles. As the self-claimed sole custodian of Islam, it did not even spare mosques, imam baaras, hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, and public gatherings.
No faith permits killing of women, children, and elderly people in war. Islam even urges us to protect the enemy’s trees. But the TTP vandals are alien to any principle of Islam or humanity. Comparing them with beasts would be an insult to the latter because they would kill only for food and attack in defence. Can there be any justification for killing patients at hospitals, little children at schools, and worshippers at mosques? Phoolan Devi was gang raped in front of hundreds of villagers but did she exact revenge on her enemies’ children, mothers, sisters, parents? Did Sultana Daku behead his enemies and play football with their decapitated heads? Did he put a bullet through a school-going girl’s head?
Watch Ehsanullah Ehsan’s confessional video; do you see a guilty and repentant terrorist or a celebrity like the chaiwala.
His beard is smoothly trimmed. He is wearing a starched kameez, waistcoat, and a chic chitrali cap. He is fresh and is smiling. His body language, confidence and composure do not reflect any sign of regret, rather, it exuberates an unshakable faith i.e. he was not arrested but had voluntarily surrendered, thus, it may seem to him that he is not less than a saint or a wali and a full amnesty along with a high-paying job like that of an emissary of peace is his right.
What was the logic behind arranging his interview with Geo Television’s Salim Safi? (Thank God, Pemra blocked it!) It would have just presented him as ‘subhkabhula’ (better late than never) and earned him some public sympathy. It will be one of the worst moves by the government if it plans to spare him like Asmat Mavia, under the cover of an amnesty. The list of Ehsan’s ‘accomplishments’ is long. Each of his ‘feats’ entitle him to legal consequences. The deadly terrorist had proudly claimed on December 4, 2009, the killing of 37 worshippers - most of them serving or retired army officers — in an attack at the Parade Lane Mosque, Rawalpindi, with this statement: "We are not against innocent people of Pakistan, but against those officers and ministers who are American by hearts and minds and Pakistani just by faces."
After Malala Yousaf zai was attacked, the ‘devil’ had announced that she was spreading immorality. On June 27, 2012, he released a video showing severed heads of 17 Pakistani soldiers with this message: "We want rulers to end alliance with the US and impose Sharia in Pakistan". Later on February 17, 2014, he released another video in which TTP terrorists were playing football with severed heads of 23 FC soldiers. This is Taliban’s sharia!
For this ‘poet’, the killing of 141 people including, 132 schoolchildren at the Army Public School Peshawar, and murder of 22 people at Bacha Khan University, Charsadda, was in revenge for Operation Zarbe Azb. The Army will badly hurt its own men — the soldiers and officers — who lost their lives while fighting the TTP monsters. No one will ever send their child to join the Army if Ehsanullah Ehsan was not served justice. No soldier will fight terrorists bravely if Ehsan is given amnesty in the name of ‘doctrine of necessity’. Then, the jails will be good only for politicians, journalists and civil rights activists; and gallows for elected prime ministers! The message sent out will be: you are free to join any terror group, kill as many people as you can. Just don’t forget to surrender in the end. We will make you a hero for life! The doors of repentance are open for any sinner in any faith but the key is the right punishment here. What happens in the hereafter, leave it to God.

ISIS is on the decline in the Middle East, but its influence in Pakistan is rising

By Fatima Bhojani
When Noreen Leghari disappeared from her hometown of Hyderabad, Pakistan, in February, her parents thought she had been abducted. But then she reached out to them on Facebook.
"I’ve joined Daesh," said the 20-year-old medical student, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, "I’m in Syria for jihad. Stop searching for me."
Leghari, who had been in contact with extremists online for a year, was actually in the Pakistani city of Lahore. In April, security forces stormed her hideout there, killing one of her two accomplices — whom she had also married — and recovering two suicide vests and hand grenades. Leghari had planned to detonate herself at a crowded church two days later, on Easter Sunday.
It was the latest example of the Islamic State's growing reach in Pakistan, where the group is finding willing recruits through its efforts online even as its territory is shrinking in Iraq and Syria. Even young Pakistani women and educated youth from liberal families have proven susceptible to the lure of the Islamic State's brand of extremism.
In another case, three young men, all graduates of elite Pakistani universities, were inspired by the Islamic State and gunned down 47 Shiite Muslims on a bus in Karachi. The subsequent investigation unraveled a cell of a dozen women raising funds for Islamic State operations, including the bus massacre. While there are no concrete numbers on how many Islamic State members are in Pakistan, a report issued last January by the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defense think tank, estimated the group had recruited 2,000 to 3,000 individuals in the country.
Security experts say that number is relatively low, especially when compared to the recruitment levels of more established terror groups like al-Qaeda or the Taliban. But they agree the threat to Pakistan is real and rising. "Clearly you can no longer say that the IS is not a problem," said Moeed Yusuf, an analyst at the United States Institute of Peace, a U.S. government-backed conflict resolution organization.
The first signs of the Islamic State's presence in Pakistan appeared in late 2014, while the country was aggressively cracking down on the Taliban. Women and girls from Islamabad's Jamia Hafsa — a madrassa adjacent to Lal Masjid, the infamous militant mosque in the heart of Pakistan’s capital — addressed a message to the chief of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, “the caliph” and to "our brothers, the mujahideen."
"We pray for you every night here in the land of Pakistan," said one of the women in Arabic, standing in a black burqa, against the backdrop of Islamic State flag. The video ended with this declaration: "Oh Allah, establish the Islamic Caliphate regime in Pakistan and everywhere."
While the Jamia Hafsa was inviting the caliphate to Pakistan, a confidential government report indicated that the Islamic State had already arrived. The provincial government of Baluchistan warned security agencies of extensive Islamic State recruitment in the tribal areas. It also said the group was cooperating with local outfits to plan attacks on minorities and government buildings.
At the same time, pro-Islamic State pamphlets and propaganda were being distributed for the first time in the city of Peshawar and in Pakistan's tribal areas, the largely ungoverned terrain along the border with Afghanistan. The following month, two suspects were arrested for putting up Islamic State posters in Lahore, and law enforcement took down four Islamic State flags near a state-owned armaments plant 20 miles from Islamabad.
The Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, also chimed in with their support for the terrorist organization: "We are with you, we will provide you with mujahideen and with every possible support."
While leaflets and graffiti are alarming, they don’t necessarily demonstrate any concrete planning or actions. But in January 2016, Hafiz Saeed Khan, the head of the TTP's Orakzai branch, was appointed as the chief of the Islamic State Khorasan, the official Islamic State chapter that operates in Afghanistan-Pakistan. Five other commanders and the Taliban spokesman defected along with Khan and pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi. (Khan was killed in a drone strike last August.)
Since then, the Islamic State has claimed several attacks in Pakistan, either carried out by its Khorasan chapter or by existing militant factions. The group has made extensive use of such allies, who hold similar sectarian ideologies. Rather than sending its own fighters or planning attacks directly from Syria, the Islamic State recruits online, while also tapping into well-established local networks, bringing disaffected rivals (like Taliban commanders) into the fold or reinvigorating militant groups degraded by Pakistan's crackdown.
In return, the local militants earn attention by linking up with an internationally known organization, and down the line, may even receive operational support.
"These local groups want to make a big impact," says Muhammad Amir Rana, a Islamabad-based security analyst. "This is good for Daesh as well because they have a partner without spending resources." The Islamic State also shares its ruthless outlook with local organizations. "The groups operating in Pakistan have a brutal tendency to begin with, and the IS is an extremely brutal organization,” said Ihsan Ghani, the head of Pakistan’s National Counterrorism Authority, to The Post.
In one of the deadliest attacks claimed by the Islamic State, 88 people were killed and hundreds injured when a suicide bomber detonated his vest inside a Sufi shrine in February. The attack came just three weeks after 25 civilians were killed and scores injured in an explosion at a market, which was claimed by Islamic State partner Laskhar-e-Jhangvi-Alami and the TTP. When casualty reports are added up, Islamic State-claimed attacks have killed or injured more than 800 civilians in Pakistan so far, even as the military claims it has arrested more than 300 Islamic State operatives and thus thwarted its expansion.
Government and security officials have adopted contradictory stances on the Islamic State, mostly downplaying or outright denying the threat posed by the group — while also, on rare occasions, acknowledging the gravity of the situation.

Pakistan - The crippling standoff

Afrasiab Khattak

Before the political uncertainties generated by the Supreme Court decision on Panama leaks could subside, a fresh public stand off between the civil and military leadership on what is called the Dawn leaks ushered a new challenge to the state system. So much has already been written about the aforementioned controversies and there is no use getting into their details as these are mere pretexts for justifying defiance and confrontation.
The real issue behind the dangerous current polarisation is the question of power. Who will wield the real state power, the elected civil government as per the 1973 Constitution or the security establishment which has been ruling the roost as per traditions established in the post-Zia “republic “? The de jure or the de facto?
It wouldn’t be fair to blame just one side for the monstrous deformities of this so-called republic. Weakened and overwhelmed by the savagery of prolonged martial law of General Zia (that enjoyed full and generous western support during Afghan “Jihad”) the political parties accepted this moth eaten republic in the hope that they will be able at some stage in the future to evolve it into a genuine republic. Political parties did participate in the musical chair game in 1990s that was directed by the security establishment. Political parties meekly followed scripts for the so-called long marches (equivalents of sit ins or dharnas of recent times) aimed at overthrowing the governments of their rivals.
General Musharraf’s martial law had a sobering effect on the old political parties and they realised that they can’t afford blind confrontation and that they will have to abide by certain rules of the game for achieving evolutionary development in the democratic system. The new consciousness and maturity of political parties led to the Charter Of Democracy (COD) signed by Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in 2006. The COD was formally signed by the leaders of the two major political parties but it was supported and upheld by all the democratic forces of the country.
It contained not only a pledge for restoration of democracy by removing the dictatorship but it also carried a commitment for introducing constitutional reforms. The democratic struggle based on this consensus led to the general elections of 2008 and the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010. Although there were some deviations from the letter of COD by its signatories, its spirit, by and large, ushered in a new era of democracy. In 2013 the elected assemblies completed their five years constitutional term, despite difficulties of the objective and subjective nature, for the first time in the country’s history, and power was peacefully and smoothly transferred from one elected government to another.
PML-N was expected to push the overbearing security establishment back for the simple reason that its leader Mohammad Nawaz Sharif is the authentic leader of Punjabi bourgeoisie with a strong political base in the biggest province of the country. And then as a Muslim Leaguer it wasn’t supposed to be easy for the Punjabi dominated security establishment to label him as “security risk” as they have been doing with non-Punjabi leaders.
But as we have seen it was not to be.
Firstly, because PML-N has successfully cut itself from the source of democratic strength by putting its back on the elected bodies. Under the stewardship of Nawaz Sharif the present system is anything but a parliamentary democracy. Marginalisation of the parliament has led to the marginalisation of the democratic system. Secondly, the security establishment after loosing hope in the old political parties has successfully produced test tube politicians and political parties. It has scripted sit-ins and agitations by test tube politicians to weaken the elected civilian government. Security establishment has also manipulated the prolonged war on terror to strengthen its grip on the formation and execution of state policies along with maintaining its economic empire.
Be that is it may, the current crippling stand off between the civil and military leadership can have disastrous unintended consequences. Without a credible constitutional arbiter the system is faced with becoming totally dysfunctional (if it isn’t already there). State institutions are in a collision course with the danger of the constitution becoming totally irrelevant. By jumping into every major political controversy the higher judiciary is not far from losing its credibility. Foreign dignitaries visiting Pakistan or other countries entering into dialogue with Pakistan will face a real dilemma in choosing their interlocutors from Pakistani side. All Parliamentary Parties delegation led by the Speaker of the National Assembly completed a successful visit to Afghanistan this week but the relations between the two countries nose dived with the visit of the representative of the security establishment just two days after the visit of parliamentarians.
It is as if the civil and military components live in two parallel universes. Why would foreign countries or private parties invest in a country overburdened with so many uncertainties? The main arena for the success or failure of the state is economy, which is going to be the worst victim of the current paralysis. States can’t be run forever on an ad hoc basis. A country run forever on adhocracy may win a battle or two but it’s sure to lose the war. Relations with three neighboring countries out of total four are in the worst shape as reports about military clashes are continuously pouring in from all the three borders.
But the most dangerous fact is that Pakistan is at war with itself.
As if the internal terror problem was not enough there is a new craze for lynching people under the allegations of blasphemy. There isn’t a single day when there aren’t reports about frenzied mobs attempting to lynch the alleged accused person or persons. The state is loosing its writ to fanatic mobs in broad daylight. How are these fanatics different from anti-state terrorists? Hasn’t the state legitimised the weaponisation of blasphemy by using it against dissidents? It’s impossible to find answers to these questions as the state isn’t speaking with one voice.
Again be that as it may the country’s leadership is legally and morally bound to take short term and long term measures for overcoming the crisis. Even if we are so dumb to be unable to lean from experience of the other countries don’t we know that the internal collapse of state system in our own country in 1971 led to international intervention resulting in the disintegration of the country?