Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pakistan - Tell-tale signs of IS presence in Balochistan

Shezad Baloch

In the wake of a large-scale security operation in Mastung, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) -– the media wing of the Pakistani Army — issued a statement denying the existence of any directly or indirectly Islamic State-affiliated infrastructure in Balochistan or anywhere else in Pakistan. A day earlier, on June 3rd, every major newspaper in the country reported that IS infrastructure had been targeted in the raid and that the army had faced tough resistance. During the exchange of fire at least 12 extremists — described by an army spokesperson as hardcore terrorists — were killed. Army personnel also sustained serious injuries during the three-day operation.
Intelligence reports indicated that the IS has set up an infrastructure in the caves of the Isplingi area known as Koh-i-Siah/Koh-i-Maran, 36 kilometres southeast of Mastung. The ISPR, however, claims that the base was set up by the Lashgar-e-Jhangvi Al Almi (LeJA), a group widely recognised as having IS sympathies and eager to establish contact with them. Poorly administered and one of the least developed districts in Balochistan, Mastung lies less than 45 kilometres southeast of Quetta. Shias have often been targeted in Quetta by terrorists affiliated with the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) organisation, which already has an IS connection and considers itself almost a regional franchise. As always, the government wastes no time in taking credit for any temporary lessening in the level of sectarian violence, however small. At the same time it is reluctant to admit that mass killings of civilians have, in fact, increased at an alarming rate. And while it may be true that attacks are less frequent, they have become more accurate and deadly and are clearly designed with a view to maximising the number of casualties.
In recent years, the presence of IS in Pakistan’s troubled southwestern province has become increasingly evident. In 2015 graffiti began to appear in many parts of Quetta bearing slogans in support of the IS. Addul Razzaq Cheema, Quetta police chief at the time, denied that the IS had infiltrated the area, saying only that “certain people” were deliberately trying to create an atmosphere of fear in the province. But the evidence continued to mount. After several raids against hardline Baloch separatists in remote areas of Makran, IS-inspired graffiti started to appear there too.
Government denials notwithstanding, a year later the IS claimed responsibility for deadly attacks at the Shah Noorani shrine, the police training centre, and at civil hospital, where lawyers were gathered after the shooting of one of their colleagues. Each of these deadly and well-planned attacks killed about one hundred people. It seemed that the focus was shifting, from deadly attacks on Hazara Shia to the killing of other civilians, with members of the professional classes and foreign citizens now becoming the primary target. According to the Home Department of Balochistan, as of mid-May of this year there have been 183 terror incidents in the province. These incidents have resulted in a death toll of 238, including members of the security forces, with a further 517 people sustaining injuries. By comparison, the 226 terror incidents reported in all of 2015 resulted in 202 deaths and 310 injured. This would suggest that the attacks are becoming more effective and more deadly.
This year has also seen an uptick in the number of IS-inspired attacks. On January 7th five people from the Hazara Shia community were targeted and critically injured in Spiny Road of Quetta. Two months later, a man and a woman from the same ethnic group were shot dead. On May 12th a suicide bomber in Mastung struck the convoy of Deputy Chairman of the Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, killing 27 people. Then, immediately after the operation against the LeJA, the IS claimed responsibility for the abduction and murder of two Chinese citizens in Quetta. Some security officials in Quetta see the LeJA as the face of IS in Pakistan, targeting civilians, shrines, and professionals on a large scale. Adherents to the ISIS worldview are also found in other groups active in parts of Pakistan, including Balochistan. One such group is the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Nazaryati (JUI-I), which is present in parliament and holds public gatherings in Quetta and in northern areas of Balochistan. I still remember the case of Amir Muhammed Dasti, the brave police officer who killed four Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists in Quetta in 2012. He was humiliated by then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry for not taking action against religious extremists involved in the mass killing of Shias. A distraught Dasti argued that he could be targeted at any time, since many officials believe the actions of religious terrorists are in fact justified. On several occasions the terrorists delivered burial shrouds to Dasti as a warning that his days were numbered. In 2013 he was killed in broad daylight in Quetta, along with his guards.
Another senior police official who had killed some LeJ members in a raid later approached the terrorist organisation with the help of religious clerics and tribal elders and offered an apology. Such is the terror inspired by the LeJ that even a senior police officer can feel threatened by them and fear for his life. And that fear is not misplaced. Many police officers have died at the hands of LeJ and many others have been forced to leave Quetta for their personal safety.
Whether openly acknowledged or not, it is clear that the LeJ has established contact with the IS and that Balochistan is a potential breeding ground for IS fighters. Finding IS supporters and sympathisers in the province is not hard. The extremists have even been encouraged to take advantage of their organisational structure to radicalise young students at the University of Balochistan. In the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, the government continues to declare that external players, namely India and Afghanistan, are providing logistical support to banned organisations like the LeJA, the LeJ and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It might be true to some extent, but again it is the security forces that are responsible for protecting the porous border with Afghanistan.
If the IS has strongholds in Afghanistan, then it is very easy for them to have bases in places like Quetta and adjoining districts. It is a poorly kept secret that the banned LeJ and other terrorist groups collect money from mosques after Friday prayers, and especially after Eid prayers, urging the faithful to contribute to the funding of the Jihadist fight against Shia, infidels and Western countries engaged in Afghanistan. This happens not only in Quetta but also at a large scale in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. The LeJ and other extremists also collects animal skins to raise money in the name of Jihad. Another means of garnering support for their cause is religious education. There are hundreds of unregistered religious seminaries in Balochistan which get funding from rich countries and ironically there is no check on them. I personally know of many kids in Quetta who tell me they are being paid a monthly stipend to attend these seminaries, and yet nobody really knows what is being taught there.
In the current climate, it seems inevitable that extremists will find fertile ground for consolidating their position, gradually eroding what liberal and secular forces remain.

Pakistan - Pro-wahabi,saudi slaves of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for twin in #Parachinar

A faction of Pakistan-based sectarian militants Lashkar-e-Jhangvi on Saturday claimed responsibility for twin bombs that hit a market in the northwestern town of Parachinar, killing at least 50 people ahead of the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
LeJ's Al Alami faction said in a statement it was targeting minority Shi'ite Muslims and threatened more attacks over Pakistanis fighting against Sunni militants in Syria's civil war.
Video footage after the attack showed civilians dragging bleeding victims outside to waiting ambulances in the chaos that came when the bombs exploded before the sundown meal breaking the daily Ramadan fast.
LeJ Al Alami, which has previously partnered with Middle East-based Islamic State to carry out attacks in Pakistan, said it has previously "warned the Shia community of Parachinar ... to stop staining your hands with the blood of Sunnis in Syria".
It repeated the demand in the statement, saying that "otherwise in the coming days you will face such hate-fueled and deadly attacks that you will not be able to stand them".
The market bombings in Parachinar late on Friday afternoon came on a particularly deadly day for Pakistan as both Sunni and Shia Muslims prepared to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Another bombing in the southwestern city of Quetta killed 13 people and a drive-by shooting killed four police officers in the southern megacity of Karachi on Friday. Both of those attacks were claimed by another militant group, the Jamaat ur Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban.
Islamic State also claimed the Quetta attack through a messaging network. It had not commented on the Parachinar attack by Saturday afternoon.
Sunni-majority Pakistan also has a sizeable Shi'ite minority and has sought to avoid being dragged into sectarian strife that is rife in Syria and also the recent rift between Qatar and Saudia Arabia-led Sunni states that have cut off ties with Doha in part over its relations with Iran.
Pakistan's military said late Friday it had tightened security across the country, including at the Afghan border, following the attacks.
"Enemy trying to mar festive mood of nation through such coward acts. Shall fail against resilience of Pakistan," Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was quoted as saying in a tweet from the chief military spokesman.

Pakistan - #Parachinar - A Day Of Attacks

The country mourns yet again because of three terrorist attacks in one day; two in Parachinar (FATA), while one in Quetta (Balochistan). At least 15 people have been killed in Parachinar, while 50 have been injured. 13 people have lost their lives in Quetta, while 19 are injured.
These two regions are highly sensitive because of lack of inclusion in the federal system since post partition, and the growing influx of terrorism in the region. The living conditions are almost similar; these are some of the most impoverished areas of Pakistan. While the attacks are focused on either the security agencies present, and probably due to one of the many militant groups present here, there is also an underlying layer of poverty and alienation of the local population which provides fertile ground for terrorists and criminals.
Lack of cooperation between the federal government and the rural leaders has alienated the population. In Balochistan, even when they tried following the democratic process, their governments were dissolved to ensure that their struggles do not reach the masses.
Whereas, in FATA, the tribal areas refuse to accept the modern nation-state system. The government now has to deal with citizen militants fighting against the government. FATA already is influenced by the Taliban, whereas, there is growing influence of Islamic State (IS) in the Balochistan. The decreasing writ of the state in the areas has also increased external influences. Afghanistan, despite border demarcation, believes that it has a right over several areas. India, on the other hand, funds and provides weapons to the separatists to pressurise the government.
Pakistan cannot afford to lose either Balochistan or FATA, but at the same time is failing to take charge of the situation. The problem is that the government and its organs often seen in denial, and flippantly blame India or RAW, just like official spokesperson Anwar-ul-haq Kakar did in Quetta, minutes after the attack. Work on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is underway and Balochistan and FATA are a huge part of that plan. If the areas remains plagued with terrorist threats, it is very likely that we will face a hardening approach from China. 69 years is a long enough time to realise that marginalising a community while capitalising on its resources is not the best solution to their grievances.
It is time to come up with inclusive policies.
The census is one way of doing that. It would have pushed the delimitation process to completion and a new National Finance Commission (NFC) award would have been worked upon. All of that has been delayed, along with the Riwaj Act which focuses of FATA’s merger with KP. Security lapses, internal dissent and conflict are bound to increase.

Shia Genocide by Saudi Arabia - Death Toll From Pakistan Attacks Climbs to 85

The death toll from twin blasts in the northwestern town of Parachinar climbed to 67 Saturday, bringing the overall death toll from three separate attacks in Pakistan to 85, with several others in critical condition, officials said.
Shahid Khan, a government official in Parachinar, confirmed the toll Saturday, saying residents who had been preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and Eid feast were now in mourning.
He said during the day another 12 critically wounded died at different hospitals. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group, claimed the Friday twin bombings at a crowded market in the Shiite-dominated town, linking them to sectarian fighting in Syria.
Dr. Sabir Hussain, an official at a government-run hospital in Parachinar, said they had received 261 victims of the twin blasts, with 62 listed in critical condition.
Another 14 people were killed Friday in a suicide car bombing near the office of the provincial police chief in the southwestern city of Quetta, police spokesman Shahzada Farhat said. That attack was claimed by a breakaway Taliban faction and the Islamic State group. Gunmen in the port city of Karachi attacked police officers at a roadside restaurant, killing four of them before fleeing, senior police officer Asif Ahmed said.
Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a military spokesman, linked the attacks to alleged militant sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan and promised greater border security. The two countries often accuse each other of turning a blind eye to militants.
Security forces raided a militant hideout in the northwestern city of Peshawar before dawn Saturday, triggering a shootout in which three Pakistani Taliban were killed and two police officers and a soldier were wounded, senior police official Sajjad Khan said. He said the militants were making bombs that likely would have been used to target holiday festivities.
Khan said the identity of the slain militants was not immediately known. But intelligence officials said one of the men has been identified as a wanted militant commander linked to IS. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attacks, which came just days before Eid-al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Parachinar, a majority Shiite town, has been targeted by Sunni militants group several times in recent years, leaving dozens dead.
In March, a car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in Parachinar, killing 24 people, mostly Shiites. In January, a bomb ripped through the crowded market of Parachinar, killing 22 people and wounded over 100. In December 2015, the same market was targeted by a suicide bomber, killing 22.
Friday's car bombing in Quetta could be heard across the city, and shattered the windows of nearby buildings, said police spokesman Shahzada Farhat. TV footage showed several badly damaged cars and a road littered with broken glass.
Hours after the attack, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility. Later Friday, the IS group said in a competing claim that it was behind the attack, adding that one of its followers targeted the police post in Quetta, detonating his suicide belt there. It also released a photograph of the alleged attacker, identified as Abu Othman al-Khorasani.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, which has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists and separatists, who want a bigger share of the region's resources or outright independence. Islamic militants have also carried out several attacks in the province.

Pakistan - Zardari directs thorough investigation into incident of traffic warden run over by car in Quetta

Former President Asif Zardari has taken serious note of the incident in Quetta yesterday of a speeding car running over a traffic warden on duty and called for thorough investigations to allay suspicions of cover up.Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar on Saturday said that, “The former President Asif Zardari who is in London expressed profound grief and shock over the death of Sub Inspector Haji Attaullah Dashti in the incident and the questionable manner in which the case was dealt with.”“Details of the case emerged days later after the social media ran its CCTV footage showing a madly driven car seeming to deliberately run over a police warden.
Police however registered a case of traffic accident against unidentified persons,” he said.“There is a serious inconsistency between the gravity of the incident on the one hand and investigations and case registration on the other that smacks of a deliberate cover up,” Zardari said.The former President said, “The police warden was run over on Tuesday and CCTV footage was available yet it was not pursued in normal course and no explanations offered also raised questions that needed answers.”“The fact that the politically influential owner of the car initially chose to remain silent and spoke up only after the footage went viral on social media further lent credence to suspicions of political pressure to hush up the incident,” he said.Zardari said, “Any attempt at cover up would strengthen the perception that the relationship between citizen and the state was government more by social status than by law besides demoralizing the police force.
”“Any cover up will be a travesty of justice that cannot and must not be permitted nor condoned,” he said.Zardari also prayed for the soul of late Haji Attaullah Dashti and expressed profound condolences to the bereaved family members. He also asked for compensation and a civil award to late Traffic Warden Haji Dashti.