Tuesday, September 5, 2017
By C.S Chand
A UK based human rights organization, Global Minorities Alliance has published a fact-finding report on 4 September, 2017 featuring the situation of Pakistani Christians flee religious oppression in Thailand. The report titled: ‘Are Christians in Pakistan Persecuted?A case study of Pakistani Christian Asylum Seekers in Bangkok, Thailand, which underpins the current debate in the UK after Home Office Pakistan country guidance report, 2016; argues that Christians in Pakistan are not persecuted but rather discriminated.
Indian and Bangladesh intelligence officials say that they have intercepted three long duration calls between Hafiz Tohar, military wing chief of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 23rd and 24th August that hold the key to why the militant group unleashed the pre-dawn offensive against Myanmar security forces.
Hafiz Tohar set up the Aqa Mul Mujahideen (AMM) and was trained in Pakistan by the dreaded Lashkar e Tayyaba (LET) after he was recruited by Abdul Qadoos Burmi, the chief of Harkat ul Jihad al Islami -Arakan (HUJI-A) from Kyauk Pyin Siek village of Maungdaw in 2014.
He merged his group into the ARSA after it was formed in the summer of 2016 and is widely believed to be behind the deadly attacks on Myanmar security forces from October 9-10 last year and on Aug 25 this year.
Following the training of a few initial recruits of the AMM in Pakistan, new cadres were recruited from among Rohingya youth in Rakhine State and refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar.
They were then trained in camps set up on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, specially one at Naikhongcherri in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
One "Major Salamat" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, deputed for under cover operations with the LET,was responsible for these training during April-May 2016.
63 JMB activists from Bangladesh responsible for the suicide bombings in that country and 88 ARSA activists were trained in the Naikhongcherri base in April-May 2016, according to information revealed by two top JMB activists when interrogated by Bangladesh intelligence.
This base was recently raided by the Bangladesh army, and six JMB rebels were captured. During interrogation, they confirmed information about this base and the joint JMB-ARSA training stint conducted by ISI that Bangladesh intelligence had garnered from top JMB leader Abul Kashem.
Kashem's information led to the raid on this hideout three months ago.
They found contact numbers of one "Brigadier Ashfaq' and of 'Major Salamat' of ISI and one ISIS recruiter in Iraq.
Bangladesh intelligence put these numbers on surveillance and also passed their numbers to Indian R&AW external intelligence agency which has superb Signals Intelligence capabilities with a regional reach.
Ashfaq is said to be the office in charge of ISI's eastern operations, and he had recently met BNP leader and former PM Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique in London.
Bangladesh media, quoting their intelligence sources, had reported that the ISI officer and Begum Zia discussed ways to bring down the Hasina government in Dhaka and boost the Rohingya insurgency in Rakhine, for which support of the BNP-Jamaat e Islami was needed because ruling Awami League is not sympathetic to Rohingyas.
On 23 August at 11.32am Bangladesh time, there was a call from Ashfaq's number to a Bangladesh Grameenphone mobile used by Hafiz Tohar. The call lasted 37 minutes, and Ashfaq told hafiz that ARSA has to hit multiple targets within the next 48 hours. Tohar said though his squads were in a position to strike, suggesting long planning and mobilisation, it would not be possible to strike the multiple targets before midnight of 24th August.
Indian intelligence also intercepted this call and could fully break the coded language that Bangladesh intelligence had not been able to decipher fully.
"Kala Admi report detehi hamla ho," said Ashfaq and Zohar replied :" Ji Janaab , jo hukum , par 24 rat se pahle nahi hoga."
"Kala Admi" or " Black Man" is surely Kofi Annan and the ISI officer was asking for the attacks to be launched immediately after Annan submitted his report.
Tohar agreed but said it would not be possible before midnight of 24th Aug. Tohar speaks clear Urdu due to his long stay in Pakistan.
The second call came on 24th Aug at 2.13pm Bangladesh time and lasted for 28 minutes.
Ashfaq asked when 'Kala Admi" (Annan) is making his report public. Tohar said 3pm , just a few minutes from now.
Ashfaq pleaded for launching the attacks as quickly as possible, soon after dark.
Tohar said ' runners' have been sent to all the ARSA squads with instructions to launch the attacks at midnight.
"Der kyon kar rahe ho," (why so late) asked an agitated Ashfaq.
"Message paunchaneme time lagta hai Sir", (Takes time to reach the message ), Tohar insisted.
Obviously, ARSA was sending the message through physical runners in person, maintaining a total radio silence for fear of detection.
At 6.02 pm came a call from an Iraq number with someone introducing himself as "Al-Amin of Daesh" on the line to Tohar.
The call was shorter than the Ashfaq-Tohar calls, lasting under 14 minutes.
The ISIS wished ARSA the best in its jihad against the Burmese colonialists, Buddhist and Hindu fanatics.
These three calls simultaneously intercepted by Bangladesh and Indian intelligence makes it clear ARSA and their backers (ISIS and ISI) were determined to cause problems for the Aung San Suu Kyi government which had committed to set up an inter-ministerial committee to implement the recommendations made by Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Commission.
It is nor clear whether Bangladesh or India raised a red flag with Myanmar to warn them of an impending attack.
Perhaps the absence of an intelligence sharing mechanism did not enable the transfer.
" After ISIS's huge failures in the Middle East in the face of Russian and US-led Western military action, there is a clear attempt to create a new theatre of jihad where the narrative of torture and human rights violations reinforced by heavy handed Burmese action can unsettle the Sheikh Hasina regime and destabilise India's east," said a top Indian intelligence official in Yangon before PM Modi's visit to review security arrangements.
"That will divert Indian military attention from Kashmir and Bangladesh from its battle against JMB and other jihadis. This is a clear Pakistani ploy."
That would explain why India and Bangladesh, mindful of their own security threats, have not bought into the narrative of 'genocide' as some in the West and many in the Islamic World have.
"The ARSA is determined to thwart Daw Suu Kyi's good intentions to implement the Kofi Annan report. They want to brutalise the discourse in Rakhine and help re-militarise the area so that the narrative of torture and extra-judicial killings help them boost the level of jihad and find recruits," said a top Bangladesh intelligence official.
Pakistan says it does not have terror groups operating freely in its borders, putting it at odds with a statement from the five emerging-market BRICS powers.
The dengue outbreak continues to wreak havoc across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) as two more patients lost their battle against the virus on Monday. With two more deaths, the total death toll from the disease has risen to 15. Most of these deaths were reported from Peshawar and Khyber Agency.
Initially, dengue cases were only reported from the provincial capital. However, the virus has now spread to districts in central and Northern parts of the province. So far, not even a single case has emerged from any of the southern districts of the province.
According to details, a total of 1,338 people were reported to have been carrying the virus in Peshawar, followed by 110 in Mardan and 36 from Buner. However, 15 patients from Mansehra, six from Swabi, five from Malakand, two patients each from Haripur and Abbottabad districts showed signs of the virus.
Official documents of the provincial health department, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, read that around 1,558 people were screened for the dengue virus across ten districts. Of these, 292 people were tested positive with 252 hailing from Peshawar.
The report further read that two patients from Abbottabad, one from Haripur, eight from Mansehra, three from Buner, two from Swabi and 20 cases from the Mardan district were tested positive.
A total of 135 dengue patients were admitted to different health facilities within the past 24 hours while 55 of them were successfully treated and discharged, it stated. Officials of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) stated that the virus has infected a kid from Bara Tehsil of the tribal belt, adding that the kid is being given medical treatment.
A total of seven cases have so far been reported from Khyber agency, with one of them belonging to Darra Adam Khel.
Meanwhile, around 1,200 people with gastro complaints visited different health facilities across the provincial capital, with majority of them going to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH).
Pakistan - Editorial: Pakistan's higher education system ill equipped to curb extremism among students
A shocking attack that missed its target but claimed the lives of at least two others on Eid day in Karachi has revealed a dangerous and apparently growing dimension of militancy in the country.
Sindh MPA Khawaja Izharul Hassan, a senior leader of a faction of the MQM, survived the audacious attempt on his life on Saturday, but the alleged mastermind escaped the scene of the attack.
Believed to have been injured in the attack, the militant belonging to a new outfit, Ansarul Sharia Pakistan, was quickly identified by the Sindh police: Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui, a former student of the University of Karachi.
The involvement in militancy of young individuals from the mainstream-education system is not a new phenomenon. Saad Aziz of the Safoora Goth carnage was a student of the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, while Noreen Leghari, an MBBS student of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Hyderabad, has been implicated in ties with the militant Islamic State group.
What is clear is that the higher education system in the country remains thoroughly ill equipped to either curb extremism among students or identify individuals before they are able to go on to commit violent crimes. In the wake of the latest Karachi attack, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Shah has claimed that a security audit and verification system will be introduced in the province to try and identify students with militant and terrorist leanings. That may be a welcome move, but it will need to be carefully implemented.
The blunt instrument of the state should not be used against young people who may simply have an educational interest in different ideologies or want to practise a different kind of politics to what the state condones. The focus must be narrow and precise: religiously inspired militants who are on the path of violence against state and society, be they so-called lone wolves or part of an established network of militancy.
The measures that need to be taken cannot be limited to the campus either. The physical and online networks of jihad must be monitored more closely. After more than a decade of fighting militancy, why is it still relatively easy for individuals seeking to join militant groups to do so?
Surely, as the militancy evolves, the state’s response in fighting it must evolve too. Finally, there is the original reality ie madressah networks through which a great deal of recruitment and facilitation of militancy occurs. The emergence of a new challenge does not mean long-standing threats can be ignored. More effort is needed on all fronts.
Zarnaab Adil Janjua
On 21 October 2016, a three-member bench of the highest court in Pakistan, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, ruled that schizophrenia was not a mental illness and won’t disqualify one from being sent to the gallows. This was ostensibly done to ensure that Imdad Ali, a schizophrenic man, would be hanged for the 2001 murder of a cleric. Imdad will be victim number 426 in Pakistan’s merciless hanging spree, that began after the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty, following the Peshawar attacks in December 2014. In the wake of these attacks, three branches of governments, spearheaded by a fourth military branch, devised a ‘National Action Plan’, the salient points being the establishment of military courts and the reinstatement of capital punishment.
Denying Rights to the Disabled and Mentally Ill
The political efficacy of such measures and their role in deterring terrorism is a topic for another time, but one thing is certain – by implementing such a draconian order, the Pakistani government, courts and military establishment have grossly violated the rights of the disabled and the mentally ill.
As human rights lawyer Saroop Ijaz describes it: in its “populist pandering”, the state has violated the United Nations disability rights treaty that Pakistan ratified in 2011. Imdad is the latest in a series of such victims. Another such example is that of Kaneezan Bibi, who was convicted for a murder in Toba Tek Singh in 1991. Despite the existence of compelling evidence to suggest that she suffers from psychosocial disabilities, President Mamnoon Hussain rejected her mercy plea – making her the ninth woman to be hanged in Pakistan’s history. Khizar Hayat, a paranoid schizophrenic who spent three years in the prison hospital, wasn’t spared either. Mental Illness Ignored in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, conservative estimates say that 13 percent of the population is afflicted with mental health problems. Given these figures, the WHO reports that: 0nly 400 psychiatrists and five psychiatric hospitals exist across the entire country for a population exceeding 180 million. Roughly translating to an alarming psychiatrist-to-person ratio of 1 to half a million people.
PTSD, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia are generally written off as trivial matters by most members of society in Pakistan. Patients are treated as having been “erroneously diagnosed” as Arif Mahmood at Dawn contends. To make matters worse, some are diagnosed as being under the influence of supernatural powers or worse, black magic. They are then sent to spiritual healers and hakeems. or asked to renew their faith in god. This discrimination, coupled with petty and blinkered social attitudes and the lack of resources and government attention, creates an environment where mental health patients are relegated to Sufi shrines or ill-equipped institutions.
Disarray in National Priorities
The psychological exploitation of young boys at the hands of innumerable Lashkars, Sippahs and Jaish-like groups is evident. But this cannot be solved by secularising the education system, as the liberals demand. Counselling services should be increased manifold before anyone can cry foul about Western media biases and play the victim card.
In November 2016, Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice Party “shut down” Islamabad, bringing hospitals, schools, offices and courts to a standstill. Mere miles away in the wee hours of the same day, Imdad Ali is unaware of his own reality. There is no better allegory for a disarray of national priorities.
The head of Pakistan’s Awami National Party said bilateral talks could end tension between the two countries and help improve relations.
Pakistan’s Awami National Party president Asfandyar Wali Khan has called on Islamabad to be open to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s negotiation offer to end tensions between the two countries.
Asfandyar called on Pakistan to reciprocate positively as peace was a prerequisite for stability and economic development in the region, Dawn News reported.
He said unity among Pakhtuns was needed and that foreign elements should stop interfering in the region.
According to Dawn News he went on to say that bilateral talks could end mistrust between the two countries. “Pakistan should take initiative in this regard. Kabul and Islamabad should take bold steps to improve ties,” he added.
Ghani again called for peace during his speech over Eid. He said: “From here, I have a message to Pakistan: We are ready for comprehensive political talks. Peace with Pakistan is in our national agenda.”