Friday, December 29, 2017
"Islamic State" has once again chosen to target Shiites in its latest Kabul bombings that killed at least 40 people. Experts say the group is trying to create sectarian rifts in the country and use them to its advantage.
Afghan officials first acknowledged Islamic State (IS) as a security threat as early as 2015. IS, officials claimed at the time, was confined only to the eastern Nangarhar province, where it controlled most parts of the Achin district.
The government subsequently launched military operations in the area and declared victory against the militant group in March 2016. In August of the same year, Washington and Kabul confirmed that Hafiz Saeed Khan, IS's regional chief for the group's so-called Khurasan branch, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Central Asian countries, had been killed in a US drone strike.
The Pentagon confirmed in July 2017 that Abu Sayed, head of the IS terror group in Afghanistan, had been killed in a US airstrike in Kunar province. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sayed's death was a significant blow to IS.
Clashes with the Taliban, a much stronger and older Islamist group in Afghanistan, also hindered IS's progress in the war-torn country. Due to these reasons, Afghan officials were hopeful that IS would not be able to establish itself in their country.
But things haven't turned out exactly the way the Afghan government had hoped for. IS fighters continue to launch deadly attacks in the country.
The group claimed the Thursday suicide bomb attacks in the capital, Kabul, which killed at least 40 people and wounded over 30. The target of the assault was a public gathering at a Shiite cultural center.
It was not the first time that Islamic State, a largely Sunni militant group, targeted Afghan Shiites. Afghanistan's Shiite minority has witnessed several attacks in 2017. Hundreds of people have been killed in attacks on their mosques and religious ceremonies. Among them were three attacks on Shiite mosques in Kabul in August, September and October.
Kabul-based security analyst Wahid Muzhdah believes the jihadist group is trying to create sectarian rifts in Afghanistan.
"IS is facing a huge challenge from the Taliban, who are a potent militant force in the country," Muzhdah told DW.
"To establish itself in Afghanistan, IS needs support from local extremist Sunni groups. IS is targeting Shiites to distinguish itself from the Taliban," Muzhdah added.
Afghan security experts fear IS could divide the country along sectarian lines. Muzhdah, however, believes it won't be an easy task for the jihadist group.
"After each IS attack on Afghan Shiites, religious leaders from all Islamic sects have come forward in support of the victims," he said. "But if the government doesn't do anything to stop such attacks, the sectarian split could deepen," Muzhdah warned.
From Middle East to South Asia
The IS focus on Afghanistan was quite inevitable after the group suffered heavy losses in Syria and Iraq in 2017. After IS's defeat in Iraq, experts had warned that a large number of its fighters could move into Afghanistan and Pakistan from the Middle East.
"As a result of setbacks in Iraq and Syria, we will most likely experience a major influx of IS fighters into Afghanistan and Pakistan looking for new areas of operations," Siegfried O. Wolf, a South Asia expert at the University of Heidelberg, told DW.
IS presence in Afghanistan is no longer confined to Nangarhar province. According to new reports, the group has increased activities in other parts of Afghanistan as well, including the relatively safe northern regions.
IS or IS-linked attacks have also spiked in Pakistan. Experts say the group could get support from Pakistan-based militant outfits that are against Shiites and the Iranian influence in their country.
Afghan authorities have repeatedly accused Islamabad of supporting the Taliban and other militant groups and sending them into Afghanistan to destabilize the government. Experts say that although Pakistan does not consider IS an ally or a group which can fulfill its strategic interests in the region, things could change in the future as the hardline Saudi Wahhabi ideology could be a binding factor.
Ruptly TV Published on Oct 22, 2017
By Tom Embury-Dennis
A woman in Pakistan has been gang raped on the orders of a village council after she married a man of her own choice, according to local media.
The alleged assault occurred in Tandlianwala district near Faisalabad, less than 100 miles from Pakistan’s border with India, The Express Tribune reported.
Police have reportedly arrested three suspects, including two brothers, over the rape of the 19-year-old.
The teenager said in a press conference her father had brought her back home after village council members promised the family could give her away in a traditional ceremony, according to Pakistani news channel Geo News.
But the council allegedly kept her captive and allowed three men to rape her. The news channel reported she later escaped captivity.
DNA testing reportedly confirmed she was gang raped. Her family have appealed to authorities to hold the council members responsible.
The arrests come a month after 10 people were detained for killing a newly-wed couple who entered a free-will marriage in the southern city of Karachi.
Police said Abdul Hadi, 24, and Hasina Bibi, 19, were killed by relatives for marrying without permission from their elders.
Reprisals against women and girls in Pakistan over perceptions of dishonour are common.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had said there are hundreds of so-called "honour killings" in the country each year. It recorded 837 killings, all of women and girls, in 2014, when it last published figures.
The majority were shot, strangled or injured with an "edge tool", a description which includes knives and axes.
The city has a veneer of calm, even affluence, at odds with the growing hatred against the sect elsewhere in the country
Outside the Press Club NTS pass contract teachers protest to make them permanent has entered its 7th day today. Yesterday they made an abortive attempt to go to Sindh Secretariat but police foiled their bid by resorting to lathi charge and arrested many of them.
A meeting was held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to address the grievances of NTS contract teachers. Among others, the meeting was attended by Education Minister Jam Mahtab Dahr and Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon.
During the meeting, the officials briefed the Chief Minister that under NTS 15649 teachers were appointed on contract. But after completion of three years, they are demanding that they may be made permanent but clearance of a retest is mandatory to meet their demand.
Chief Minister said that to make permanent of good teachers is no problem but the standard of teachers should be up to the mark. He said that to improve the standard of education is his first priority and for this purpose, they have to take tough decisions.
He added that he wants to bring in influence free education system. He advised the officials to evaluate the performance of contract teachers once in every 5 years.
Syed Murad Ali Shah directed Education Minister and Commissioner Karachi to hold a meeting with the teachers today to solve their problems under the present policy.
The attitude of some of those who act on behalf of our stateis terribly reminiscent of the city state of Athens circa 400 BC.
Twelve months after five civil society activists mysteriously went missing Pakistan’s FIA has submitted a report before the Islamabad High Court effectively clearing their names. The five had, at the very beginning of this year, been accused of using social media to promote blasphemous ideas and content. The ‘disappeared’ were: academic Salman Haider; bloggers Asim Saeed; Waqas Goraya and Ahmed Raza Naseer; and Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan (CPAP) president, Samar Abbas.
The way in which they seemingly evaporated into thin air before finally reappearing only to immediately flee the country suggests that they had been unlawfully picked up by our spooks. Indeed, this was later confirmed by one of the gentlemen as he gave an interview with an international media house. Fortunately, all five managed to survive the physical torture endured. Had they not, this overdue acquittal would have been utterly meaningless.
Admittedly, most comparisons prove unjust. Nevertheless, the attitude of our state apparatus as well as some of those who act on its behalf is terribly reminiscent of the city state of Athens circa 400 BC. This was the time when Socrates lived and ultimately lost his life for allegedly corrupting young minds; in short, for not believing in the gods of the Athenian state. For he dared to question the capricious highhandedness emanating from the uppermost echelons of power, including the collective notion of ‘might makes right’. Thus was he condemned and tried for these crimes. His fate was thus the death sentence by way of drinking a hemlock poison.
All of which begs the question as to who are the gods of the Pakistani state. The answer lies in the usual suspects: the Islamist clergy as well as the military establishment. Of course, there may be others too; though these are nothing more than bit part players. Meaning that the latter neither enjoy as much hegemony over the state nor can they single-handedly in one fell swoop overturn the tables of our polity. This then leaves it to usual suspects, who, knowing each other’s strengths only too well often find themselves working hand-in-glove. And so it happens that when one group or another criticises the military – over singularly calling the shots in terms of national security, foreign policy and especially vis-à-vis our relations with both India and Afghanistan – they are immediately labelled anti-state. And since Pakistan stands for Islam, they are also accused of being either atheists or anti-Islam. The same thing happens when a particular groups slams what it may see as the sectarian encroachment of the dominant sect of Islam here in Pakistan. It goes without saying that this offends the gods of our state.
Today, the state stands fully naked as it readily extends generosity to men with untold blood on their hands, such as Ehsanullah Ehsan. While, conversely, it ‘disappears’, tortures and tries to prosecute those who believe in protesting through peaceful means the state’s very unscrupulousness
Thus it is no coincidence when so-called dissenters find themselves ‘ousted’ as either being on the RAW or CIA payroll – or else falsely accused of blasphemy. After all, most of us witnessed how some of our most ultra-orthodox television anchors and self-proclaimed televangelists spread malevolent propaganda against the five bloggers. Interestingly, in their case the complainant was the Shuhada Foundation, a group associated with pro-ISIS Imam of the notorious Red Mosque in Islamabad.
Naturally, the gods of the state are more inclined towards those groups which expertly exploit both religion and jingoistic patriotism. Thus they have no qualms about muzzling the dissenting few who sincerely believe that the state owes equity to those of its citizens not necessarily subscribing to the ideas of dominant orthodoxy. Today, therefore, does the state stand fully naked as it readily extends all sorts of generosity and kindness to men with untold blood on their hands, such as Ehsanullah Ehsan and Asmatullah Muawiya. While, conversely, it ‘disappears’, tortures and tries to prosecute those whom believe in protesting through peaceful means the state’s very unscrupulousness.
And so it will be that these false idols, these gods of the state will continue their illegitimate hold over Pakistan both in terms of society and polity; unless and until the ideals of civilian supremacy and democracy are fully realised. The greatest irony of which is that this is something they understand well, perhaps more than the citizenry or the political leadership itself. For else why would they always position themselves as the harshest critics of people-led power and related civil liberties alike. Thus to be sure, without any shadow of a doubt, whenever directly elected governments have been ousted – this was the work of the usual suspects acting in cahoots.
It seems, perhaps, that many more dissenters will have to suffer at the hands of our repressive state; quite possibly for another decade or so. Yet this ought not to be cause for complacency. For time is surely running out for such acts of oppressive highhandedness on the parts of our self-appointed gods.
A group called International Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Movement (IKNM) has reportedly distributed pamphlets across Mansehra district of Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP), warning barber shop owners against styling customers’ beards in ‘un-Islamic’ designs. It has also been warned that the barber shop found violating the directive will be vacated on a 15-day notice.
Such little known groups have time and again emerged in various districts of KP, imposing their own version of Islam. Two shops in Mansehra are said to have already been shuttered on alleged violation of the IKNM orders, while another shop was attacked by a mob last month for violating the order. The constitutional authorities seem least interested in acting against these groups policing citizens’ behavior unlawfully.
The atrocities committed by Taliban in the districts of KP which they once unofficially ruled are still fresh in minds of the residents of these areas. While Pakistan fights terrorists who are responsible for killing countless citizens, it is also imperative to act against groups that have ideological similarities with the Taliban.
It is a question mark on the writ of the state when a group gets away with harassing people and ‘ordering’ them to follow its own rules. To gain success in the ongoing operation against terror, anything remotely related to Talibanisation should be nipped in the bud.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan claims his party’s government in KP has been able to solve the long-standing issues of the province. However, nothing is farther from the truth. The KP government has revised school textbooks, doled out taxpayers’ money to Taliban factories and are in electoral alliances with extremist groups.
The PTI chief does not seem to realise the importance of fighting the hateful mindset that has destroyed peace of the province in the past decade. Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak should take notice of the Taliban-style policing happening in the province. The people of the province had given their mandate to the PTI. It is the responsibility of the PTI-led government to respect the mandate and ensure protection of citizens from extremist groups. Otherwise, Mr Khan’s critics will be proved right that his party is a sympathiser of the extremists.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari on Friday met Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chief Dr Tahirul Qadri at Minhaj-ul-Quran Secretariat Lahore.
Addressing a press conference along with Qadri after the meeting, Zardari assured PAT chief of his full support in his struggle to seek justice for the victims of the Model Town tragedy.
Punjab Cheif Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah must step down as they are influencing the inquiry of the Model Town incident, said Zardari.
He said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif should be charged under section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Zardari further said PPP will participate in the All Parties Conference (APC) called by the PAT chief on December 30, adding, “whatever decision the APC takes, we will stand with it.”
Qadri welcomed the PPP’s delegation and said the party stood with him right from the start.
“We discussed the agenda for the APC in detail,” said Qadri, adding both the parties are united on the future course of action against the government.
Responding to a question regarding Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia, he said, “We will not accept any NRO.”
During the meeting, Both the leaders discussed different issues including Model Town Inquiry Commission report and future course of action regarding possible movement against the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
PPP leaders Qamar Zaman Kaira, Manzoor Watoo, Sardar Latif Khosa and Khursheed Shah accompanied Zaradri at this occasion.
Qadri has previously demanded that Shehbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah step down from their positions by December 31, in the wake of the Model Town inquiry report.
After the release of the Model Town Inquiry Commission report, several key politicians, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) Chief Mustafa Kamal, have thrown their weight behind the Qadri’s demand.
Imran Khan, during his meeting with Qadri on December 26, had also reassured his full support for PAT even if “it takes to roads”.
By ADAM GOLDMAN, MARK LANDLER and ERIC SCHMITT
When Pakistani forces freed a Canadian-American family this fall held captive by militants, they also captured one of the abductors. United States officials saw a potential windfall: He was a member of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network who could perhaps provide valuable information about at least one other American hostage.
The Americans demanded access to the man, but Pakistani officials rejected those requests, the latest disagreement in the increasingly dysfunctional relationship between the countries. Now, the Trump administration is strongly considering whether to withhold $255 million in aid that it had delayed sending to Islamabad, according to American officials, as a show of dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there.
The administration’s internal debate over whether to deny Pakistan the money is a test of whether President Trump will deliver on his threat to punish Islamabad for failing to cooperate on counterterrorism operations. Relations between the United States and Pakistan, long vital for both, have chilled steadily since the president declared over the summer that Pakistan “gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.”
The United States, which has provided Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid since 2002, said in August that it was withholding the $255 million until Pakistan did more to crack down on internal terrorist groups. Senior administration officials met this month to decide what to do about the money, and American officials said a final decision could be made in the coming weeks.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions, did not detail what conditions Pakistan would have to meet to receive the aid. It was not clear how the United States found out about the militant’s arrest, but an American drone had been monitoring the kidnappers as they moved deeper into Pakistan.
Caitlan Coleman, an American, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were freed along with their children in an October raid after five years in captivity. Pakistani troops confronted Haqqani militants as they ferried the family across the tribal lands of northwest Pakistan.
The Trump administration has foreshadowed a cutoff in recent days with harsher language. Last week, in announcing his national security strategy, Mr. Trump again singled out Pakistan for criticism. “We make massive payments every year to Pakistan,” he said. “They have to help.”
Vice President Mike Pence reinforced that message in a visit to Afghanistan just before Christmas, telling cheering American troops that “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.” The reaction of his audience was notable, analysts said, since the Pentagon has historically been one of Pakistan’s defenders in Washington because of its longstanding ties to the Pakistani military.
Pakistan, however, has few friends in Mr. Trump’s National Security Council. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, served in Afghanistan, where he saw firsthand how Pakistan meddled in its neighbor’s affairs. Lisa Curtis, the council’s senior director for South and Central Asia, brought critical views about Pakistan from her previous post at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
In a report she wrote in February with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, the two called for the administration to “avoid viewing and portraying Pakistan as an ally.” If Pakistan did not take steps to show its commitment to America’s counterterrorism goals, they wrote, Mr. Trump should strip it of its status as a major non-NATO ally.
Such a step would be more punitive than withholding the $255 million in State Department assistance known as Foreign Military Financing, Mr. Haqqani said in an interview, because it would deprive Pakistan of access to military equipment. He said Pakistani officials were bracing for some kind of aid cutoff. Pakistan’s military, he said, still views its accommodation of the Haqqani network as in its security interest. To overcome that, the Trump administration would have to pursue other, more punishing measures, either by imposing targeted sanctions on the government or removing it from the list of non-NATO allies.
“Pakistan can withstand a cutoff in American aid,” Mr. Haqqani said. “It would have to be followed by something else to make Pakistan believe that Mr. Trump means business.” In July, the Pentagon said it would withhold $50 million in military reimbursements for Pakistan because the country had not taken “sufficient action” against the Haqqani network.
A State Department official said Pakistan’s actions will ultimately determine the course of “security assistance in the future.” The official said conversations with Pakistan are ongoing and declined to provide further comment. The Pakistani government did not respond to a message seeking comment.
After Ms. Coleman, Mr. Boyle and their children were freed, the Pakistani military made no mention of any the captured Haqqani operative. Instead, the military released a statement saying the operation’s “success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy.”
Mr. Trump said it was “a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan.”
American officials are eager to learn what the militant knows about Kevin King, an American university professor who was kidnapped along with Timothy Weeks, an Australian citizen, in August 2016. Mr. King is believed to be alive but ill and American officials are hopeful that he and Mr. Weeks might be released.
Another American, Paul Overby, vanished in 2014 in Afghanistan. Mr. Overby was trying to interview the leader of the Haqqani network when he disappeared.
Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, which oversees Pakistan and Afghanistan, declined to provide any details on the Haqqani operative who was seized other than to say he was “probably pretty important” and that any militants involved in hostage-taking were “significant.”
General Votel would not say whether the Trump administration is considering withholding aid from Pakistan to prod Islamabad to improve its counterterrorism cooperation.
“What we’re trying to do is to talk to Pakistan about this, and not try to communicate with them through public messaging,” General Votel said in an interview.