Thursday, May 16, 2019

Islamic State Announces 'Pakistan Province'

Ayaz Gul
The Islamic State group says it has established a "province" in Pakistan, days after the terrorist organization used the name "Hind Province" for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. Both of the divisions formerly fell under the "Khorasan Province" or ISKP — the name the Middle East-based terrorist group uses for its regional operations launched in early 2015 from bases in the border region of Afghanistan — according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist threats. The "Islamic State Pakistan Province," in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer this week in Mastung, and it reported shooting at a gathering of militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban militant group in Quetta.
Both the districts are located in violence-hit Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Several separatist Baluch groups and sectarian organizations also are active in the province.
There was no immediate reaction available from the Pakistani government.
Islamabad maintains there is no "organized" presence of IS in the country. Pakistani military officials say an ongoing nationwide military-led "intelligence-based operation" is primarily aimed at denying space in Pakistan to extremists linked to any terrorist groups.The group released no details about the boundaries of the territory it is now claiming. In previous Islamic State propaganda, all of Afghanistan and most of Pakistan, parts of modern Iran and Central Asia make up the so-called Khorasan Province. IS also has spoken about creating its own chapter for the Indian subcontinent.
Marketplace expolsion
IS also took responsibility for last month's suicide blast in a marketplace in Quetta city that killed 20 people and left nearly 50 injured. The targets of the attack were members of the ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslim community. On Friday, IS declared in a statement via Amaq the creation of "Hind Province," while taking responsibility for clashes with Indian forces in Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.
IS has increased attacks lately in the region, including taking credit for the group's Easter Sunday first-ever bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.
Observers say altering its provincial structure and fragmenting the "Khorasan Province" by IS could be aimed at bolstering its credentials after losing its "caliphate" in Syria and Iran, where the terrorists at one point used to control thousands of miles of territory.
"As ISIS [one of several acronyms used for IS] seeks to build and restructure foundations of insurgencies across the globe after its losses in Iraq and Syria, it is attempting to recruit also from Pakistan, a country with an existing jihadi militant population," tweeted Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group.
The suspected rebranding of ISKP comes as the United Nations earlier this week designated the “Khorasan Province” as a global terrorist, noting the group was formed in January 2015 by former members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who pledged allegiance to Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, leader of the ISIS/ISIL.The United States has already blacklisted ISKP as a foreign terrorist organization, and American troops are conducting regular airstrikes against the group’s bases in Afghanistan with the help of local forces, killing thousands of militants.Analysts say American counterterrorism airstrikes and clashes with the Afghan Taliban have prevented ISKP from expanding its regional influence and the rebranding strategy could have stemmed from those challenges.
“Khorasan chapter has been struggling to establish a footprint in Afghanistan and the region in general, and they may be following al-Qaida’s strategy to create regional affiliates,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, who heads Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace and Studies (PIPS).

Pakistan’s Undeclared Censorship

#Punjabi judges in action - LHC acquits two of five convicts in #Christian couple’s lynching case

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday acquitted two of the five people sentenced to death for the 2014 killing of a Christian couple, who were lynched and burned in a kiln in Kasur’s Kot Radha Krishan area after being falsely accused of blasphemy.The court also dismissed appeals by the three other convicts and upheld their death sentences. The previously reserved verdict was announced by a two-member LHC bench headed by Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan.
In November 2016, an anti-terrorism court had sentenced to death five convicts – a cleric Hafiz Ishtiaq, Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor and Muhammad Hanif – for the lynching of a Christian couple, Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi.Of the five convicts, the LHC accepted Hanif and the cleric Ishtiaq’s appeals against their death sentence and ordered their acquittal.
The ATC had also awarded two-year jail terms to eight other convicts for aiding and abetting the crime – Muhammad Hussain, Noorul Hasan, Muhammad Arsalan, Muhammad Haris, Muhammad Muneer, Muhammad Ramazan, Irfan and Hafiz Shahid.
The brutal murder of Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi on November 4, 2014, had caused outrage across the country, and saw other Christian families living near their home in Punjab flee the area in fear.The illiterate couple had been falsely accused of tossing out pages of the Holy Quran along with other household garbage. Witnesses had described how an angry mob of hundreds of people set upon the couple near the town of Kot Radha Kishan, attacking them with sticks and stones and then throwing their bodies into a brick kiln.
The challan submitted by the police said Rescue 15 was informed that a woman, Shama, who worked at Yousaf Gujjar’s brick kiln in Chak No 59, had allegedly disrespected the Holy Quran by burning its pages and a charged mob had gathered around her house.
When Sub-Inspector Muhammad Ali, ASI Abdul Rasheed and other police officials, who were out on patrol on Adda Manga Road, reached the scene, they found 500 to 600 people gathered at the kiln.
The mob was beating the couple with sticks when the police arrived on the scene.
The police officials said they tried to stop the mob from damaging the brick kiln’s roof – which they were removing to throw the couple into the fire – but the policemen were beaten and pushed back.
The mob later pushed the couple into the kiln in the presence of police and other witnesses – Iqbal Masih, Shahbaz Masih, Nazir Masih and Imran Masih.According to the challan, the post-mortem report confirmed the couple was alive when they were thrown into the kiln and the cause of their death was “burning from dry heat”. After the attack, it emerged that the couple had been falsely accused.
Shahzad’s father, a faith healer who used pages with inscriptions in many languages for his work, had died shortly before the incident. The family was burning documents that belonged to him.The police had nominated 140 persons in the case. After the sentencing, Riaz Anjum, the lawyer representing the murdered couple’s family, had confirmed that a total of 103 people were charged in the case.
However, 90 accused were acquitted, including the owner of the brick kiln. He had been accused of locking the couple up as they tried to flee for fear they would default on their debt to him.
A tractor trolley, a broken TV, papers including ‘amulets’, a broken lock, torn police uniforms and wooden sticks – used in torturing the couple – were case properties.
The deceased couple was survived by two sons, Suleman and Zeeshan, and two daughters, Sania and Ponam.

#Pakistan - #Rupee - Asia’s Worst Performing Currency Takes Another Hit

Pakistan rupee falls in another devaluation after IMF deal
The rupee level reflects demand and supply conditions in the foreign exchange market, Pakistan’s central bank spokesman Abid Qamar said in a statement Thursday, adding that it will help in “correcting market imbalances.” The nation had previously said the IMF had not sought to set a level for the currency.
“A market-determined exchange rate’’ will help the economy, the multilateral lender had said in a statement May 12. The nation’s central bank had devalued the currency five times last year and raised interest rates by 475 basis points as it sought to contain the financial blowouts from Pakistan’s twin current-account and budget deficits. The rupee devaluation is “an IMF condition and they seem serious about it,” said Asad Sayeed, a director at the Karachi-based consultancy Collective for Social Science Research. “It’s an open market policy. It appears they have decided to adopt it.”
Pakistan clinched the IMF loan after almost a six-month delay that prompted rating companies to downgrade the nation’s credit score earlier this year. In the process, Prime Minister Imran Khan fired key members of his economic team, including the finance minister and central bank governor, and pledged to carry out deep structural reforms.
Other than the rupee devaluation, “you now have no choice,” said Mushtaq Khan, former chief economist at Bank Alfalah Ltd., who now runs an independent consultancy.The benchmark KSE-100 Index closed 0.9% lower, after falling as as much as 2.1% earlier in the day.
“International investors are cautiously optimistic that, under the current economic leadership, this time could be different,” said Bilal Khan, senior economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Dubai.

Rupee hits all-time low of 148.5 against US dollar in inter-bank market

The rupee dropped to an all-time low of 148.50 to the US dollar in the inter-bank market on Thursday.
It weakened by over five per cent, or Rs7.10, from Wednesday close of 141.4 in early hours of trade at the inter-bank.
Currency dealers are selling dollar at Rs148 and buying at Rs145, a Karachi based dealer told The Express Tribune. The drop in rupee comes a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan constituted a committed to control rupee devaluation after its free fall reaching 147 in the open market.
He had warned current dealers of strict actions if they were found selling dollar above Rs144. Experts said the drop in rupee was expected, as the government had agreed to leave inter-bank market free from state control under the IMF 39-month loan programme with $6 billion for Pakistan.
The government signed the loan programme on Sunday. IMF had conditioned to let the market forces decide rupee-dollar exchange rate going forward.
There was speculation in the market that the rupee may drop to 165-170 to the US dollar under the current cycle of depreciation. Earlier, the SBP had let the rupee depreciate by staggering 34 per cent to 141.4 since December 2017.