SOUTH ASIA: PAKISTAN News Briefs
The Punjab chapter of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. "Congratulations to the whole nation on what the brave mujahideen (holy warriors) did yesterday in Garhi Shahu and Model Town, Lahore," a statement issued by TTP spokesman Muhammad Omar on May 29, declared, "On the whole, we do like to encourage the nation for increasing such activities, like targeted killings of Qadianis, Shias, the political parties that support them, as well as law enforcement agencies, the Pakistan Army and other racist parties." He also warned the Muttahida Qaumi Movement [MQM] of attacks, calling it a "terrorist wing of Qadianis and Jews" and adding, "They are responsible for destruction of the country and the nation. We are encouraging assassination attacks on everyone who is with the MQM."
The May 28 attack coincided with the completion of one year since the TTP attack at Lahore on May 27, 2009, where suicide bombers detonated a vehicle loaded with some 100 kilograms of explosives near the offices of the CCPO and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – killing at least 27 and injuring 326, in addition to destroying a two-storey building of the Rescue 15 Police Service. An ISI colonel and 15 Police officials were among those killed. There is some similarity between the two incidents, since both involved small arms assaults backed by suicide bombings.
The Lahore attacks are hardly an exception in any sense beyond the relatively large numbers killed in a single operation. On May 28, 2010, itself, unidentified militants killed four Policemen in a suspected sectarian attack in the Satellite Town area of Quetta in Balochistan. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack. On the same day, one person belonging to the Shia community was killed and some others injured in a clash between two rival sects, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a front organization of the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), and a group of Shias, at Islam Chowk in the Orangi Town of Karachi in Sindh.
The Ahmadis, also known as Qadianis, have tens of thousands of followers in Pakistan, and the sect has long regarded as deviant and heretic and been persecuted and targeted in sectarian attacks in the country. Founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad towards the end of the 19th Century, the Ahmadis have a number of unique views, including the claim that Ahmad himself was a prophet, and that Jesus died at age 120 in Jammu and Kashmir, assertions regarded as heretical by orthodox Muslims. An Ahmadi website indicates that the movement, now headquartered in the UK, spans over 195 countries, with membership exceeding ‘tens of millions’. The Ahmadis also claim that they are the only leading Islamic organisation to categorically reject terrorism in any form. They have been systematically targeted by radical Sunni groups in the past. Significantly, the Pakistani leaders who condemned the attacks did not refer specifically to the Ahmadis in their statements. TV channels and newspapers avoided the word "mosque" in describing the attacked sites, preferring "places of worship."
Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, the issue of the Ahmadi faith was raised repeatedly before different courts at the District level. In many such cases, local courts declared them non-Muslims. In 1974, under severe pressure from clerics, Pakistan's first democratically elected Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, introduced the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which declared Ahmadis non-Muslims. In 1984, Pakistan's military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, brought in a new law, which barred Ahmadis from reciting the Kalima (the first proclamation of Islamic faith) and from calling their places of worship mosques. The Ahmadis, however, declare themselves Muslims and claim to practise Islam in its pristine form.
After the May 28 attack, the Jamaat-e-Ahmadi Pakistan, which represents the sect, stated that the Government had been 'going soft' on radical groups that espoused violence against Ahmedis. "All hard-line religious organisations in Pakistan are against us and are spreading venomous propaganda against us. We are told that the Punjabi Taliban had carried out the attack. Tell me which religious party here does not endorse the idea of killing Ahmedis?" JAP spokesman Qamar Suleman demanded. He stated, further, "The Government has never come down hard on elements that instigate people against us, and that is why it is equally responsible for what happened on Friday." He complained that a section of the media had incited people against Ahmedis. An audiotape conversation between Hamid Mir, Executive Editor of GEO News and a man purportedly linked to the TTP, has revealed that Mir’s exhortations against the Qadianis in a telephonic conversation with an unnamed TTP leader could have led to the execution of Khalid Khawaja, a retired ISI official associated with the Lal Masjid Operation in July 2007. During this conversation, Mir described the Ahmadis as "even worse than kafirs (unbelievers)". Suleman asserted that, unless the Federal and Punjab Governments acted "seriously and sincerely" to condemn and eliminate such elements, incidents like Friday's attacks will not stop: "Pakistani clerics want us to leave Pakistan. They are giving us this message through such attacks."
Apart from Ahmadis, other sects, including the Shias and Barelvis, have also come under fire from radical Islamist groups. Since the emergence of the TTP, sectarian violence has escalated, with a cult of suicide bombing taking root among the extremists. Sectarian groups such as the LeJ and SSP have joined hands with TTP in executing these sectarian attacks. The Institute for Conflict Management database records that 2010 has already witnessed 17 such attacks, in which 215 people have been killed. Total fatalities have already exceeded the 190 killed in 106 sectarian attacks in 2009.
Sectarian Violence in Pakistan: 2002-2010
*Data till May 30, 2010
Meanwhile, the Minister for Interior Affairs Rehman Malik indicated that his Ministry had sent two security alerts to the Punjab Government on May 13 and May 26, respectively, about possible terrorist activity in Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Such general alerts are, however, issued on farily regular intervals, and have seldom succeeded in preventing attacks. Before the March 8, 2010, suicide attack in front of the Special Intelligence Agency’s (SIA) office in the Model Town area of Lahore, in which 13 persons were killed and 80 injured, for instance, a February 8 intelligence reports had warned that the TTP had sent eight female suicide bombers to attack high-value targets in Punjab. A successful attack was, nevertheless, staged, though female suicide bombers were not involved. A spokesman for the TTP, Azam Tariq, claiming responsibility for attack had then warned, "The attack was to avenge (US) drone attacks and (Pakistani) military operations in the Tribal Areas… we have 2,800 to 3,000 more suicide bombers. We will target all Government places, buildings and offices."
Again on March 11, 2010, authorities declared red alert at sensitive installations after the reported entry of an explosive-laden car into Lahore. Sources claimed that a white car, with registration number 1320-A, had entered Lahore from Rawalpindi, following which security was beefed up to avoid any mishap. Enforcement agencies had warned authorities that 19 militants had been deputed to cover 12 cities of the Province, and were most likely to target National Accountability Bureau offices and anti-terrorism courts. A letter had also been forwarded to the authorities concerned, mentioning that some relatively defunct organisations, including Maulana Abdul Jabbar’s faction of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), LeJ, Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami (HuJI), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), had also joined the TTP. Despite all the warnings, on March 12, suicide bombers ripped through Lahore’s RA Bazaar in the cantonment area, killing at least 57 persons, including eight soldiers, and injuring more than 90. While a private television channel reported that the TTP had claimed responsibility, another television channel reported that al Qaeda-linked Sunni terrorist organisation LeJ had claimed responsibility. Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s comments on this remained confused, though he did claim that a ‘decisive operation’ would be launched against banned sectarian outfits if they did not refrain from further terrorist attacks. Such ‘decisive action’ remains conspicuous in its absence.
Pakistan’s political formations, across party lines, have supported sectarian groups to strengthen their vote banks. Just after the attack on the Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, for instance, the Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer stated that the Ahmedis had been targeted due to the close relations between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the TTP. In a message on the social networking website, Twitter, Taseer claimed that the banned SSP and TTP were united and supported by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. Significantly, during the National Assembly by-election for the Jhang seat on March 11, 2008, in the Punjab, Sanaullah conducted a joint campaign with the SSP and its head, Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi. Jhang is the epicentre of the sectarian groups. When questioned on this, Sanaullah declared, "not all banned outfits and organisations are involved in terrorist activities".
Instead of taking effective action against the sectarian extremists, Islamabad seems quite content to muddy the waters with unsubstantiated allegation of the involvement of the Indian external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW). Minister for Interior Affairs, Rehman Malik, thus insinuated, after the Lahore attacks, "About Balochistan I am sure that RAW is involved in sabotage activities. But, for Lahore we are investigating." While such declarations may find some political traction among the more gullible of Pakistan’s citizens, the state’s failure to deal with the malignant sectarian genie can only further endanger the future of a country and system already writhing in the flames of an engulfing terrorism.
[South Asia Intelligent Review]
Foreign Minister refuses to bridle LeT chief: Pakistani Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in a statement issued in Islamabad on June 27 has ruled out barring Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) founder and mastermind of 26/11, Hafiz Saeed, from giving inflammatory speeches targeting India. "In a democracy, there is freedom of expression...in Pakistan as in India there are all sorts of people making all kinds of speeches. There are people with extremist views in both India and Pakistan....and there is nothing you can do about it. There are views being expressed in Pakistan that I can do nothing about," Shah Mehmood Qureshi said. Economic Times, June 28, 2010.
140 militants and four Security Force personnel killed during the week in FATA: Six Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) militants were killed and another two injured when a US drone fired two missiles at a compound in North Waziristan Agency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on June 27. Separately, the Security Forces (SFs), backed by helicopter gunships and fighter jets, killed eight militants in Orakzai Agency.
Fighter jets pounded militant hideouts in upper Orakzai Agency, killing 14 Taliban (TTP) militants and injuring eight others on June 26.
10 militants were killed and five others, including two SF personnel, injured during an exchange of fire in Orakzai Agency on June 25.
Eight militants were killed and four others injured when fighter jets bombed their hideouts in Orakzai Agency on June 24.
15 Taliban (TTP) militants were killed during a clash with SFs in the the Dabori Ali Khel area of Upper Orakzai on June 23.
43 Taliban (TTP) militants were killed in clashes with SFs in the Orakzai Agency on June 22.
Shia outfits operating in southern Punjab: Intelligence agencies have reported that Shia outfits are operating in southern Punjab and are working against their rival factions. Intelligence agencies have collected data on the cadres of banned religious outfits and militants gathering in southern Punjab and their links to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and even al Qaeda. Daily Times, June 25, 2010.
Militants are publicly raising funds in Punjab Province, says intelligence report: A Pakistani intelligence report, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation, says that militants are publicly raising funds in the Punjab Province. The report says at least 17 banned militant outfits are operating in the Province under different names. They are raising donations through religious gatherings, certificate award ceremonies and meetings held in the name of social welfare. BBC News, June 23, 2010.
83 militants, 25 SF personnel and 29 civilians killed in Pakistan this week: At least 25 Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants were killed and another 23 injured in clashes with Security Forces across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on June 20.
A US drone targeted a Government-run tube-well in the Soheele village of Mir Ali sub-division in the North Waziristan Agency of FATA on June 19, killing at least 12 Taliban (TTP) militants and injuring 16.
Dead bodies of six Frontier Corps personnel were recovered from Mohmand Agency in FATA on June 18 by a tribal jirga (local assembly) after the tribal elders visited and held talks with Afghan Taliban militants. Over 65 soldiers went missing after their post in Shonkarai area of Mohmand tribal region was attacked by more than 200 Afghan Taliban militants on June 14.
Troops backed by helicopter gunships and artillery killed 38 TTP militants in attacks on their hideouts in Bajaur Agency on June 16. 10 soldiers were also killed in clashes.
Punjab Government funded JuD after 26/11, indicates report: The Punjab Government in Pakistan gave financial assistance to the Jama’at-ud-Da’awa (JuD), a front for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), after the November 26, 2008, Mumbai terrorist attacks. The Punjab Government gave PKR 82.77 million to the JuD, whose chief Hafiz Saeed is accused of masterminding the terrorist attacks, and its associates in the last fiscal year (2009). This information was revealed in a supplementary budget tabled in the Punjab Assembly which showed that that the Provincial Government gave a grant of over PKR 79 million to the Markaz-e-Tayyaba, which is the headquarters of the JuD in Muridke near Lahore in Punjab. Economic Times, June 17, 2010.
Pakistan helping Taliban militants, reports Sunday Times: Sunday Times published a report from Kabul in Afghanistan in which Pakistan has been accused of providing arms to Taliban militants. The report also accused Pakistan of specifying targets for the Taliban. The report says a large number of prisoners were taken to Quetta, where they were released to cross the border (into Afghanistan). The report also claims that Pakistan gives technical advice to the Taliban for disrupting NATO supplies and the families of suicide bombers are being provided PNR 200,000 each. The News, June15, 2010.
ISI supporting Afghan Taliban as "official policy'': The Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's external intelligence agency, has been accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban as part of its "official policy'' which is said to include funding, training and providing sanctuary to militants. A report by the London School of Economics claimed that the level of Pakistan's support for the Taliban was "very extensive'' and on a much larger scale than was previously assumed. The report, said to be based on interviews with Taliban field commanders and corroborated by western security officials, said there was a "strong'' case that the "ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall insurgent campaign.'' The Hindu, June 14, 2010.
129 militants and eight Security Force personnel among 140 persons killed during the week in FATA: 10 Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants were killed and six others injured when fighter jets targeted their hideouts at Orakzai Agency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), security sources said on June 12.
A series of US missiles attack killed 15 TTP militants in North Waziristan on June 11.
Three militants were killed when a US drone fired two missiles at a house in North Waziristan on June 10.
TTP militants attacked two security checkpoints in Mohmand Agency resulting in a gun battle that killed two soldiers and 40 militants on June 9. Separately, 14 militants were killed and three Security Forces (SF) personnel injured in clashes in various areas of Upper Orakzai Agency.
Six soldiers were killed and eight others injured when TTP militants stormed a checkpoint in Orakzai Agency on June 8. A retaliatory strike by the Army killed 35 militants and injured another 17.
Four million Pakistanis live under Taliban rule, says Amnesty International: Nearly four million people are living under Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) rule in Pakistan's northwest, suffering human rights abuses from the extremists as well as the military, Amnesty International (AI) said on June 10. According to the report titled "As If Hell Fell on Me", more than 1,300 civilians were killed in fighting between the Pakistani troops and the TTP in 2009 while more than one million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are still in various towns. Daily Times, June 11, 2010.
Punjab won’t allow military operation in province, says Law Minister: The Punjab Government will strongly oppose any Rah-e-Nijat (path to salvation) style military operation against extremists in the Province, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said on June 10. He said search operations of law enforcement agencies were already underway in the area and therefore there was no need for a military operation. Daily Times, June 11, 2010.
North Waziristan next priority in the fight against the TTP, says Foreign Minister: Pakistan’s next priority in the fight against the Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) is North Waziristan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on June 9 in Istanbul in Turkey. He said the Army was moving toward an offensive in North Waziristan in a ‘calculated fashion’ after an earlier successful operation in South Waziristan. Daily Times, June 10, 2010.
No military operation on cards says, Balochistan Chief Minister: Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani said on June 9 that no military operation was on the cards in the Province and that no operation could be justified, as the law and order here was comparatively better than other provinces. He categorically dispelled the impression that a military operation in Balochistan was being planned and said efforts were afoot to improve law and order in the Province. The News, June10, 2010.
Taliban leadership has fled Pakistan and Afghanistan, claims Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi: Pakistan military's successful operations in tribal areas have forced many important Taliban leaders to flee outside Pakistan and Afghanistan, claimed Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while addressing a joint Press Conference with his Afghanistan and Turkish counterparts on June 7. Daily Times, June 8, 2010.
The final political solution in Afghanistan can involve reformed Taliban in the Government, says US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke: US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, in an international conference to discuss non-military ways to help end the Afghan conflict held in Madrid (Spain) on June 6, said that Washington accepts that the final political solution in Afghanistan could involve reformed Taliban in the Government if certain "red lines" are respected. Holbrooke said that the peace jirga (tribal council) in Kabul, in which the Afghan President was given a mandate to negotiate with the insurgents, was an important step in efforts to "reach out" to the Taliban and the US supported that effort. Asked whether that support extended to even top leaders, such as supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, he said, "Let me be clear on one thing, everybody understands that this war will not end in a clear-cut military victory. It’s not going to end on the deck of a battleship like World War II, or Dayton, Ohio, like the Bosnian war," Holbrooke said. "It’s going to have some different ending from that, some form of political settlements are necessary ... you can’t have a settlement with al Qaeda, you can’t talk to them, you can’t negotiate with them, it’s out of the question. But it is possible to talk to the Taliban leaders."
Holbrooke said, if a member of the Taliban repudiated al Qaeda, laid down his arms and worked within the political system to join the Government, "there’s nothing wrong with that". "The door is open and this jirga was a benchmark event on the road to the effort toward reconciliation," he said, but did not specifically mention the leadership. Washington has been wary of overtures to senior Taliban leaders who sheltered al Qaeda before the September 11, 2001, attacks, as opposed to the "reintegration" of the insurgency’s foot soldiers. Daily Times, June 7, 2010.
143 militants and seven civilians among 150 persons killed during the week in FATA: The Security Forces (SFs) killed 44 Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) militants and injured another 11 in various areas of Upper Orakzai of Federally Administered Tribal areas (FATA) on June 6.
14 militants were killed on June 6 in the ongoing clash between the Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) and the TTP that began in Khyber Agency on June 5.
25 TTP militants were killed and 22 were injured when SFs, backed by helicopter gunships, pounded militant hideouts in the Orakzai Agency on June 5. The SFs also destroyed nine hideouts of the militants in the airstrikes carried out in Ghaljo, Tali, Mamozai, Sephan Dara, Mullah Pati, Toti Mela, Sara Gara and Shakar Tangi areas of Ismail Zai tehsil (revenue unit) in Upper Orakzai Agency.
At least seven militants and two civilians were killed in an armed clash between the TTP and LI militants in the Tabai Bazaar area of Zakha Khel in Landikotal of Khyber Agency.
At least 33 TTP militants were killed during clashes with SFs in different parts of Orakzai Agency on June 2.
Helicopter gunships targeted TTP positions in Teri and Kot Kalay areas in Upper Orakzai, destroying three hideouts and killing 20 militants. Orakzai is the stronghold of TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, May 31-June 06, 2010.
Punjabi Taliban have grown dangerous, says Interior Minister Rehman Malik: Interior Minister Rehman Malik, addressing the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on June 2, said that the Punjabi Taliban, holed up in south Punjab, have become more dangerous and are geared up for large-scale sabotage in the country. Malik revealed that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) had been behind the Marriott Hotel bombing, the General Headquarters attack, the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the recent incidents in Lahore.
Meanwhile, the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s statement about the Punjabi Taliban was aimed at creating disharmony among the provinces. Daily Times, June 3, 2010.
Army declares victory in Operation Khwakh Ba De Sham in Orakzai Agency: The Pakistan Army declared victory over militants in Operation Khwakh Ba De Sham (I will see you) in Orakzai Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) on June 1 and declared that the military operation in the area had been completed and civilians could expect to return home soon. The announcement about the operation’s end was contained near the end of a short press release describing a visit to Orakzai and neighbouring Kurram tribal regions by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. "Kayani’s visit to Orakzai Agency marks the successful conclusion of operations in the agency," the statement said, adding: "He appreciated the professional conduct of the operation which has cleared the agency of terrorists." The statement also said civilians who fled Orakzai could expect to return home soon. More than 200,000 people are believed to have poured out of the area since the end of 2009.
Meanwhile, a SF official said on June 2 that the total number of people killed in Orakzai since May 1 in action against the TTP was estimated at 719.
Despite the Pakistan Army’s announcement on June 1 of "successful conclusion of the operation in Orakzai Agency", locals and officials said on June 2 that more than half of the Agency was yet to be cleared of the TTP. "The military has cleared only Lower Orakzai, while the situation in upper and central Orakzai has not changed much, as the Army is yet to evict the Taliban (TTP) from these areas. The battle is far from over," locals of Lower and Upper Orakzai said. Dawn; Daily Times, June 2-3, 2010.
[South Asia Intelligent Review]