Vol. 10 - No. 7


SOUTH ASIA: PAKISTAN                                                                                                                       News Briefs

 US Plans for Military Escalation in Pakistan: NYT Reports

Terror Unabated in Sindh   FATA - Unrelenting Terror

(Afghanistan and Myanmar in the 
         map are not members of SAARC)

Pakistan ends 2010 as Sick Man of South Asia

It has been said — without exaggeration — that Pakistan faces an existential threat. The country has not defined a coherent approach towards those who are resorting to terrorism to advance their agendas, both within Pakistan and abroad.

Pakistan remains the world's never-ending question. As 2010 concludes, several outstanding issues continue to bedevil the country. How they are managed in the year ahead will determine not only Pakistan's immediate future and long-term prospects, but also the security of its region and, indeed, much of the world.

It has been said — without exaggeration — that Pakistan faces an existential threat. The country has not defined a coherent approach towards those who are resorting to terrorism to advance their agendas, both within Pakistan and abroad. It remains uncommitted to the idea of denying sanctuaries on its territory to Taliban fighters battling American and Nato troops in Afghanistan. Relations with India have soured in recent months, because Pakistan's government is once again lending diplomatic support to the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Domestic terrorism in Pakistan has taken a heavy human and economic toll. It is no longer aimed at official support of US-led anti-terrorism activities. Extremists now target minority groups as well as other Muslim sects. Some 800 liberal and Sufi Islamic scholars have died in targeted killings by extremist groups who receive financial assistance from like-minded people in the Middle East, and some Sufi shrines have been bombed.

The economy is in shambles, and unable to meet the International Monetary Fund demands for its continued support. If the International Monetary Fund (IMF) terminates its current programme, Pakistan will be unable to service its foreign debt. Indeed, a senior cabinet minister suggested recently that the international community should write off Pakistan's debts — an amount estimated at $40 billion (Dh146.8 billion). The minister of finance forcefully repudiated the suggestion the following day, indicating that the government has not developed a consistent approach towards the faltering economy.

The economy was also badly hurt by the massive floods of 2010, which caused damage estimated at $10 billion. This damage could lower annual GDP growth by 1-1.5 per cent for several years to come. In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the IMF estimates that economic output will increase by less than 3 per cent — one-third the rate expected in neighbouring India and less than half that of Bangladesh.

Slower economic growth will cause a shortfall of jobs for new entrants to the workforce, thereby increasing the incidence of poverty. Indeed, the number of people living in absolute poverty is likely to increase by 10 million, bringing the total to more than 70 million, or 40 per cent of the population. Pakistan thus ends 2010 as the sick man of South Asia.

The political system also remains unsettled. Despite passage in July of the 18th amendment to the Pakistani constitution, which restored it to the form in which it was promulgated in 1973, political and executive authority remains in the hands of President Asif Ali Zardari.

The changes are supposed to make the executive branch accountable to the elected parliament, expand the prime minister's authority, devolve more power to the provinces, and ensure independence to the judiciary. In late 2009, the president also approved the seventh National Finance Commission, which will allocate to the provinces a larger share of the revenues collected by the central government. But a significant transfer of power from the presidency to parliament, or from the central to provincial governments, has yet to be brought about.

Military bugbear

Worse yet, the military remains outside civilian control. General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani's term in office, which was set to expire in November, was extended by three years. Thus empowered, the general has been able to exert his influence over foreign policy, in particular in defining the country's relations with the US, India, and Afghanistan. Even though the US offered $2 billion of assistance to the military to be disbursed over a period of 3-5 years, Kayani has resisted American pressure to move against the Taliban's sanctuary in North Waziristan, used to stage operations against US and Nato troops in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

So, is a further increase in violence by various extremist groups likely? Will the economy collapse if the IMF withdraws its support? Will the US increase its pressure by intervening militarily if Pakistan continues to harbour Taliban fighters operating from the tribal areas? Will the military subvert the constitutional changes aimed at reforming the political system?

Despite all the grim news and auguries, there is some hope, owing to the increased political mobilisation of Pakistan's middle classes, whose members have finally begun to question those espousing extremism. The judiciary is also more active, and is attempting to force the executive to remain within the bounds of the constitution.

Moreover, a trade agreement with Afghanistan that allows Afghan goods to cross Pakistan en route to India may be one step towards an improvement of economic relations with that large and rapidly growing neighbour.

Indeed, an able economic team that has been installed in the government seems — at long last — to be addressing some of the economy's deep structural flaws. As India in the 1990's and Brazil in the early 2000's showed, economies in deep distress can recover quickly once the right policies are implemented. It could also happen in Pakistan, which would help to solve other, seemingly intractable problems.

So all hope is not lost in Pakistan. On the contrary, 2011 may well prove to be a better year for a battered economy and a political system under stress.

[South Asian Media]

News Briefs


50 militants and 41 civilians among 111 persons killed during the week in FATA: A woman suicide bomber on December 25 blew herself up at a distribution centre of the World Food Programme at Khar in Bajaur Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), killing 45 persons and injuring another 80 who had queued for aid. Five militants were killed when Army helicopter gunships pounded militant’s hideouts in Malangyar area of Safi tehsil (revenue unit) in Mohmand Agency.

Two unidentified militants and a Frontier Corps (FC) trooper were killed on December 24 when militants attacked the Bara Press Club in Khyber Agency that the paramilitary force was using as a security post.

TTP militants attacked five checkpoints in the Mohmand Agency after December 23 midnight, sparking a clash which left 11 paramilitary soldiers and 24 militants dead. Militant toll rose to 40 on December 24.

At least 24 militants and three soldiers were killed in clashes when a group of 150 TTP militants attacked a FC check post in Baidnami village near the border with Afghanistan in Mohammad Agency on December 23. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, December 21-27, 2009.

2010 bloodiest year for Pakistan since 2001, says a report: A total of 1,224 people were killed and 2,157 more injured in 52 suicide attacks across Pakistan since January, making 2010 one of the bloodiest years since the turn of the century. Though the total number of suicide bombings decreased 35 per cent this year as against the past year, 2010 was the bloodiest year since 2001 in terms of the number of the people killed in such attacks. Pakistan witnessed 80 suicide attacks in 2009 that killed 1,217 people and injured 2,305 others. On an average, suicide bombers killed 102 persons a month this year, compared to last year's average of 101 killings a month. The bombers, on an average, killed more than 23 Pakistanis every week and over three persons every day in 2010. Over four suicide attacks were carried out every month this year, compared to six assaults every month in 2009. Civilian casualties accounted for 49 per cent of the total deaths caused by suicide bombings this year. The remainder were personnel from Security Forces and law enforcement agencies, including the Police, military, Frontier Constabulary (FC), Pakistan Rangers, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Khasadar militia. Twelve per cent of casualties were Shias, eight per cent were Ahmedis and six per cent were Barelvi Muslims. The largest number of deaths in suicide attacks, 416 was reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Times of India, December 24, 2010.

UK Christmas terror attack plotters trained in Pakistan, say sources: Members of an alleged terrorist cell planning November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks (also known as 26/11)-type suicide attacks on Christmas shoppers in London received their training in Pakistan; Indian Express quoting The Telegraph reported on December 23. It was reported that the cell is described as "al Qaeda inspired" because no specific information has emerged about the links they may have made with the terrorist outfits in Pakistan. Investigators believe that it is significant that although most of the cell is British with Bangladeshi origins, its members chose to travel to Pakistan. The cell is thought to be associated with the banned extremist groups al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK in Britain, as well as being followers of the Yemen-based al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. Indian Express, December 23, 2010.

US seeking to expand raids into Pakistan, says New York Times report: Top US military commanders in Afghanistan are seeking to expand ground raids by Special Operations Forces across the border in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Dawn quoting New York Times reported on December 20. The officials are proposing to escalate military activities in the nuclear-armed nation, the report said. US forces have been largely restricted to limited covert operations and unmanned drone strikes in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan on December 21 ruled out the notion of any foreign troops operating on its soil, with its top diplomat in Washington stressing that Pakistani forces are capable of handling terrorist threats within the country’s borders. Dawn; Daily Times, December 16, 2010.

77 militants and five civilians among 85 persons killed during the week in FATA: Three US drone attacks killed 54 persons, most of them alleged militants, in Khyber Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) close to the Afghan border on December 17.

At least seven Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants were killed in a US drone attack in Speen Drang area of Tirah valley in Khyber Agency on December 16.

At least 12 militants were killed and six others injured when Security Forces (SFs) backed by helicopter gunships pounded their hideouts in Kasha, Shakar Tangi, Saifal Darra and Mamozai areas of Orakzai Agency on December 15. In addition, three children were killed when a mortar shell landed on the house of one Gul Hamid in Malikdinkhel area of Bara in Khyber Agency.

Four Haqqani Network militants of Afghan nationality were killed when two missiles fired by a US drone hit a car in Tall area of North Waziristan Agency on December 14. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, December 14-20, 2009.

Al Qaeda recruiting "white jihadis" for Mumbai-style attacks: The reported deaths of two British militants in a drone attack in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (December 10) have raised fears that western Muslim converts are being targeted by al Qaeda in its search for "white jihadis" to mount November 26, 2008 Mumbai (also known as 26/11)-style terrorist attacks in Europe, according to Sunday Times. The newspaper quoted western intelligence agencies as saying that Ilyas Kashmiri, recently named as al Qaeda's chief military strategist in Pakistan and Afghanistan and dubbed the "new Bin Laden," had been "assigned to bring western recruits" into the organisation. The 46-year-old "one-eyed terrorist," reportedly described by one Pakistani Army officer as the "most dangerous man for Pakistan, Europe and the United States," was said to be "plotting" attacks in Britain and other European countries, including France and Germany." The Hindu, December 20, 2010.

Pakistani national behind worldwide al Qaeda terror plot: A Pakistani national planned to bomb Manchester city centre in northern England as part of a wider al Qaeda plot to carry out attacks in Britain, the United States and Norway, a London court was told on December 15. Abid Naseer (24), who was arrested in a British anti-terrorism operation on July 7, 2009 but never charged, faces extradition to the United States on allegations he provided material support to al Qaeda and conspiring to use a destructive device. Daily Times, December 16, 2010.

JuD ‘chief’ Hafiz Saeed shares stage with leading Pakistani politicians in Islamabad : The Jama’at-ud-Da’awa (JuD) ‘chief’ and November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks (also known as 26/11) mastermind Hafiz Saeed made his first public appearance since his release in 2009, on December 16 in the national capital, Islamabad, in the company of leading Pakistani politicians, and stoutly opposed Pakistani Government's move to repeal the country's controversial blasphemy law. Those present on the stage include former caretaker Prime Minister Shujaat Hussain and former Federal Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq. Times of India, December 17, 2010.

Pakistan trying to solve political issues in guise of terrorism, accuses German Chancellor Angela Merkel: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on December 11 accused Pakistan of trying to solve political issues in the guise of terrorism, and stated that Pakistan will have to change its policies. In a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Brussels on December 10, Merkel said that it would be made clear to Pakistan that terror was not a means to an end when it came to solving political problems. Daily Times, December 13, 2010.

Pakistan not willing to destroy terrorist’s havens, reveals US intelligence assessment: The new United States intelligence reports paint a bleak picture of the security conditions in Afghanistan and say the war cannot be won unless Pakistan roots out terrorists on its side of the border, according to several US officials who have been briefed on the findings on December 11. The report on Pakistan concludes that the Pakistani Government and military "are not willing to do that," says one US official briefed on the analysis. The reports, known as National Intelligence Estimates, are prepared by the Director of National Intelligence and used by policymakers as senior as the President to understand trends in a region. Daily Times, December 13, 2010.

67% people want military operation in North Waziristan Agency, reveals poll: Military will find increased support from the people in case it goes for an operation against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, a recent opinion poll by Community Appraisal and motivation Programme revealed on December 16. "Support for military operations against militants increased dramatically over the last year. In 2009, only 16.8 percent respondents supported the army/Security Forces operation in Swat [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] but this year 66.8 percent of the respondents supported the operation," the opinion poll – Understanding Federally Administered Tribal Areas - revealed.

Meanwhile,US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on December 14 said that Pakistan would have to launch an operation against terrorists in North Waziristan Agency, adding that the Pakistan Government would decide the time of the operation itself. Daily Times, December 15-17, 2010.

48 civilians and 31 militants among 79 persons killed during the week in FATA: Three children were killed and seven others received injuries when militants fired mortar shells at an Imambargah (Shia place of worship) in the Talozan Tangi area of Kurram Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on December 12.

Security Forces (SFs) killed four militants in the Saagi area of the Safi tehsil (revenue unit) in the Mohmand Agency on December 11.

At least 13 militants, including a ‘commander’, were killed in different clashes with SFs in South Waziristan Agency on December 10. In addition, four militants were killed when a US drone fired two missiles in Khadar Khel town, about 40 kilometres of Miranshah, in North Waziristan Agency.

At least 40 persons, including tribal elders, SF personnel and journalists were killed and another 70 injured on November 6 when two suicide bombers attacked a jirga (Tribal council) being held outside the office of the Assistant Political Agent of Mohmand Agency at  Ghalanai, the headquarters of Mohmand Agency. Five of the injured persons died later. Also, eight suspected militants were killed when two missiles fired from US drone hit a car and in the Mir Ali tehsil of North Waziristan Agency on November 6. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, December 7-13, 2009.

36 civilians and 13 militants among 52 persons killed during the week in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Security Forces (SFs) killed five militants in the Shah Faisal area of Swat District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on December 11. The SFs retaliated after the militants opened fire on a foot patrolling party.

At least 17 persons were killed and over 20 others were injured in a suspected sectarian attack when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into an under-construction hospital in the in Pas Kalay area of Hangu District on December 10.

At least 18 persons were killed and 32 others were injured when a suicide bomber blew up a passenger van at a bus stand in Tirah bazaar (market) of Kohat on December 8. In addition, three militants were killed in an encounter with SFs in the Shakar Dara area of Swat District on December 8.

Three militants were killed in an encounter with the SFs in the Shakardara area of Mingora in Swat District on December 7. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, December 7-13, 2009.

China blocked efforts to put sanctions on JuD and Hafiz Saeed, reveals WikiLeaks: China, at Islamabad's behest, blocked efforts in the UN Security Council to put sanctions against Jama'at-ud-Da'awa (JuD) and its leader Hafiz Saeed which was operating against India from Pakistan, reported Times of India on December 6 quoting WikiLeaks revelation of American diplomatic cable. A State Department cable signed off by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also suggests that the JuD continues to operate and raise funds and it was unclear what steps the Pakistan Government has taken to freeze its assets to implement UN sanctions. According to the cable dated August 10, 2009, originating from Clinton, a US request to list Hafiz Saeed on a sanctions list was put on hold before the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks (also known as 26/11) that India blames on the JuD founder. "Prior to the (Mumbai terrorist attacks) attacks, our request to list (Jamaat-ud-Dawa) JUD and (Hafiz Muhammed) Saeed were placed on hold by China at the behest of Pakistan," the cable marked secret and addressed to the US Embassy in Islamabad and the Permanent Mission of the US to the UN, said. Times of India, December 7, 2010.

Crushing terrorists responsibility of US and NATO, says Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain on December 8 said that terrorists had their roots in Afghanistan for the past 30 years and now it was the responsibility of the US and the NATO to crush them. Iftikhar said that the Pakistani Security Forces (SFs) had been chasing terrorists across the country including Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to finish them off. He informed the media that warring factions in Afghanistan were being contacted to restore peace in that country. "Peace will return and soon there will be no terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan," added Hussain. Daily Times, December 9, 2010.

640 persons killed in 37 suicide attacks in 2010, says Federal Investigation Agency’s Counter-Terrorism Wing: At least 640 persons have been killed and 1,800 injured in 37 suicide bomb attacks across the country in 2010, said the Federal Investigation Agency’s Counter-Terrorism Wing. The latest attack on Police was carried out on the Salman Shaheed Police Lines in Swabi on November 1, killing two Policemen and injuring 13 others. The report sent to the Government said that the targets were Security Force personnel, public property, mosques and shrines, foreign diplomats, educational institutions, political leaders, Government offices and other public properties. Dawn, November 28, 2010.

Eight Pakistanis arrested in Spain and Thailand over terror links: Spanish Police arrested six Pakistanis and a Nigerian suspected of providing forged passports to outfits linked to al Qaeda, including the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) accused of plotting the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks (also known as 26/11), the Interior Ministry said on December 1. Spanish Police detained the seven suspects in raids in and around the north eastern city of Barcelona, which has a large Pakistani community, late on November 30.

Three others, two Pakistanis and a Thai national were held in Thailand as part of the same Operation Kampai, which "neutralised a vast cell that helped provide passports for al Qaeda". Daily Times, December 2, 2010.

Tribal elders of Kurram hold talks with TTP and Haqqani Network: The ‘commanders’ of the Haqqani Network and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) held talks on November 29 with elders of the Kurram Agency, including two lawmakers from the Kurram Agency, for restoration of peace in Parachinar. The secret meeting, held in a guesthouse in G-6 area, was attended by members of Turi tribes and commanders of the TTP and the Haqqani Network. Dawn, November 30, 2010.

[South Asia Intelligent Review]

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