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Posts from — October 2009

Fake doctors in Pakistan

Edit in The Dawn, Oct 26
SOME 70,000 quacks with bogus medical degrees are said to be endangering lives across the country. But the recent news of a fake doctors’ recruitment scam at the District Headquarters Hospital in Rawalpindi raises new concerns about the infiltration of such charlatans into our public healthcare institutions. Several senior health officials have already been arrested for the hiring of at least four people — three of them brothers — whose medical certificates were found to be bogus. One was taken on by the hospital as a neurosurgeon no less. While all those found guilty ought to be prosecuted and punished, more comprehensive preventative measures are also in order.

For starters, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council could ask all public and private hospitals in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area to send a list of their doctors for verification. The PMDC needs to introduce a multi-tiered checking and monitoring system which should include routine degree verification in all hospitals. Fake doctors are either not registered with the PMDC or hold phoney registration certificates, and as such unqualified doctors can be weeded out without harassing genuine practitioners. Hospitals which fail to verify credentials with the PMDC before hiring new doctors should be appropriately penalised. Detecting fake doctors requires diligent regulation as well as public awareness and prompt reporting by medical professionals who are suspicious of a colleague’s credentials. Not many people perhaps know that the PMDC’s website allows the general public to check if their doctors are registered with the council and are thus licensed to practise medicine. The PMDC and the health authorities should encourage the general public, through advertisements and posters, to be involved in exposing fake doctors in this manner. After all it is the public that will benefit most, in terms of safer healthcare, by the eradication of bogus physicians. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/fake-doctors-609

October 26, 2009   No Comments

Women clearing CSS complain of marginalisation in Pakistan

By Jamal Shahid In The Dawn, Oct 26
ISLAMABAD, Oct 25: They say that educated women can raise a developed nation. But the sad reality is that obstacles, many deeply rooted in our society, remain there to block women’s full participation in most of the fields, particularly in the government.
Yet again, educated women seemed to have been “unfairly” dealt with during the recent Central Superior Service (CSS) examinations.
Some of the girls, who excelled in the 2008 exams, believed that women representation in the CSS appointments were grossly disfigured in the male to female ratio. Out of the 4,247 who appeared in the CSS examinations, only 157 females qualified and passed the exam.
“Of these 157, only 57 have been selected for civil service,” said one candidate who cleared both written exam and the interview but was still not allocated a position in the government.
A record number of 445 vacancies were conveyed to the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). But the commission did not allocate 88 vacancies due to “non-availability of suitable candidates.”
According to a CSS instructor with a private academy, “This appears to be the highest of injustice because both vacancies and qualified candidates, especially girls are available. Boys securing positions in the 600s (rankings) have been appointed to the best groups. But girls securing positions in the 200s and 300s have been left out.”
The instructor, a CSS officer himself, also pointed out provincial disparities, where lowest of the lowest scoring Sindhi candidates were allocated good groups.
A female candidate with a bright record throughout her academic career was also refused an opportunity to serve her country as a civil servant despite passing the CSS examination.
She said: “So much so, PM (prime minister) of Pakistan was generous enough to allocate 28 extra seats to the Balochs in addition to their quota. Why can’t the PM extend the same generosity to the bright female candidates, who make up 50 per cent of the country’s population but yet denied due representation”?
“If they do not find us suitable then what exactly are they looking for? How do they find boys from Sindh, Balochistan, NWFP and AJK with such low positions (on the rankings) to be more suitable than us for the best of groups,” questioned another candidate.
According to an official in the Cabinet Division, “This is one country and specially the present government, which boasts of having one of the best female leaders of the world. It gives hope that women can also enter the mainstream and make a difference. But such unjust results disappoint and discourage women to make headways, and spread the impression that these exams are not as transparent as they are meant to be.”
Female candidates believed that if anything, women should be given extra attention since they made up 50 per cent of the population – the current statistics of the world demanded this. In every field of the world the need to promote women had become more and more obvious so why not in the civil service of Pakistan.
Getting answers out of FPSC was an arduous task. No senior official cooperated “to preserve the sanctity of the only credible department in the country.”
Nonetheless, one senior official summed it up by saying: “88 seats have been left empty. There just weren’t enough suitable candidates.” www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/women-clearing-css-complain-of-marginalisation-609

October 26, 2009   No Comments

Harrowing tales of flight from Waziristan

PESHAWAR, 22 October:- Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled South Waziristan tell harrowing tales of rockets hitting roads or houses as they tried to leave areas where Taliban militants are fighting government forces.

“I watched my cousin’s home burst into flames after being hit by a bomb. Fortunately he had taken his family away last week,” said Miran Gul, an IDP from a village near Makine in South Waziristan.

Miran Gul said he had to “walk for over 12 hours” to reach the town of Razmak in North Waziristan, from where he got transport to Peshawar.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in its latest situation report said: “The IDPs report hardships on their way out of the conflict area as all main roads are blocked and tightly controlled. there is a curfew imposed in all conflict-affected parts of South Waziristan.”

Dawn newspaper reported that 12 members of a family were killed after being hit by a bomb while trying to flee South Waziristan.

Access to the IDPs is a continuing problem, but help is being provided.
Billi Bierling, a spokesperson for OCHA in Pakistan, told IRIN: “Even though access is a problem due to the difficult security situation in the area, the UN agencies and their implementing partners are providing much-needed help to the IDPs. So far the IDPs are staying mainly with host families or in rented accommodation. However, the IDPs who are registered are receiving food and non-food items, such as bedding, kitchen utensils, towels, soap, etc.”

NO IDP CAMPS -YET
Citing the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government’s Social Welfare Department, OCHA’s situation report said 106,800 IDPs were now registered in neighbouring Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts in NWFP, with 85,000 in Dera Ismail Khan.

Some 26,300 IDPs have arrived in the two districts since 13 October, whilst 80,500 came to the area between May and August 2009, it said.

“At present, the IDPs are accommodated with host families and no camps are set up, neither in Dera Ismail Khan nor Tank districts. However, the authorities might consider camps in the future, as more civilians leave the areas of conflict,” OCHA said.

Bierling said the aid community was expecting the current number of IDPs “to increase to 250,000 if military operations continue”.

Meanwhile, NWFP Relief Commissioner Shakeel Qadar Khan told IRIN: “Provision has been made for the IDPs to get Rs 5,000 [US$60] a month.”

WINTER APPROACHING
One of the main concerns of IDPs is how long they may be displaced for. “Winter is approaching fast. It will be hard to move back if roads close due to snow,” said Miran Gul. He is also concerned about what could become of their homes if “no one [is there] to clear away the snow on roofs”.

The fighting is reported by people who have come out of the area as being “fierce”, and people are concerned about relatives still trapped there.

“My brother is still based near Wana [principal town of Waziristan] with our parents, who refused to leave the family home. Contact is difficult, because telephone services are bad, and I worry constantly about them,” said Azam Khan, now in Peshawar.

October 23, 2009   No Comments

WFP closes food hubs in Pakistan, Security worries

Owing to security concers, the UN World Food Programme has closed close 20 food hubs supplying food aid to over two million people in North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

WFP spokesman Amjad Jamal termed the closure as ‘temporary’ and expressed hope that the centres would be reopened soon.
All WFP food distribution centres, in Charsadda, Swabi, Dir, Mardan, Buner, Swat and Bajaur were closed Oct 21.

Paskistsan has been witnessing a series of bomb blasts and suicide bombings across key cities while the army is engaged in a major battle to end the reign of terrorist groups in the tribal areas bordering Pakistan.

The latest suicide bombing targetted the Islamic University in Islamabad on Oct 20 and claimed six lives. The army general headquarters in Rawalpinidi was attcked on Oct 10. Earlier this month, WFP office in Islamabad came under suicide bombing. Five employees were killed.

The WFP food hubs have been benefitting 2.3 million people displaced this year as a result of the conflict between government forces and Taliban militants. Though most of those displaced from Swat, Dir and Buner have returned home since fighting ended in July, a large number remain in need of food aid.

Around 2.4 million displaced people received aid from the WFP food hubs last month, according to Jamal. News of their closure brought immediate concern from people who continue to struggle to survive.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said ( Oct 20) Pakistan was “in a state of war”. At least 2,280 people are estimated to have died during the last two years as a result of “terrorist” attacks.

October 21, 2009   No Comments

Pak army facing threat from Punjabi, al-Qaida and Taliban militants

By Declan Walsh in The Guardian
Islamabad: Pakistan’s army made a stark admission today of the scale of the threat it faces from a nexus of Punjabi, al-Qaida and Taliban militants whose attacks are increasingly coordinated, include soldiers in their ranks and span the country.
The unusually frank assessment, made after the audacious assault on the military’s headquarters this weekend, came as a Taliban suicide bomber struck an army convoy as it passed through a crowded marketplace in a small mountain town near the Swat valley, killing 41 people and wounding 45.
It was the fourth militant atrocity to hit Pakistan in eight days of bloodshed that have killed more than 120 people. One television channel reported that the bomber in Shangla district in North West Frontier province was a 13-year-old boy.
Meanwhile a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the 22-hour gun battle and siege at the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, which ended on Sunday morning when commandos freed 39 hostages. Eleven soldiers, three civilians and nine militants died.
“This was our first small effort and a present to the Pakistani and American governments,” a Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, told the Associated Press.
Addressing journalists a few hundred metres from the scene of the gunfight, an army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, described how the 10 attackers came from two different sets of backgrounds. Five of them came from Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and wealthy province, he said, while the other five were from South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold at the southern end of the tribal belt, along the Afghan border.
Abbas said the attackers were led by a Punjabi militant named Aqeel, also known as Dr Usman, but the operation was ordained by a Taliban commander based in South Waziristan. Citing an intercepted telephone call, Abbas said commander Wali-ur-Rehman urged followers to “pray” for the attacks after the assault began on Saturday morning.
Abbas said the militants intended to take senior army officers hostage and use them to negotiate the release of more than 100 militants. Other demands included an end to military cooperation with the US and for the former president, General Pervez Musharraf, to be put on trial.
Aqeel, the only surviving attacker, was being treated for serious injuries, Abbas said. He confirmed that the militant was a former army medical corps soldier from Kahuta, a town in the army’s Punjabi recruitment heartland that is home to a major nuclear weapons facility.
Aqeel deserted the army in 2004, he said, and joined Jaish-e-Muhammad, a notorious militant group that in recent years has spawned splinter groups which have become allied to al-Qaida.
The militant attacks come as 28,000 army soldiers prepare to launch an assault on South Waziristan, where an estimated 10,000 fighters are holed up. Yesterday army jets hit Taliban targets in the area for the second day running, in preparation for an offensive the interior minister, Rehman Malik, said was “imminent”.
The army’s admission of ever stronger links between the Taliban, al-Qaida and Punjab-based militant groups was rare public confirmation of a trend analysts have observed for years. “We’ve seen this troika nexus in many major terrorist attacks – on the Marriott in Islamabad, on the navy headquarters in Lahore, and on the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency],” said Amir Rana, a terrorism analyst.
In some instances, Rana said, al-Qaida provided the financing, the Taliban logistics and training support, and Punjabi militants executed the operation.
The growing importance of the Punjabi factor in local and international militancy has placed the army under pressure to extend its crackdown beyond the tribal belt. At the weekend a spokesman for the North West Frontier province government said that even if a South Waziristan offensive succeeded, militants could still get help from Punjab.
Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman from last November’s Mumbai massacre, comes from a small village in southern Punjab. Jaish-e-Muhammad operates a giant madrasa on the edge of Bahawalpur, a dusty city in southern Punjab notorious for its hardline madrasas.
The army rejected suggestions that a military operation would solve the problem. “Yes there are terrorists in southern Punjab, and these groups have links to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” said Abbas. “But it’s a very different environment. It’s well developed, it has a communications infrastructure and a huge security force presence. It’s very different from what was Swat, and what [we see] in South Waziristan.”
In Lahore, a court freed Hafiz Saeed, a prominent extremist cleric whom India accuses of playing a major part in the Mumbai attacks. A prosecutor said the extremist charity he heads, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, had not been officially banned.
The turmoil spooked investors on Pakistan’s main stock market, which tumbled 1.3 per cent. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/12/pakistan-army-taliban-militancy-threat

October 13, 2009   No Comments

Recent attacks in or linked to Pakistan: The Washington Post

A look at some recent major attacks in Pakistan or blamed on Pakistan-based militants:
– Oct. 12, 2009: A suicide car bomb explodes near an army vehicle in a market in the northwest Shangla district, killing 41, including six security officers, and wounding 45.
– Oct. 10, 2009: A raid on army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi kills nine militants and 14 others.
– Oct. 9, 2009: A suicide car bomb in the northwestern city of Peshawar kills 53 people.
– Oct. 5, 2009: A bomber dressed as a security official kills five staffers at the U.N. food agency’s headquarters in the capital, Islamabad.
– Sept. 18, 2009: A suicide car bomb destroys a two-story hotel near the northwestern town of Kohat, killing 30 people in what might have been a sectarian attack by Sunni militants against Shiite Muslims.
– May 27, 2009: A suicide car bomber targets buildings housing police and intelligence offices in the eastern city of Lahore, killing about 30 and wounding at least 250.
– March 27, 2009: A suicide bomber demolishes a packed mosque near the northwestern town of Jamrud, killing about 50 people and injuring scores more.
– March 3, 2009: Gunmen attack the Sri Lankan national cricket team in Lahore, wounding several players and killing six policemen and a driver.
– Nov. 26-28, 2008: Ten attackers, allegedly from Pakistan, kill 166 people in a three-day assault on luxury hotels, a Jewish center and other sites in Mumbai, India.
– Sept. 20, 2008: A suicide truck bomb kills at least 54 and wounds more than 250 as it devastates the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
– Aug. 21, 2008: Suicide bombers blow themselves up at two gates of a weapons factory in the town of Wah, killing at least 67 people and wounding at least 100. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/12/AR2009101201332_pf.html

October 13, 2009   No Comments

Pakistan bombs region once declared Taliban-free: The Washington Post

By HABIB KHAN, The Associated Press
KHAR:– Pakistani fighter jets bombed suspected militant hide-outs Monday in a tribal region where the military had previously declared victory over the Taliban, killing 13 alleged extremists a day after the end of a deadly siege of the army’s headquarters.
A series of attacks over the past week shows that the Taliban have rebounded and appear determined to shake the nation’s resolve as the military plans for an offensive in South Waziristan, the insurgents’ main stronghold along the Afghan border that has never been fully under the government’s control.
Monday’s airstrikes were in Bajur, a separate segment of the lawless northwestern tribal belt where Pakistan waged an intense six-month offensive that wound down in February. Resurgent violence in Bajur could distract the military as it tries to focus on South Waziristan.
“This was a heavy spell of bombing,” said local government official Tahir Khan, who put the death toll at 13. Nine other alleged militants were wounded, he said.
Also in Bajur on Monday, a remote-controlled bomb went off in front of the political administration office in the main city of Khar, wounding a passer-by. In addition, militants were suspected of abducting 10 tribal elders after they attended a meeting aimed at forming a citizens’ militia to protect against the Taliban, said Faramosh Khan, another local official.
The 22-hour weekend standoff at Pakistan’s “Pentagon” in the city of Rawalpindi followed warnings from police as early as July that militants from western border areas were joining those in the central Punjab province in plans for a bold attack on army headquarters.
A team of 10 gunmen in fatigues launched the frontal assault on the very core of the nuclear-armed country’s most powerful institution. The violence killed 20, including three hostages and nine militants, while 42 hostages were freed, the military said.
The suspected ringleader in the raid, known as Aqeel, also was believed to have orchestrated an ambush on Sri Lanka’s visiting cricket team in Lahore this year. Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the militant’s nickname, “Dr. Usman,” derived from the time he spent as a guard at an army nursing school before he joined the insurgents.
The U.S. has long pushed Islamabad to take more action against Taliban and al-Qaida militants, who are also blamed for attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and the army carried out a successful campaign against the militants in the northwestern Swat Valley in the spring.
But the army had been unwilling to go all-out in the lawless tribal areas along the border that serve as the Taliban’s main refuge. Three offensives into South Waziristan since 2001 ended in failure, and the government signed peace deals with the militants.
In the wake of the seige in Rawalpindi, the government said it would not be deterred. The military launched two airstrikes Sunday evening on suspected militant targets in South Waziristan, killing at least five insurgents and ending a five-day lull in attacks there, intelligence officials said.
“We are going to attack the terrorists, the miscreants over there who are disturbing the state and damaging the peace,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said. “Wherever they will be, we will follow them. We will pursue them. We will take them to task.”
Officials have warned that Taliban fighters close to the border, Punjabi militants spread out across the country and foreign al-Qaida operatives were increasingly joining forces, dramatically increasing the dangers to Pakistan.
The weekend strike on army headquarters was a stunning finale to a week of attacks that highlighted the militants’ ability to strike a range of targets.
On Monday of last week, a suicide bomber dressed as a paramilitary police officer blew himself up inside a heavily guarded U.N. aid agency in the heart of the capital, Islamabad. On Friday, a suspected militant detonated an explosives-laden car in the middle of a busy market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 53 people. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/11/AR2009101100162_pf.html

October 13, 2009   No Comments

Security of Pakistan nuclear weapons questioned: The Washington Post

By Chris Brummitt & Pamela Hess
ISLAMABAD — An audacious weekend assault by Islamic militants on Pakistan’s army headquarters is again raising fears of an insurgent attack on the country’s nuclear weapons installation. Pakistan has sought to protect its nuclear weapons from attack by the Taliban or other militants by storing the warheads, detonators and missiles separately in facilities patrolled by elite troops.
Analysts are divided on how secure these weapons are. Some say the weapons are less secure than they were five years ago, and Saturday’s attack would show a “worrisome” overconfidence by the Pakistanis.
While complex security is in place, much depends on the Pakistani army and how vulnerable it is to infiltration by extremists, said a Western government official with access to intelligence on Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Analysts say a more realistic scenario would involve militant sympathizers getting work as scientists at the facilities and passing information to extremists.
“It’s not thought likely that the Taliban are suddenly going to storm in and gain control of the nuclear facilities,” said Gareth Price, head of the Asia program at London think tank Chatham House. “There are enough command-and-control mechanisms in place to prevent that.”
A U.S. counterproliferation official in Washington said strong safeguards are in place and there is no reason to believe the nuclear arsenal is in imminent jeopardy of seizure by militants.
The official, who commented on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter publicly, said there is a major difference between attacking a nuclear site and actually seizing and using the nuclear material stored inside.
Security at Pakistan’s isolated nuclear installations is believed to be significantly higher than at the army headquarters, which was relatively relaxed by the standards of other nations. Thousands of people and vehicles enter the headquarters compound in Rawalpindi daily, and the 10 attackers, while able to take dozens of hostages Saturday and kill 14 people before a commando raid ended the siege, never penetrated to the heart of the complex.
Pakistan is estimated to have between 70 and 90 warheads, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists.
Shaun Gregory, an expert on Pakistani security at the University of Bradford in Britain, said militants have struck near an air base in Sargodha, where nuclear missiles are believed to be stored, and the Wah cantonment, where missiles that could carry nuclear weapons are believed to be assembled. He added that the attacks did not appear to have targeted nuclear weapons.
Pakistan uses armed forces personnel to guard nuclear weapons facilities, and it physically separates warhead cores from their detonation components, Gregory wrote in the July issue of The Sentinel, the monthly journal of the Combating Terrorism Center.
The components are stored in protected underground sites. The warheads themselves are electronically locked to ensure that they cannot be detonated even if they fall in terrorists’ hands, Gregory said.
The Pakistan military carefully screens and monitors the officers vested with protecting the warheads, drawing them almost exclusively from Punjabi officers who are considered to have fewer links to religious extremists or with the Pashtun area of Pakistan, where the Taliban garners much of its support.
No action or decision involving a nuclear weapon can be undertaken by fewer than two persons. But Gregory acknowledged the possibility of collusion between cleared officers and extremists.
The personnel assigned to sensitive nuclear posts go through regular background checks conducted by Pakistan’s intelligence services, according to a 2007 article in the journal Arms Control, co-written by Naeem Salik, a former top official at Pakistan’s National Command Authority, which oversees the nuclear arsenal.
“It is being acknowledged by the world powers that the system has no loopholes,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said Monday. “The system is foolproof, as good and bad as their own systems.”
The U.S. and the British governments agree there is little risk of a weapon falling into militants’ hands.
In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there is no evidence “that has been shown publicly or privately of any threat to the Pakistani nuclear facilities, said.
Gregory said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he did not share Miliband’s assertion, adding that “there is plenty of evidence of threat.”
Individuals in the Pakistan military have colluded with al-Qaida in providing safe houses for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and individuals in Pakistan’s civil nuclear sector have met with al-Qaida figures, including Osama bin Laden himself, Gregory said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton dismissed any suggestion militants could overthrow the government and gain control of the nuclear arsenal. “We have confidence in the Pakistani government and military’s control over nuclear weapons,” she said.
Kristensen said that while U.S. officials have said they have helped Pakistan increase security at its nuclear facilities, “they have not been allowed to go to those sites, so it’s something they’ve had to do remotely.”
Saturday’s attack “somehow seems to show that the Pakistani military is perhaps a little overly confident” about some of its most important military facilities, he said.
“If a relatively small group of people is able to penetrate into their ‘Pentagon,’ then it might show something about the overconfidence of the Pakistanis, and that is worrisome – it’s surprising that they were able to go in there relatively simply,” Kristensen said.
He noted that the military headquarters is different from a nuclear facility. “One cannot compare insurgents going into an office building to them going into a nuclear facility for the nation’s crown jewels,” he added.
While stringent security checks on personnel are meant to prevent militant sympathizers from working at the facilities, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment has seen serious leaks of nuclear knowledge and materials by insiders.
Top government scientist A.Q. Khan operated a global black market nuclear network for more than a decade until he was uncloaked by U.S. intelligence. And the CIA has confirmed a meeting between Khan associates and bin Laden before 9/11.
Israel has not taken a formal position on the danger of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. However, in a parliamentary briefing last year, Defense Minister Ehud Barak mentioned such a scenario as a nightmare for the world, according to security officials speaking on condition of anonymity because the session was closed.
“Pakistan’s weapons are less secure today than they were five years ago, and it seems they’re even less secure than under the Musharraf government,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political studies and conflict management at Bar Ilan University in Israel, referring to the previous administration of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Steinberg said Israelis are becoming less confident of the U.S. ability to control events and put plans into action that would protect Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/12/AR2009101202343_pf.html

October 13, 2009   No Comments

GHQ raid highlights Punjab risk: analysts

LONDON: The attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi has highlighted not only the threat from the Taliban in the Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan, but also from those based in Punjab.

Security officials said some of the militants involved in the attack on the GHQ appeared to have links to Punjab. “South Punjab has become the hub of jihadism,” analyst Ayesha Siddiqa wrote in a magazine article last month. “Yet, somehow, there are still many people in Pakistan who refuse to acknowledge this threat,” she wrote.

Security officials said a militant arrested after the attack and hostage-taking at the GHQ was believed be a member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Some hostage takers’ phone calls were intercepted and they were speaking Punjabi, another security official said. However, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said it is too early to say whether Punjab-based groups were involved.

Separate danger: NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain called on Saturday for the elimination of militant bases in Punjab as well as South Waziristan. But targeting all of the country’s militants at once could create an even more dangerous coalition by driving disparate groups closer together, analysts say. The army also draws many of its recruits from Punjab, making any efforts to root out militants there all the harder.

“Deploying the military is not an option. In the Punjab this will create a division within the powerful army because of regional loyalty,” wrote Siddiqa. But the police force in the province is inadequate and unlikely to be able to take on the thousands of armed men belonging to different militant groups. Complicating the picture further are pressures from both the US and India, which want Pakistan to target the groups directly in conflict with them.

Pakistan has focused largely on acting against groups representing a direct domestic threat, leading some analysts to suggest it may want to retain groups like the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba to be used as “strategic assets” against India. But defence analyst Brian Cloughley said the attack on the army’s headquarters showed how little support militants had in the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\10\12\story_12-10-2009_pg7_8

October 12, 2009   No Comments

Militant groups in Punjab

LONDON: The Taliban hostage-taker arrested after a brazen attack on the headquarters of the army on Saturday is believed to be a member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an Al Qaeda-linked group based in Punjab.

Here are some facts about some of the major groups in Punjab.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) is one of the most notorious Al Qaeda-linked groups with roots in the province. It also has forged strong ties with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) operating in the Tribal Areas.

A senior leader of LJ, Qari Muhammad Zafar, appeared before a group of journalists in South Waziristan last week along with new TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

Zafar carries a $5 million reward from the US on his head for his suspected involvement in a bomb attack on the US consulate in Karachi. LJ emerged as a sectarian group in the 1990s targeting member sof the Shia community and later graduated to more audacious attacks, such as the truck bombing of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel last year in which 55 people were killed, as well as an assault on a Sri Lankan cricket team in which seven Pakistanis were killed. Six members of the team and a British coach were wounded.

LJ was outlawed in Pakistan in August 2001. LJ members are also involved in violence in Afghanistan. A security official told Reuters about two dozen Taliban linked to LJ and two other groups, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and a splinter faction of Jaish-e-Muhammad, were suspected to be behind several attacks in Punjab in recent months.

Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan is a pro-Taliban anti-Shia group based in central Punjab. The group was banned in 2002 but officials say its members were suspected of involvement in attacks in the province in recent months, including the burning to death of seven Christians on suspicions of blasphemy in Gojra in August.

Jaish-e-Muhammad is a major group with links to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It was banned in Pakistan in 2002 after it was blamed for an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. The group was founded by firebrand cleric Maulana Azhar Masood shortly after his release from an Indian jail in exchange for 155 passengers of an Indian airliner hijacked to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar in December 1999.

The group focused its fighting on the Indian part of divided Kashmir but later forged links with Al Qaeda and the Taliban and was suspected of involvement in several high profile attacks including the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 and an assassination attempt on former president Pervez Musharraf. Rashid Rauf, a British militant suspected of being ringleader of a 2006 plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic, was also a Jaish member. Masood was arrested by Pakistani authorities shortly after the group was banned but security officials say he has disappeared since 2005.

Jaish fighters are also involved in violence in northwest Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LT) was founded in 1990 to fight Indian rule in Kashmir. It was blamed for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November last year that killed over 170 people. LT was also blamed for the late 2001 Indian parliament attack and was also banned in Pakistan in 2002.

Seven LT-linked militants are being tried for suspected involvement in the Mumbai assault but India is insisting Pakistan prosecute its founder, Hafiz Saeed, who India says was the attack mastermind. A UN Security Council committee last year added Jamaatud Dawa, a charity headed by Saeed, to a list of people and organisations linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\10\12\story_12-10-2009_pg7_10

October 12, 2009   No Comments