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Posts from — December 2014

Blood and ink: op-ed by Mohammad Ali Babakhel in The Nation, De 30, 2014

The writer is a police officer
The flashing of acceptance of responsibility as breaking news is an established norm of Pakistani television channels. News channels often act as spokespersons of terrorist outfits. Irresponsible media coverage of the horrific attack on a school in Peshawar necessitates the implementation of a code of ethics. Apart from the execution of their missions, terrorists also carefully knit a sound media strategy and thus spread anxiety. To further this objective they continuously feed the media with hard news. Iron lady Margaret Thatcher aptly pointed out media publicity as the “oxygen” of terrorism. Therefore, blood and ink maintains a rapport between terrorists and the media. Images of destruction and mutilated dead bodies are regularly televised. Undoubtedly, with hardly any effort, the media is instrumental in the glorification of terror acts.

Once, al Zawahiri expressed that “more than half of the ongoing battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.” Constant publication and the broadcasting of threats and declarations also serve the terrorists. However, the media justifies coverage of terrorism with the argument that it covers the victims and not the terrorists. Truly speaking, terrorists get publicity and the media earns a hefty profit. Terrorists not only destroy the soil but also the soul of a nation. By striking targets, extremists satisfy the appetite of the media for breaking news. Hence, the media and terrorists have reciprocal links. The news of terrorism multiplies the circulation of newspapers and viewership of television channels. Resultantly, it becomes a relationship of dependence.

Terrorists prefer to gain attention at a time when another significant event dominates the headlines. In 1972, Black September targeted Israeli Olympians with the prime objective of attracting the attention of approximately 800 million people who were watching the Olympics. Likewise, on the eve of Benazir Bhutto’s arrival, terrorists attacked her cavalcade in Karachi. The attack was carried out at a time when the media was broadcasting her arrival live. With the big bang of suicide bombing, the focus was shifted from her reception to the incident of terrorism. Therefore, strategy and timing were carefully knit together.

Excessive media coverage helps terrorists become recognised. The media not only informs us about terrorism but also interprets its dynamics. Hence, terrorists not only earn public ire but also the sympathies of likeminded comrades who help them generate finances and attract extremists within their orbits. Excessive coverage portrays non-state actors as legitimate actors and increases public acceptance. The media shows immense curiosity for terrorism. Augmented ratings earn dividends for both terrorists and the media.

Terrorism touches human emotions and therefore the media is inclined to flash blatantly this grim aspect of life. Indisputably, sensationalism makes the media more competitive but its negative, psychological implications cannot be quantified.

In Pakistan, the mushroom growth of television channels and the surge in terrorism are post-9/11 developments. In the present epoch of live journalism, media gatekeepers should not overlook the sensitivities of live coverage. Live coverage of the attack on Manawa Police School endangered human lives. Live coverage facilitates the terrorists to change their strategy. Owing to such risks, television channels should opt for time delay filtration technology. The Indian parliamentary committee on the Mumbai attack observed that Indian channels had failed to self-regulate. Therefore, the committee suggested the establishment of a regulatory authority.

In exceptional circumstances, extremists try to publish periodicals and run illegal FM radio stations. During the insurgency in Malakand, Mullah Fazlullah addressed his followers via live radio broadcast. Due to the increased currency of social media, extremists have reduced their dependence on mass media. Their exclusive websites offer universal access to followers. The following saying rings so true: “These days, if you are not on the web, you do not exist.” By uploading the video clip of the beheading of Daniel Pearl, terrorists won enormous attention. Videos of beheadings and murder are now freely distributed all over the internet.

Anonymous terrorism is the type of terrorism where no one claims responsibility. It motivates the media to speculate and, consequently, spreads panic. Today, psychological warfare is being waged by terrorists on our television screens. From media coverage terrorists want attention and recognition. With excessive coverage they want to multiply dejection and uncertainty. Telecasting dead, mutilated bodies gives psychological strength to the extremists. The government and media should develop a consensus and work out a strategy on how to save viewers from the psychological effects of the excessive coverage of terrorism. Since a majority of the workforce in electronic media has transited from newspapers, most of them do not know of the sensitivities associated with live journalism. A majority of the cameramen and reporters are not aware of the hazards attached with scenes of terrorism. In blind competition for breaking news, a few of them have lost their lives and have become the source of breaking news themselves.

In February 2013, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) directed private channels to refrain from airing the news and views by banned outfits. Section 20(c) of the PEMRA Act prohibits the airing of violence and terrorism but reality is vivid on television screens. The assassination of Salmaan Taseer was projected by the media as a heroic act. For repeatedly airing the interview of the assassin, PEMRA imposed a fine of one million rupees each on two television channels. While covering the Bhoja Air plane crash, a number of channels aired unedited live footage of mutilated bodies. In response, PEMRA issued show cause notices to 17 television channels. Merely serving notices will not bring change; it requires self-regulation.

In 2005, six Russian television channels signed a charter. This charter expresses their resolve to prevent damage to public morals. In the UK, since 1922, there has been an established practice to issue a D Notice (defence notice) to the media. Via this D Notice, the department of defence requests the media not to publish or broadcast certain subjects related to national security. Excessive coverage may inform the audience but the media should also educate the masses regarding hidden motives, preventive strategy and the need for public cooperation.

In October 2009, the standing committee of the National Assembly proposed amendments in the PEMRA law under which no channel would be allowed to broadcast live footage of suicide terrorism or the showing of dead bodies of the victims. Self-regulation is the best choice. It is an act of self-accountability, volunteerism and responsibility. It will also protect the autonomy of the media. Depriving or limiting extremists’ publicity will decrease their influence.

December 30, 2014   No Comments

Waking to sleep?: by Zarrar Khuhro in Dawn, December 29th, 2014

The writer is a member of staff.
IT is a wake-up call, they say. A tragedy so awful the mind reels at the thought of it; the soul curdles at the sight of it. We’ve had many such wake-up calls.

We’ve had the Parade Lane mosque massacre, the Karsaz blasts, the Marriot bombing, the recurring apocalypses that the Hazaras have faced, the steady drip-drip of killings so many in number that it becomes impossible to even list them.

We wake, like sleepwalkers jolted into reality by a fall; shocked to find ourselves muddied and bloodied, wondering how we got here when a moment ago we were safe and warm in our beds. As is our wont, we then clean ourselves up and go right back to bed, counting ad hoc measures as if they were sheep until sleep once again consumes us. If we wake, it is only to hit the snooze button.

This time, they say it’s different. Certainly the moratorium on death penalties for terrorism cases has been lifted, to what seems like wide public acclaim. There are of course voices arguing that this is not a solution, especially in a country where the judicial system is deeply flawed. In the long run, even sooner, this will create rather than curb abuses, they say.

On the other side is the refrain that no other punishment can possibly be meted out to unrepentant mass murderers; that incarceration means little when terrorists have shown a capability to operate, recruit and even escape from jail.

The debate will continue, as it should, but the moratorium stands lifted and this is being projected as a sign of a new determination.

Then there arises the next logical question: what’s the point of executing terrorists if the courts are largely unable to convict them to begin with? That the judiciary has been woefully deficient on this count is something even its most stalwart defenders will have to concede.

It’s not just about procedural issues and lacunae in investigation and prosecution. The simple fact is that the state has been unable to provide protection to witnesses and judges, a failing that LeJ head Malik Ishaq, among others, has routinely exploited. He has threatened witnesses and officials alike, and if he sporadically remains behind bars it is due to the ad hoc use of the MPO and by keeping him in judicial remand by embroiling him in new cases. We often hear calls for witness protection programmes and such, but we know they are fruitless. It’s true that a state that can barely protect itself cannot be expected to protect others, but we haven’t even seen it try.

This brings us to military courts, the setting up of which has now been approved (with some reservations) by most political parties. Again, it is the direct result of the collective somnambulism of the state that such a step was needed. It is a glaring example of our crisis of will and imagination that despite years of carnage the needed reforms of the civil judiciary did not take place.

Take for example the chief justice’s directive that anti-terrorism courts will now hold daily hearings; this is according to a provision that is already present in the Anti-Terrorist Act, 1997 and one must ask why it took the murder of children to make it a reality.

One may also ask why only 10-15pc of cases in the ATCs pertain to actual terrorist attacks while the rest are only ‘technically’ terrorism.

Or take the media recommendations put forth by the National Assembly committee. As admitted by PML-N legislator Talal Chaudhry, these are not “anything new” and already exist as laws, albeit unimplemented ones. Perhaps this time it will be different, but not if the level of imagination that can be gauged from the guidelines is indicative of the thought process of our policymakers.

Here we have gems like: “Show positive side like people who don’t commit suicide,” and “always show good news first…and if possible at bedtime too.” If that’s the thinking that will inform the National Action Plan, with its unfortunate acronym of NAP, then that’s cause enough to keep you up at night.

Here one must repeat what others have already detailed far more eloquently, that executions and military courts are stopgaps not solutions.

The real battle will lie in systemic reform that will have to overcome institutional reluctance, incompetence and lethargy. This will not make headlines, will not be done overnight and will only bear fruit in years to come.

That change is possible due to public pressure has been shown by the small successes of the Lal Masjid vigil, where a motivated group of protesters showed more courage than our leadership has. It is this sheer determination that our policy makers have to show, or else our hopes will remain waking dreams, and our nightmares will continue to walk in the daylight. http://www.dawn.com/news/1153694/waking-to-sleep

December 30, 2014   No Comments

A bit of imagination: by Mahmood Hasan Khan in The News, Dec 30. 2014

The writer teaches at Simon Fraser University
The savage massacre of many innocent schoolchildren, their teachers and keepers in Peshawar has apparently become a turning point for combating terrorism in Pakistan. This resolve was long overdue, considering the awful cost in human life and national resources.

Let me first make two observations. First, the terrorists are wreckers of civilisation (do not call them Taliban). There is copious evidence of their behaviour and its awful consequences. Second, they are our own creation, going back to the mid-1970s. State patronage and material support, based on ideology (anti-India and anti-Soviet Union) and foreign money (mainly American), helped more than a few clerics build factories to manufacture these terrorists.

The terrorists – they were then called mujahideen – were able to establish a network of infrastructure throughout the country with the connivance, if not active support, of some of the institutions of the state. Their growth was fostered in an increasingly intolerant and exclusive cultural environment in the name of Islam. Laws were enacted and state machinery was used to stifle, even terrorise, people with dissenting opinion or of different creed. Both our elected and unelected rulers should own responsibility of the denouement. Sadly passive resignation and fear on the part of the ordinary citizens of the country have played into the hands of the religious extremists, their sponsors and promoters, and fellow travellers.

The campaign against the terrorists will not be won simply by acts of vengeance (bombing North Waziristan, hanging convicted individuals, using military courts). These measures might temporarily satiate the appetite for blood and subdue the wrath of a deeply grieved nation, but will not arrest the disease. The ‘war on terror’ requires a bit of imagination and a lot of courage. Let us not pray or wait for a secular or religious messiah. Instead we should appeal to the mortals we have as our leaders. These leaders should move on several fronts at the same time.

First, the madressah system should be integrated into the provincial and national education systems. Madressahs should be subject to audit of their accounts and supervision of their curricula and quality of education. The madressahs that do not meet a minimum standard should be given a chance to change or closed. The khatibs (imams) in mosques and the faculty members of madressahs should be licensed with the government and monitored by an autonomous institution.

Second, the provincially- and federally-administered tribal areas (a colonial legacy of bribery for peace) should be absorbed into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They should be administered as either new districts or part of the existing districts. Their special status makes no sense and has been a bane to the country. People living in those areas should have equal rights and responsibilities with the rest of the country’s population.

Third, the federal government should establish a national security organisation (accountable to the National Assembly) for administration of the ISI and MI together with the civilian intelligence agencies. The emphasis should shift from numbers to performance. The new structure will help bring the military under civilian rule, accountable to the elected representatives. The civilian rulers should get the reign of power from the military in Pakistan and stop playing second fiddle.

Fourth, the national security organisation should focus its attention on disarming individuals and groups involved or associated with gangs, mafias and terrorists. In addition, the drugs-arms link must be broken by attacking the centres of drug production and trade.

These actions should be coordinated with other countries, Afghanistan in particular. The government should pursue a carrot-and-stick policy in dealing with anti-social elements: those who are willing to surrender should be given a chance for redemption and reintegration into society. The recalcitrant should be brought to justice and receive appropriate punishment short of death. The judicial process should be transparent and fair.

Finally, politicians, social activists, intellectuals, religious leaders, and the media should play an active role in creating a cultural environment that highlights the role of religion in valuing diversity and promoting tolerance. The educational system (schools and madressahs) should be used to enlighten the youth about the dignity of each individual irrespective of creed, caste, or religion.

In this context, the National Assembly and the judiciary should revisit the laws and rules that are either inherently unjust or enforced unjustly. We have had too many victims of these laws and their unjust application in the last thirty years.http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-293171-A-bit-of-imagination

December 30, 2014   No Comments

We learnt nothing from Peshawar: by Farrukh Saleem in The News, Dec 30. 2014

ISLAMABAD: General Raheel Sharif ordered Imran Khan to end the Dharna.General Raheel Sharif ordered the politicians to sit together. General Raheel Sharif ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to negotiate with Imran Khan for a political resolution. General Raheel Sharif wants the Constitution amended for the military courts to be established.
What did we do after Peshawar? Answer: We formed committees — a committee to devise the National Action Plan; another committee to draft the constitutional amendment and yet another committee to implement the National Action Plan. And then 15 more sub-committees. And then yet another committee to monitor the sub-committees.
Remember, ‘a committee is a group of men who individually can do nothing but as a group decides that nothing can be done’.We have admitted that we cannot resolve our political problems within the political domain. We have admitted that we cannot dispense justice within the existing criminal justice system. As a consequence, the army is taking over politics as well as law (they are already fighting the war). As a consequence, we are losing our moral authority to rule Pakistan.
What has the politico-military leadership done after Peshawar? Answer: The only thing that the military leadership has demanded from the political leadership is military courts. The political leadership first promised military courts but is now backing out of its promises.
Even if the Constitution is amended to accommodate military courts, the same is set to be challenged in the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court will be admitting its own failure if it accepts military courts.
What have we done after Peshawar? Well, we still have not identified the enemy in clear terms. And we still have not agreed on who is to be classified as a ‘terrorist’. And we still do not know as to where do ‘terrorists’ get their ideology from.
After Peshawar, the only new weapon we have come with is the National Action Plan and the only new element in the new National Action Plan is the military courts. Without the military courts, the new National Action Plan is actually our new National Inaction Plan.
So in essence we are back to square one — the only new element in our so-called anti-terror arsenal was the military courts and the future of military courts is now back to where it was before Peshawar.
So in essence we have learnt nothing from Peshawar. So in essence our politico-military leadership is taking us nowhere. And if you are going nowhere, the committee road will take you there.

December 30, 2014   No Comments

Extremist Ideology: edit in The Nation, De 30, 2014

As our tragedies become more obscene, with the killing of children and staff at Army Public School in Peshawar most fresh in our collective memory, calls are being made to eradicate the “ extremist mindset” that prompts ordinary people to commit unspeakable crimes against their fellow human beings. However, much of the discourse about extremism is premised around a narrow, opportunistic view of the problem. It identifies people and places as opposed to ideology. It favours isolating the cause and effects of extremism for political and ideological goals against adapting an honest and holistic approach, extinguishing any hope of ever reaching a relevant, accurate diagnosis. Some would have people believe that extremist ideology belongs and flourishes in the rugged mountains of FATA, while the mainstream society falls victim through either foolishly immersing itself into diabolical ideals or by cowering down under the fear and force routinely unleashed upon it by powerful fringe elements. This distorted depiction of our reality allows us to disregard any need for introspection, to evade responsibility and to sustain our hypocritical stance on extremism, among other national issues.
Extremism’s sole refuge is neither the tainted hearts of bearded terrorists belonging to the TTP, LeJ and al Qaeda nor the unrefined minds of this country’s many illiterate. It also resides in the hearts and minds of our ‘educated’ middle and upper class, of our judges, generals, politicians, teachers and students. It is in our books. If there is one aspect worthy of attention in our quest to rid us from this “extremist mindset”, it is our curriculum, which carries no love letters for human beings of other or no faiths and demonstrates our disregard, even disdain, for facts and history. Those children who do not attend a school or a religious seminary may be an advantage to those who do. While the former are compelled to strictly rely on society for the pollution of their vibrant minds, the latter are systemically nursed with hate for Hindus, Jews and infidels and taught a warped version of history, inducing a perpetual bias and identity crises. Verses calling for waging ‘jihad’ against these ever-conspiring infidels, our rivals on the planet, will not raise a secure, tolerant and enlightened generation. Glorifying Muslim invaders who looted and plundered while completely removing the heroes of our old and rich land – of Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – from our memory leads to a generation, which cannot figure out if it is closer to the Indus Valley civilization or the Arabs. The contamination of the national curricula with religious extremism and laughable attempts to link us with far off cultures and peoples through fairytales will not secure a better Pakistan. It is what has brought us here; supporters of terrorism abroad, apologists for terrorists at home, persecutors of minorities, dangerously biased and hopelessly confused. If the government is actually serious, it ought to look what is inside the books our children study in schools. If it doesn’t find the content troubling, it may as well give up and hand over everything to the Taliban.http://nation.com.pk/editorials/30-Dec-2014/extremist-ideology

December 30, 2014   No Comments

Same legal standards but different official treatment: by Umar Cheema in The News, Dec 30. 2014

ISLAMABAD: Politicians and militants can neither form a new party or become members of any other once their existing organisations are outlawed. However, ground realities are different, especially in the latter’s case.
One political party was proscribed and the charges were withdrawn only 10 years later but many militant outfits have been banned in the last 14 years but several of them have resurfaced without clearing the allegations levelled against them.
Since 2001, Musharraf and the PPP government banned some 60 militant outfits but most of them have resurfaced under new names notwithstanding the fact that their existence is unconstitutional. Article 256 of the Constitution reads: “No private organisation capable of functioning as a military organisation shall be formed, and any such organisation shall be illegal.”
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had banned the National Awami Party in 1975 in an attempt to crush his opponents. Political Parties Order 2002 governs the functioning of political organisations whereas the Anti-Terrorism Amendment (Ordinance) 2013 deals with militant outfits which operate in violation of the Constitution.
The PPO 2002 was enforced after the repeal of the Political Parties Act 1962 that was invoked by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for proscribing the Khan Abdul Wali Khan-led National Awami Party in 1975 for ‘conspiring against the state of Pakistan’ – the charges that were later withdrawn by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.
As far as banned militant outfits are concerned, the Anti-Terrorism Amendment (Ordinance) 2013 says that the federal government can declare an organisation proscribed if there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is “(a) concerned in terrorism; (b) owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by an individual or organisation proscribed under this Act; and (c) acting on behalf of, or at the direction of, any individual or organisation proscribed under this Act.”
As for as the qualification of a party and conditions for declaring it proscribed organisation are concerned, they are the same as were in PPA 1962.Section 15 of the PPO 2002 describes the conditions dealing with the dissolution of a political party. A political party can be outlawed if the federal government “is satisfied that a political party is a foreign-aided or has been formed or is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan or is indulging in terrorism, it shall make such declaration by a notification in the official gazette.” This will follow referral of case to the Supreme Court for a final decision in this regard.
Once a political party is dissolved, according to section 16 of PPO 2002, its members in parliament and provincial assemblies stand disqualified for the remaining term and shall not participate in elections “for any elective office or any legislative body till the expiry of four years from the date of his disqualification from being a member of parliament or, as the case may be, the provincial assembly.”
Defining the qualification for becoming member of a political party, section 5 (1) of PPO 2002 says that every citizen, not being in government service, shall have the right to form or be a member of a political party and its elected office-bearer “provided that a person shall not be appointed or serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is not qualified to be, or is disqualified from being, elected or chosen as a member of Parliament.” http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=34971&Cat=13&dt=12/30/2014

December 30, 2014   No Comments

MQM organisational fault lines exposed in 2014: by Azfar-ul-Ashfaque in Dawn, December 30th, 2014

KARACHI: Faced with a serious internal crisis that surfaced in the middle of last year, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement began to show signs of weakness in 2014 — the first year during the past quarter of a century when party supremo Altaf Hussain was arrested and later released on bail in London.

Although the party’s political activities, including rallies, public meetings, protests as well as quitting and joining the coalition government continued with the same enthusiasm, the organisational side was marred by internal rifts and a host of other issues that affected the overall direction of the Muttahida. The top leader, who has been living in London for the past 22 years, still enjoys an iron grip on party affairs, but uncertainty within the party has reached a level where even senior leaders think they may not be on their posts the next day.

With multiple criminal investigations against Mr Hussain being under way in London ­— though he has not yet been formally charged ­— former and incumbent office-bearers of the MQM conceded that the state of affairs deteriorated in 2014 due to a lack of consistency in the party.

They said the MQM was ignoring problems of its core constituents due to its internal problems, as complaints of water shortage, power loadshedding and lack of cleanliness were on the rise. It all started after the May 11, 2013 general elections.

Mr Hussain delivered a speech at the MQM’s Nine Zero headquarters after which charged workers manhandled MQM leadership. Within the next few days, Mr Hussain dissolved the coordination committee and installed a new set-up. Later, some senior MQM leaders, including Anis Kaimkhani and former Karachi nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal, either left the country or became inactive in the party.

In April 2014, the MQM submitted resignation of Mr Kamal before the senate chairman and the next month MQM’s Maulana Tanveerul Haq Thanvi was elected unopposed on the vacant senate seat. Also in April, the MQM joined the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government only to quit again in less than six months.

While the Muttahida’s political affairs were moving forward, the internal crisis aggravated further on May 25 when the party staged a rally on M.A. Jinnah Road against the British government for what it described as victimisation of Mr Hussain. On June 3, the British police investigators arrested Mr Hussain in London over money-laundering suspicions. “The news spread like wildfire and entire Karachi was shut within no time. But we had no line of action that day except to calm down our workers,” recalled a senior leader.

“It was Haider Abbas Rizvi who took a decision to hold a sit-in at Numaish because our priority was to gather workers at one place so that we could control them,” he said. With an unimpressive number of participants, the MQM sit-in continued till the morning of June 8 when Mr Hussain after being released on bail asked the protesters to return home.

Sources said Mr Hussain was very disappointed with his new team, headed by Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, when he was informed about the actual number of the participants. Mr Hussain then expressed no confidence in senior leadership. He publicly threatened that he would step down as party chief at least on half a dozen occasions.

In July, he suspended for a brief period 19 senior members of the coordination committee for petty reasons. On Sept 4, he disbanded Karachi Organising Committee of the Muttahida and warned the coordination committee to mend ways. The same month he announced quitting the party leadership and blaming some members of the coordination committee that they were happy when he was arrested in June.

And finally on Dec 10, Mr Hussain sent the whole coordination committee packing, accusing the members of involvement in corruption — a charge that he had levelled against the previous committee that he had dissolved in 2013 — and appointed an ad hoc body.

The sources said the Muttahida chief was aware of the weaknesses within the party and he knew it would hurt them in elections. It was for this reason, they said, he returned to the Mohajir politics in 2014 to save his party’s vote bank.

Like past years, the MQM continued to hold several successful shows of strength in Karachi in 2014.

Round the year, the MQM off and on protested against ‘extrajudicial killings and illegal raids and arrests’ of party workers. It gave several calls to observe days of mourning and ensured complete closure on each day of protest.

Also in 2014, the MQM raised the issue of new provinces and called for making at least 20 new provinces on administrative grounds. The party also observed a ‘black day’ against Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah for saying that he considered ‘Mohajir’ a swear word.

In July, the party staged a rally on Shahrah-i-Quaideen to support the armed forces and the Zarb-i-Azb Operation in the tribal areas.

Following the Peshawar school carnage in December, another massive rally was staged against the Taliban, their apologists and in support of the army.

A senior party leader, who until recently was a member of the coordination committee, said: “Although people are participating in our programmes in large numbers, the internal situation is very alarming.

“Politically we are strong, but at the organisational level we are not that good and unfortunately the whole world is now seeing it.” http://www.dawn.com/news/1153914/mqm-organisational-fault-lines-exposed-in-2014

December 30, 2014   No Comments

IS’s threat of biological terrorism: op-ed by Musa Khan Jalalzai in Daily Times, De 30, 2014

The writer is the author of Punjabi Taliban
With the establishment of Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, and its secret networks and propaganda campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the international community has now focused on the proliferation and smuggling of chemical and biological weapons in the region. The recent debate in Europe-based think tanks suggests that, as the group retrieved nuclear and biological material from the Mosul University in Iraq, it can possibly make nuclear explosive devices with less than eight kilogrammes plutonium. The debate about bioterrorism and bio-defence is not entirely new in the military circles of South Asia; the involvement of IS in using biological weapons against the Kurdish army in Kobane is a lesson for Pakistan and Afghanistan to deeply concentrate on the proliferation of these weapons in the region.

A document from Pakistan’s Internal Security Policy (2014-2018) categorically stated that the country’s security faces the threat of nuclear terrorism. The threat, according to the document’s contents, is in addition to the possibility of chemical and biological terrorism. As the fatal war against terrorism has entered a crucial phase, another powerful extremist militant group (IS) has emerged with a strong and well-trained army in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan to establish an Islamic state. The massacre of 100 innocent civilians, including an Afghan national army soldier in the Ajristan district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan by IS forces, and the brutal killings of children in the army school in Peshawar have raised serious questions about the future of security and stability in South Asia. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility and called it a revenge attack for the Pakistan army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan and FATA regions.

As Islamic State (IS) now controls parts of Iraq and Syria and has carried out successful attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the group now wants to expand its terror networks from Afghanistan to Kashmir. According to some confirmed reports, hundreds of Pakistanis have joined the army of IS in Syria and Iraq. In October 2014, six leaders of the TTP announced their allegiance to IS. IS propaganda material has begun to crop up in various parts of Pakistan. Secret networks of IS are in contact with different sectarian and political groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and receive financial assistance from business communities. The TTP commanders of Orakzai Agency, Kurram Agency, Khyber Agency, Peshawar and Hangu district have announced their allegiance to the IS military command.

The problem of nuclear and biological terrorism deserves special attention from the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan because the army of IS can develop a dirty bomb in which explosives can be combined with a radioactive source like those commonly used in hospitals or extractive industries. The use of this weapon might have severe health effects, causing more disruption than destruction. Political and military circles in Pakistan fear that, as IS has already seized chemical weapons in Al Muthanna, in northern Iraq, some disgruntled retired military officers or experts in nuclear explosive devices might help the Pakistan chapter of the group deploy biological and chemical weapons. A letter by the Iraqi government to the UN warned that the militant-captured chemical weapons site contains 2,500 chemical rockets filled with the nerve agent Sarin.

In Europe, there is the general perception that IS has already used some dangerous gases in Iraq. Therefore, it could use biological weapons against civilian populations in Pakistan. If control over these weapons is weak, or if their components are available in the open market, there would be huge destruction in the region. In July 2014, the government of Iraq notified that nuclear material had been seized by the IS army from Mosul University. IS has a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons, and a 26-page religious fatwa that allows the use of weapons of mass destruction. “If Muslims cannot defeat the kafir (non-believers) in a different way, it is permissible to use weapons of mass destruction,” warns the fatwa.

The effects of chemical weapons are worse as they cause death or incapacitation, while biological weapons cause death or disease in humans, animals or plants. We have two international treaties that ban the use of such weapons. Notwithstanding all these preventive measures, the threat of chemical or biological warfare persists. In 2011 and 2013, there were complaints and allegations that some states wanted to target Pakistan with biological weapons. The country has been trying to counter biological attacks but has failed due to limited funds and medical knowledge. As Pakistan noted in its statement to the Meeting of States Parties in December 2013: “Pakistan ratified the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1974 as a non-possessor state and remains fully committed to implementing all provisions of the convention.”

The fatalities of dengue and ebola viruses in Pakistan and West Africa are the worst forms of bioterrorism. In 2011, the Pakistan Medical Association called on the ISI to investigate fears of the deliberate spread of the deadly disease in Punjab. There are speculations that, in future, measles, dengue, polio and the ebola viruses can be used as weapons of bioterrorism in Pakistan. Some states might use drones for the purposes of bio-war against their rival states. In 2013, writing in the Global Policy journal, Amanda M Teckman warned that IS might possibly use ebola as a weapon against the civilian population: “It remains to be seen if a terrorist group like IS, which has demonstrated a willingness to engage in large scale mass murder, including the uninhibited murder of civilians, has the capability to produce a weaponised version of ebola.” The University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report warned that terrorists could also turn remotely piloted aircraft into flying bombs by hooking them up to improvised explosive devices. Sir David, a former British intelligence researcher, warned that drones had gained a reputation as unaccountable killing machines because of their widespread use in the US’s controversial anti-terrorist campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

December 30, 2014   No Comments

Whither IS in Pakistan?: by S M Hali in Daily Times, De 30, 2014

The writer, a former group captain of PAF, is a columnist, analyst and a television show host
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or referred to in Arabic as ad-Dawlah al-Islâmîyah fîl-Irâq wa ash-Shâm (Daish) since June 2014 has declared itself the Islamic State (IS). IS is a Sunni extremist, jihadist rebel group based in Iraq and Syria where it controls territory. It also operates in eastern Libya, the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt and other areas of the Middle East and North Africa.

The UN has held IS responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and has declared it a terrorist organisation against which over 60 countries are waging war. There have been reports of wall chalking incidents in parts of southern Punjab, Karachi and Lahore depicting IS presence or sympathy for it. The fact is that currently the Pakistan army has been engaged in an extensive military operation to crush the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in North Waziristan since June 15, 2014. About the same time, IS’s proclaimed leader, al-Baghdadi, declared himself caliph of the entire Muslim world after quoting extensively from the writings of Maulana Maudoodi, founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Maulana Maudoodi’s interpretation, though deviant of the hadith, “Love for your country is part of faith”, was apparently based on the French Revolution that sought to create a state that, in turn, created its citizens. This borrowed concept formed the basis of Maudoodi’s argument that full citizenship of an Islamic state was only available to Muslims. This principle has been adopted by IS, which kills and beheads in the name of Islam. The mistreatment and oppression of religious minorities and extermination of dissenting Islamic theology also stems from this flawed deduction by IS.

Currently, there is no direct threat from IS to Pakistan since the extremist group is seeking recruits to further its heinous assaults against humanity in the Middle East. Members of the TTP, who are on the run from the Pakistan military’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb, may find it expedient to join IS in its operations in the Arab world. On the other hand, in light of the recent barbarous attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar and other threats, it would be prudent to exercise vigilance to track down any attempts by IS actually seeking ingress to Pakistan. Caution is also imperative in light of the arrest of an Indian engineer, Mehdi Masoor Biswas of Bangalore, on the charge of affiliation with IS and running a pro-IS Twitter account. Since his arrest, police officials in Bangalore have been receiving death threats to release Mehdi Masoor Biswas.

Pakistan needs to be wary of IS seeking a nerve centre on its soil because there has also been news of a local group by the name of Islami Khilafat handing out leaflets in Peshawar, which were also sent to Afghan refugee camps and to eastern Afghanistan. These pamphlets, titled Fatah (victory), and published in Pashto and Dari, purportedly came from Kunar province in Afghanistan. The logo of the pamphlet has the kalma (the testament of Islamic faith), the historical stamp of the Prophet (PBUH) and a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

It is heartening to note that in the aftermath of the Peshawar carnage of 132 school children, the Pakistani nation has become united in its resolve to combat terrorism. Some doubting Thomases have also hitched their wagons to the government’s action plan to eradicate extremism and terrorism. There are reports of a number of splinter groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and Maulvi Abdul Qahar, operating in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan and Shahidullah Shahid and six other TTP commanders announcing their support for self-styled caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and IS. A representative of Hizbut Tahrir (HT) in Pakistan also vowed to support IS but HT is a motley group propositioning a caliphate, which it appears to have found in the shape of the IS chief, Baghdadi.

The redeeming factor is that IS cannot help either the Taliban in Pakistan or Afghanistan, as its own area of influence lies in Iraq, Syria and their neighbourhood where they have started losing ground after making initial gains. Moreover, there is a dichotomy here. The Taliban may declare their commitment to Baghdadi but they have also sworn allegiance to Mulla Omar, the amir (head) of the Taliban. Thus, declaring allegiance to two caliphs is repugnant even to the warped thinking of the Taliban. Moreover, Baghdadi’s proclamation of hatred and violence towards other faiths and even sects of Islam is totally against the very essence and teachings of the Quran and sunnah. The faithful must reject him and IS if they are true to Islam as no religion permits the slaughter of women and children. Pakistan must remain alert to possible activities of IS cohorts no matter what the ideology.

December 30, 2014   No Comments

Daesh sends out book in Urdu to Pakistanis: by M. Waqar Bhatti in The News, Dec 30. 2014

KARACHI: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Daesh has sent out a book in Urdu language through emails to Pakistanis, especially journalists.
At a time when the government wants to clamp down on hate material in the wake of the brutal Peshawar massacre, which left 148 people dead, it appears the banned outfits have intensified their campaign to reach out to maximum number of people in Pakistan to propagate their agenda.
The book in the PDF format is the first of its kind of literature in Urdu which in detail sheds light on the ISIS, its history, motives behind formation and its policy.“I’m not aware of any such effort or practice through which ISIS propaganda literature, translated into Urdu-language being distributed or delivered in Pakistan,” Director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Shahid Hayat Khan said when The News inquired if the FIA was aware of propagation of the ISIS literature in Pakistan.
“We are already working on curbing the propagation of hate material, especially the sites spreading sectarian hatred in Pakistan but we have not come up with any information regarding the spread of ISIS propaganda in Pakistan so far,” Shahid Hayat, who also served as Karachi Police chief recently and led the Karachi targeted operation against militants and extremists, said.http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=34981&Cat=13&dt=12/30/2014

December 30, 2014   No Comments