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Posts from — June 2017

Hindus of Haroonabad told to vacate houses

by Faizan Ali Warraich in The Nation, June 29, 2017, 9:47 pm
LAHORE: Hindu community of Haroonabad area has been asked to vacate their houses by local administration. This is allegedly being done due to pressure from owners of a housing scheme. They want to build front gate of housing scheme by demolishing the houses of Hindus, who have been living there for last three decades.

A protest demonstration was held on Thursday in Haroonabad to urge the Punjab government to take action in this regard and to stop the local administration from getting their houses vacated.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Assistant Commissioner of District Haroonabad Anjum Zehra issued notices to dozens of Hindu families living in Haroonabad, a tehsil of Bahawalnagar district, to vacate their homes by June 28.

According to notification copy which is available with The Nation the residents of Chak 72/4R have been addressed ‘…you people have been living here at Jarnali Sarak (The Grand Trunk Road) illegally for a long time and it has been notified on June 13, 2017 that these houses will be vacated because you are illegal occupants of this property.”

“In other case the government property will be vacated with government’s force,” the notification said.

Daas Ram a resident of Chak 72/R told The Nation on phone that we were facing the wrath of housing society owners who want to demolish their houses. He alleged administration with an under hand agreement with housing society wants to demolish the houses.

Leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Z) and MNA from NA-191 (Bahawalnagar-IV) Ijazul Haq said that he will look into the matter and provide complete assistance to people. “These people are living there for quite a long time and we will resolve this matter,” he maintained.

Society of Hindu Balmiki Mandar (SHBM) president (Haroonabad) Harbans Lal Sultani said that the Hindu families had been living in the area for the last 30 years after the Bahawalnagar commissioner allowed them to construct homes at the government’s land called ‘Jurnaili Murabba’ in 1987.

“In 1987, the then Bahawalnagar’s commissioner allowed us in writing to settle on the land on an application moved by 69 Hindu families who were employed by local government on contract basis,” he added,

“The rest of the paper work for allotment of five marlas to each Hindu family was completed in the tenure of Pakistan People’s Party in 1995 when a ‘misl’ (revenue record of land and property) was made in favour of the Hindu families.”

Sultani said that the members of Hindu community built their houses after allotment of land located in Chak number 72-4/R. “However, now the Haroonabad assistant commissioner has issued notices to all Hindu families to vacate their homes.”

He called upon the federal government and Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif to direct authorities concerned not to get the land vacated. http://nation.com.pk/featured/29-Jun-2017/hindus-of-haroonabad-told-to-vacate-houses

June 30, 2017   No Comments

Parachinar situation–Three edits, June 30, 2017

Edit in Dawn
THE simplest way to alienate a people, to make them feel less equal than others, is to remain indifferent to their pain and suffering.

Pakistan did precisely that this Eid, with festivities across most of the country undimmed by the devastating twin bombings last Friday in the Kurram Agency town of Parachinar. The attack has so far claimed over 70 lives.

No senior government official, ostensibly out of security concerns, has visited the area in the week since. The omission is all the more reprehensible given that the prime minister cut short his trip to London following the ghastly oil tanker inferno in Bahawalpur on Sunday and rushed back to visit the injured and condole with victims’ families.

Anger among locals over the security lapse and official indifference provoked a large number of them to congregate in the town’s Shaheed Park for an ongoing sit-in. Tribal elders yesterday rejected Nawaz Sharif’s compensation for the victims, saying they want to be recognised as human beings first.

Self-preservation is a poor excuse for the chief executive of any country to desist from visiting a scene of such terrible carnage as was visited upon so many Pakistani citizens last week in Parachinar.

Imran Khan, who has been fulminating about the prime minister not visiting the area, has not yet done so either.

Considering he has been urging the merger of Fata with KP where his party is in power, it would have, at the very least, made political sense to be seen commiserating with the victims.

Those aspiring to national leadership must demonstrate their determination to fight terrorism not only through words but by their actions as well.

Standing up to extremism, however, also requires an unflinching acknowledgement of realities.

Downplaying the role of sectarianism in the attack that took place in an overwhelmingly Shia-majority area, as the military leadership seems to be doing, does not make it less so.

The claim of responsibility by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Almi, one of the most violent extremist groups in Pakistan that openly flaunts its gruesome record of sectarian killings, leaves no doubt of the motive, if there ever was any.

Sectarianism is the very bedrock upon which much of the extremist violence in Pakistan is based.

Obfuscating the fact does not promote social harmony: it merely adds to the disaffection and bitterness of those who know well why they are being repeatedly targeted.www.dawn.com/news/1342236/parachinar-protest

Parachinar’s pain: edit in The News, June 30, 2017
It has been nearly a week since the twin bombings at Parachinar killed nearly 100 people. Since then, people of the area and the families of the victims alongside tribal elders have been protesting, sitting out on the streets with the bodies of the men, women and children who died. What they seek is some recognition of their suffering. They want to know why they have been left to fend for themselves in a place that has repeatedly been attacked. They demand action not just against those responsible but for the state to also accept its responsibility. In the terrible aftermath of the Parachinar bloodshed, no major dignitary traveled up to the tribal areas adjoining the Afghanistan border. Media coverage, too, was scant. The current weather, logistics and the remoteness of the area were certainly a factor in that but there should be no excuses in the face of such human tragedy. The people of Parachinar, a Shia majority town which has faced bombing after bombing over the past decade and more, deserve better. They deserve dignity; they deserve respect; they deserve sympathy. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has denounced sectarianism in the country and emphasised that every person who is killed is equal regardless of their belief. This, of course, is undoubtedly true. This is also exactly what the protesters are stating. They are also saying that they do not feel like they are treated equally when they become victims of terrorism. The COAS has also said that there is a sectarian campaign being pursued on social media and that efforts to malign the Pakistan Army are afoot. It is, again, undeniably true that a lot of sectarian hate is being spewed. The question is who the victim is and who the victimiser is in this campaign and, more importantly, who the authorities may go after, if they do, to check the dangerous trend. A minority has been targeted over and over again since the 1980s, perhaps initially because of a political battle for power in which sectarianism was encouraged, but which has now gone beyond all control. More and more splinter groups following extremist ideologies now target the many groups they label infidels. Those who have suffered bloodshed may understandably get angry; but what about those who are calling for murder and mayhem and suggesting the “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi treatment” for “traitors and agents”. They roam freely, are public figures and known for their pro-terrorist sectarian madness. Nobody has ever touched them, while others — relative non-entities — have been ‘picked up’ on charges that were never made official. Will the unassailable ever be touched and called to account?

Sectarianism is not a product of this or that incident today. Divisions have existed in our society since forever; the worsening of these divisions has been primarily a result of the kind of politics allowed by the state to flourish, nurtured and encouraged in this country in the past decades. We are inevitably reaping what we strategically sowed. And it would be a foolish enemy who did not take advantage of this situation, with the whole region having entered a phase of violent uncertainty and with the most hostile of our adversaries facing a freedom movement in Kashmir. The regional situation beyond India does not help either. We appear to be caught in the midst of the war being fought between Saudi Arabia and Iran; and such a conflict has always involved proxies. How our interests have been served by former army chief Raheel Sharif joining the Saudi-led military alliance is a point we can’t stop pondering even as we repeat some other relevant questions for the umpteenth time: what has become of the implementation of NAP? What about the decision to make Nacta functional? Operation Zarb-e-Azb was, again and again, said to have met its objectives by the state that is a ‘frontline’ one in the fight against terror. What does our inability to act against front-line figures in sectarian hate-mongering say? Parachinar is part of Pakistan’s tribal hinterlands; what can the government say about reneging on the promise of reforms for Fata? Parachinar’s pain and anger is easy to understand in view of the violence its people have been experiencing. The optics of no national leader visiting Parachinar could not have eased their pain and killed their anger. It could only have led to a deepening of their alienation. The failure here is not restricted to one political party or one institution and everyone needs to try and rectify that. What they should not do is use the pain inflicted on Parachinar to play politics.
https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/213384-Parachinars-pain

Parachinar and state absence: edit in Daily Times, June 30, 2017.
Spare a thought for the people of Parachinar. First militants strike them, leaving more than 100 dead. Then they are subjected to law enforcement gunfire for daring to protest the government’s seeming indifference to their plight.

We stand with the people of Parachinar, which is a Shia majority area and, as such, has been on the receiving end of deadly terror attacks for years. Yet this time the people rose up only to be met with a Frontier Constabulary (FC) that reportedly opened fire on them, killing four; thereby essentially blurring the lines between terrorists and the state. According to unofficial reports on social media – the protestors are demanding the court martial of the general who gave the order to shoot.

Meanwhile, the response of country’s leadership has been highly disappointing to say the least. On Tuesday, the Interior minister appeared on television to (rightly) condemn Indian security forces’ atrocities against the people of Kashmir. Yet on Parachinar the honourable minister was silent. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cut short his London visit and reached Bahawalpur in the wake of the oil tanker tragedy — yet he stayed away from Parachinar. So, too, did the COAS on the grounds of bad weather. Moreover, no government official has yet contacted the protesters who are demanding something as basic as the right to live. The ISPR statement that was released later on Wednesday asserted that sectarian and ethnic colour was being given to the spate of incidents in Parachinar. This statement dangerously furthers the narrative that extremist groups come up with following every terror attack targeting religious minorities. The “don’t say Shias were killed, say Muslims were killed” mantra enables the hands of the perpetrator. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that vows to “rid Pakistan of Shias” claimed responsibility for the Parachinar bombing. When the perpetrator proudly accepts responsibility for an attack — it is the height of impoliteness to pretend you don’t know why that aggression happened. One wonders if this apparent change in the military’s tone has something to do with the country’s role in Saudi-led military alliance. We sincerely hope this isn’t the case. Just as we sincerely hope that those who believe that hiding the identity of the victim helps foster national harmony will soon come to their senses. http://dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/29-Jun-17/parachinar-and-state-absence

June 30, 2017   No Comments

Is it asking too much to highlight a human tragedy in Fata?

by Sadia Qasim Shah in Dawn, June 30th, 2017
PESHAWAR: Mainstream print and electronic media or fourth pillar of the state like other three has failed to respond to the Parachinar twin bombing tragedy like it has highlighted the Bahawalpur tragedy.

“Is our blood different than those killed in Bahawalpur tragedy,” asked Dr Mujhahid Hussain while talking to Dawn by phone from the sit-in staged in Parachinar where people are out on the streets to demand for their basic right to life but none of the civil military leadership has visited the area despite repeated demands.

Whether it is Quetta, Peshawar or Parachinar terrorist bombings have wrecked people’s lives. These people deserve an explanation from the state, which failed to protect them. But their voices die down as national print and electronic media doesn’t give voice to the people living in a geo-politically sensitive place out of no fault of their own.

Those, who speak up, are tagged very easily as ‘traitors’ and those reporting it can get into trouble too. However, the social media is giving voice to the people of Fata now emerging as ‘sons of the lesser god’. The people of tribal areas have since long been dehumanised as people living on a border area called “Ilaqa-Ghair’ or “land of the unrelated”.

Despite being a hottest topic for Pakhtun population for about a week now, the print and electronic media has failed to see the tragic event is not a sectarian but a humanitarian issue yet there is no analysis or in-depth reports on it in national print media.

A local reporter, who also lost two family members in the Parachinar blast, shying away from criticising media, just said that slowly the sit-in was coming in media’s focus but did acknowledge that locals were upset and even attacked local press club for not letting the world hear their voice and see the agony they were going through. The reporter says they were right to feel angry as their voice was not being heard.

It is true each print and electronic media house has its own policies regarding sending its teams and reporters to cover a certain news-worthy event or incident. An award-winning print media reporter during a talk show said: “One cannot go to Parachinar without permission.” Giving this as the reason, they (journalists) have not gone there seemed a lame excuse. Mind it the same reporter has been awarded for standing up for freedom of media.

Whether permission for journalists is required or not to visit Parachinar many Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad based journalists, used to helicopters seem to have lost touch with ground realities.

Bitter reality is that journalists used to embedded journalism find excuses for not covering Parachinar tragedy as they have forgotten about independent reporting.

Many media houses have correspondents based in tribal areas who send in reports but whether their reports are aired in print and electronic media is way out of their control.

The state-run or official media was also seen engrossed in softer things in life during Eid telecast. There is a huge difference in coverage of telecasting causes of the tragedies of Parachinar and Bahawalpur.

To add insult to injury, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who landed home after Bahawalpur tragedy, did not bother to visit Parachinar that was bombed brutally almost a week ago. The way he quantified the value of lives in Punjab province and tribal areas — both ruled directly by his PML-N government — is humiliating.

“There seems to be two laws in the country. The blood of Punjabi and a tribesman is of different value,” said Jamil Hussain Turi while talking to Dawn by phone.

The prime minister had announced first Rs2 million for the dead, Rs1 million for the injured and even jobs to the children of the victims of Bahawalpur tragedy but after a week went on to announce Rs1 million for the dead, Rs500,000 for the injured in the Parachinar terrorist attack on last Friday.

The rate of human life in Punjab province and tribal areas has a huge difference, no matter what may be the reason of death. This is official acknowledgement of children of a lesser god, of lesser importance hailing from a certain ethnic/religious groups and certain geographical areas.

The prime minister announced special package for the victims of Bahawalpur tragedy but not for those of a federal area. One wonders if he has ever announced a special package for terrorist victims of areas other than Punjab — the feeling is growing.

Speaking of finances, there is no update on what happened to the funding on matters pertaining to National Action Plan in Fata. With authority comes responsibility and those authorised to provide security in Fata including places like Parachinar should be held responsible for failing to protect lives.

For a journalist, it is a risky job to find answers to such questions. It is only when the establishment itself by foolish acts of commission and omissions gives rise itself to perceptions of sectarian and/or ethnic and/or geographic prejudices.

When neutral observers take the courage to raise such issues, the government, establishment and their proxies are quick to raise hue and cry: “This is against national interest”. And those raising the issue are blamed of doing it at the behest of enemies of the state.

The real issue is lost. If the victims are further ignored and they stop believing in their leaders and country, it is only then when the real enemy wins.https://www.dawn.com/news/1342309/is-it-asking-too-much-to-highlight-a-human-tragedy-in-fata

June 30, 2017   No Comments

COAS visits Parachinar, Govt offer spurned, Protests enter 8th day

Report in Pakistan Today, & Dawn June 30, 2017
PARACHINAR: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has reached Parachinar Friday (today) morning, the military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), informed in a statement.

During his visit, the army chief will meet the tribespeople who have been protesting following two blasts that rocked Parachinar, Kurram Agency on June 23.
The protest continues on the eighth day, Friday, demanding safety and protection for all.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced compensation money for the families of people killed and those who were injured in the Parachinar blasts on June 23.

As per the announcement, Rs1 million would be given to the families of people killed in the blasts while Rs0.5 million has been announced for the people who received injuries due to the explosions. https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/06/30/coas-visits-parachinar-as-protest-enters-eighth-day-today/

Parachinar families spurn PM’s compensation offer
PARACHINAR: The families of victims of Parachinar twin bomb blasts on Thursday rejected a compensation package, announ­ced for them by the prime minister, as the sit-in against Friday’s deadly terrorist attack continued for a seventh consecutive day.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced Rs1 million as compensation for the family of each deceased, amid criticism that the government was turning a deaf ear to the demands of the victims of the twin bombings in Parachinar.

“Payment of Rs1 million each for the martyrs and Rs0.5 million each for [those injured in] the Parachinar blasts has been announced,” a spokesperson for the prime minister said in an official announcement, adding that the PM had also issued directions to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra in this regard.

People from different parts of Kurram continued to arrive at the Shaheed Park to join the sit-in and all markets and bazaars in Parachinar remained closed to protest the bombings.

Say amount not on a par with that paid to victims of other tragedies; electronic media not allowed to cover sit-in

The protesters and victims’ relatives said the compensation announced by the prime minister for victims of Parachinar did not match the amount announced for the people of other parts of the country.

The prime minister recently announced a compensation package of Rs2 million for people who lost their lives in the Ahmedpur East oil tanker inferno on June 25.

The protesters said the people of Parachinar were citizens of the country, but the government treated them as lesser citizens, and demanded that the package announced for victims in Parachinar be brought on a par with the compensation given to victims from other areas of the country.

They said the sit-in would continue until Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan visited the area and demanded that the government arrest those behind the bombings.

Meanwhile, authorities did not allow a helicopter carrying former interior minister Rehman Malik and former National Assembly deputy speaker Faisal Karim Kundi to land at Parachinar airport. The chopper was denied permission to land and sent back.

Authorities also prevented journalists from other areas to reach Parachinar to meet the protesters. Media teams were stopped at the Chhappari check-post in Kurram and sent back, drawing the ire of protesters who condemned the authorities for denying entry to political leaders and media teams.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has also rejected the PM’s compensation package for Parachinar victims and demanded that it should be equal to that given to the victims of the oil tanker tragedy.

“The rulers must not allow the perception that a dead body in Punjab fetched Rs 2 million, in Sindh Rs1 million, in Balochistan Rs0.5 million but only Rs300,000 in the tribal areas,” PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.

The senator has also called for a session of the Senate to discuss the Parachinar attack and the gross mishandling of the situation by the security agencies by firing at the citizens protesting against the state’s inability to provide them security.

He demanded a judicial probe into the incident and asked that the local Kurram militia be allowed to play its role in restoring peace under the supervision of the security agencies.

Due to its location and history, Parachinar was already over-militarised, Mr Babar said, adding that it was known to have one of the largest concentrations of security check-posts and CCTV cameras with security personnel on constant patrol.

“Yet, Parachinar has witnessed repeated militant attacks over the past few months and there was no clue of where militants came from and where they went,” he said.

Mr Babar also called for reports of firing on grieving demonstrators to be probed and demanded that the trigger-happy personnel responsible for this excessive use of force be punished.https://www.dawn.com/news/1342273/parachinar-families-spurn-pms-compensation-offer

June 30, 2017   No Comments

FIA arrests reporter in Quetta over social media comments

by Saleem Shahid in Dawn, June 30th, 2017
QUETTA: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested a newspaper reporter on Sunday (June 25) for allegedly writing against “national security institutions” on social media, according to members of his family.

Zafarullah Achakzai, who works for Qudrat, a Quetta-based daily, was taken into custody under the Prevention of Elec-tronic Crimes Act 2016 and produced in a court of the judicial magistrate, according to FIA officials.

The court remanded Mr Achakzai in custody of the Federal Investigation Agency for six days.

“Our entire neighbourhood was besieged by the security agency before arresting him,” Niamat­ullah Achakzai, the detained reporter’s father, said. Mr Niamatullah is the editor-in-chief of daily Qudrat.

The FIA informed him on Thursday that Zafarullah Achakzai had been taken into custody under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.

The reporter’s relatives told a joint meeting of the Balochistan Union of Journalists and other bodies that “personnel of a security agency” took Zafarullah Achakzai into custody in the early hours of Sunday morning after cordoning off his residence.

The meeting expressed concern over the manner in which Mr Achakzai was arrested. It said if there was any complaint against the journalist, the authorities should have raised the matter at a “proper forum”.

The meeting further said if any journalist was violating the law, he should be produced before a court after arrest.https://www.dawn.com/news/1342268/fia-arrests-reporter-in-quetta-over-social-media-comments

June 30, 2017   No Comments

More attacks feared as ‘battle-hardened’ militants come back from Syria

by Imtiaz Ali in Dawn, June 30th, 2017
KARACHI: The emergence of a new militant outfit — Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan — has posed a serious challenge to the country’s security establishment, which believed that an unknown number of “battle-hardened Syria-returned” militants could launch major attacks in Pakistan after the announcement of the group’s formation on social media, it emerged on Thursday.

Well-placed sources in the police’s Counter-Terrorism Department said: “It is actually the Pakistan chapter of the Ansar-ul-Sharia that had been fighting in Syria.” As the group had been operating under the umbrella of Jabhat al-Nusra, its loyalty was to the traditional Al Qaeda leadership under Ayman al-Zawahiri rather than militant Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said a senior official on condition of anonymity.

No one can exactly tell how many militants have returned from Syria, but according to some intelligence estimates a significant number of both Shia and Sunni militants have come back.

The group claimed on social media that a large number of individuals, specifically from Karachi and south Punjab, who had travelled to Syria to fight alongside IS, were returning home after they had become ‘disillusioned’ with the message and practices of IS. But based on the current situation in Syria, the CTD official believed that so far the militants had not come back home in large numbers.

Even if a small number of militants had arrived they were ‘battle hardened’ and had greater experience than local militants, the official said, explaining that they could act as a ‘force multiplier’ enabling small splinter groups such as Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan to launch major targeted attacks.

Since April the Ansar-ul-Sharia had carried out three attacks targeting police officials and an ex-army officer. Retired Col Tahir Nagi was sprayed with bullets near Baloch Colony bridge in April, followed by the killing of two policemen in New Town in May and four policemen in SITE on June 23. Although the group claimed responsibility for two of the attacks, a forensic examination of spent bullet casings found that the same weapon — a 9mm pistol — was used in the killing of the two policemen in May.

The CTD official said that evidence collected from the three crime scenes indicated that the acts of terrorism were carried out by a small but proficient group. Six shots were fired within 10 seconds in the April attack and 28 shots were fired in last Friday’s attack, indicating that the gunman had ‘professional battlefield experience’.

The sources said this group was likely to assume a similar target pattern as that of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

The group was targeting retired and serving officers of the law enforcement agencies to create a ‘shock value’ as the victims appeared to be a ‘soft target’, the sources added.

According to intelligence estimates, with IS having suffered significant territorial losses in Syria and Iraq in recent months, it would be paramount for the IS to retain as many militants as possible to continue the fight. However, the number of returnees is likely to surge in the event of the collapse of the so-called caliphate of IS as in that case all surviving foreign fighters will attempt to return to their home countries to establish militant networks there.

This scenario would be reminiscent of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan when a large number of foreign fighters left the war-torn country and returned to their homelands between 1989 and 1993 and used violence as a tool to implement their agendas and forcibly impose their school of thought.

The sources said that the CTD had sent its analysis of Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan to the Sindh home department and other stakeholders on June 14 and had forewarned about the threats posed by the newly established outfit.

Meanwhile, Additional IG CTD Dr Sanaullah Abbasi told Dawn that the law enforcers had ‘neutralised’ militant outfits which had been carrying out targeted killings of policemen and other terrorist acts in the West and South zones of police in recent past except one group that has been ‘active’ in the East zone of police.

He said the same outfit might have become ‘active’ in the West zone and targeted four policemen in SITE on Friday.

Dr Abbasi believed that the CTD was working on some “positive leads” in the case. He said the footage of the crime scene obtained from a CCTV camera could ‘help’ police investigators to ascertain the identity of the killers.

The CTD chief claimed that “some suspects” had also been detained in the policemen’s killing case for interrogation.https://www.dawn.com/news/1342170/more-attacks-feared-as-battle-hardened-militants-come-back-from-syria

June 30, 2017   No Comments

ISIS, Aided by Ex-Taliban Groups, Makes Inroads in Northern Afghanistan

By JAWAD SUKHANYAR and ROD NORDLAND in The NY Times, JUNE 28, 2017
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two Taliban groups that recently switched allegiance to the Islamic State have overrun an embattled district in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 government fighters and a large number of civilians, according to Afghan officials in the area.

In addition, government officials accuse the Islamic State fighters of being responsible for the deaths of 15 medical patients, but it was not immediately clear if they had died from their wounds or if they had been executed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The events represent a new front for the extremist group, which is opposed by the Taliban as well as by the government and has not previously had significant successes in northern Afghanistan.

The attack took place in the district of Darzab, in the southwest of Jowzjan Province, a remote area that has long seesawed between government and Taliban control, with local warlords switching allegiances frequently. Fighters loyal to the country’s exiled vice president and warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, have also played a role.
Last week, Islamic State fighters overran all of Darzab, according to the acting district governor, Baz Mohammad Dawar. Government officials were able to regain control of the district’s center, but not most of the rest of the territory; 10 police officers or soldiers were killed in the fight, he said.

With the district’s clinic under Islamic State control, 15 patients were evacuated to the capital of Jowzjan Province, Sheberghan, but they died en route, Afghan officials said.

Mohammad Reza Ghafori, the spokesman for the provincial governor, said that Islamic State fighters had destroyed the 50-bed clinic, forcing the patients to flee.

Mr. Dawar said he thought the patients had died of their injuries on the rugged journey because of a lack of medical staff members in the area. Other officials said it seemed likely that the fighters, who controlled the area the patients had to travel through, had killed them.

In the village of Betaw in Darzab, Islamic State militants killed seven local police officers and 15 civilians, according to a local elder, and threatened to kill anyone who held funeral ceremonies for them. Some held them anyway.

“We live in a state of fear,” the elder said by telephone. “All of us who participated in the funeral are now scared that ISIS will attack and kill us.” The elder spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation by militants. It was not clear if the seven police officers were counted among the 10 cited by the governor, or if they were additional casualties.

“ISIS is more powerful than the Taliban were in Darzab because their fighters are brave,” said Hajji Obaidullah, the former police chief of the district. He and other local officials said that two former Taliban commanders, Qari Hikmat and Mufti Nemat, had combined forces and switched their allegiance to the Islamic State in recent months. He said the government had rushed in hundreds of reinforcements, in the form of police officers and soldiers from other areas, to keep the district center from falling to insurgents.

“There is no Taliban in Darzab now, but only ISIS,” said Halima Sadaf, a member of the Jowzjan Provincial Council, who is from Darzab.

“They took over the district before Eid al-Fitr,” she said, referring to the holiday signifying the end of Ramadan that began on Sunday.

“But Afghan national security forces pushed them out of the capital of the district; the rest of the district is all with them,” she added. “They are strong and regrouping to launch another offensive.”

One of the Islamic State commanders, Mufti Nemat, was persuaded last year to quit the Taliban and join the government side after a heavily publicized intervention by General Dostum, the first vice president. Mufti Nemat was previously a religious teacher in General Dostum’s home village. He later accused the government and General Dostum of reneging on promises made to him, announcing that he was joining forces with Qari Hikmat and would support the Islamic State.

Spokesmen for General Dostum and for the Taliban both confirmed that Mr. Nemat had left the Taliban, joined General Dostum’s side, but then gone over to the ISIS camp. “Nemat is a threat for the government. He knows the Darzab District and the area very well; he is a very dangerous guy,” said Enayatullah Babur Farahmand, General Dostum’s chief of staff. He blamed government inaction for alienating Mr. Nemat.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman who was reached via WhatsApp, said both local leaders who had joined ISIS had been rejected by the Taliban. Qari Hikmat, Mr. Mujahid said, had been sentenced to prison by the Taliban on corruption charges but he escaped and joined ISIS.

The Islamic State in Khorasan, as the group is known in Afghanistan, has generally been active only in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where fighters are locked in a struggle with the government as well as with local Taliban forces. Taking a district elsewhere in the country would be a significant advance for the group. www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/world/asia/isis-northern-afghanistan.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fasia

June 30, 2017   No Comments

Trump effect? Pakistan bans Hafiz Saeed-backed terror outfit

By Shailaja Neelakantan in The TIMESOFINDIA.COM, Jun 30, 2017, 12.08 PM
NEW DELHI: Pakistan has banned terrorist Hafiz Saeed-backed outfit Tehreek-e-Azadi-Jammu & Kashmir, a group that is essentially a rebranded Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which in turn was the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan has now put this JuD proxy on the list of proscribed organisations, as of June 8, according to the web site of Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority. JuD, though, still remains only ‘under watch’.

In late January, Pakistan put Saeed under ‘house arrest’ and the JuD on the ‘under watch’ list. In fact, TOI reported that Saeed – likely having gotten wind of action against him – began moving some of JuD’s India-targeted operations to the Tehreek-e-Azaad-e-Kashmir as early as January 14.

Pakistan banning JuD’s proxy outfit could well be seen as a response to the Donald Trump administration hinting a harder line against Islamabad.

Reuters reported 10 days ago that Trump’s administration is contemplating amplified drone strikes on terror camps in Pakistan. This was even before the stern talking-to Trump and India jointly gave Islamabad this week via the Indo-US joint statement.

The banning also comes ahead of the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) scheduled to update its assessment of “high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions” next month, which the Associated Press (AP) reported about earlier this June. FATF was set up to implement legal, regulatory and operational measures to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats.

Earlier this month, AP reported that Pakistan recently froze the accounts of as many as 5,000 suspected militants, ahead of the FATF updating its list. And TOI reported in February that it was the threat of international sanctions by the US, under FATF, that prompted action by Pakistan against Saeed. A senior US government official reportedly conveyed to Pakistan it would be put on the FATF’s blacklist if Islamabad did not take action against JuD and other similar outfits and their funding mechanisms.

India, Afghanistan and even many US lawmakers have said many times that Pakistan fosters terror safe havens. The very fact that it allows outfits like the JuD to operate with impunity is a clear sign Pakistan is culpable in stoking terror, say analysts.
Consider that the JuD itself arose from terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, (LeT) which Pakistan was forced to ban in 2002 after the US declared it a terrorist organization in 2001. Saeed is the man who founded LeT as well, to focus on attacks on India.

The LeT morphed into the JuD, and with the JuD put on an ‘under watch’ list, arose Tehreek-eAzadi-Jammu & Kashmir. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/trump-effect-pakistan-bans-hafiz-saeed-backed-terror-outfit/articleshow/59381790.cms

June 30, 2017   No Comments

IO told to record statements of seven men released by LEAs

by Jamal Khurshid in The News, June 29, 2017
Karachi: At the latest hearing of a case regarding the alleged detention of a software engineer by law enforcement agencies, the Sindh High Court directed the case investigation officer to record statements of seven men – all sons of retired Pakistan Air Force officers – who were earlier released after a briefed detention by LEAs.

The directives came on a petition filed by Squadron Leader (Retd) Sohaib Kamil against the alleged detention of his son, Anwar Kamil, a software engineer employed by a private firm, by law enforcement personnel.

The retired air force official submitted in the petition that his son, Anwar, left his home in Malir Cantonment on August 12, 2015, and was heading to his office in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. However, Anwar never reached his workplace.

The father submitted that he later came to know that the sons of seven other retired air force officers had been taken into custody by the Sindh Rangers from the Air Force Officers Housing Society, Malir Cantonment. He said the information led him to believe that his son, Anwar, could also be in the custody of law enforcement agencies.

Sqn Ldr (Retd) Kamil submitted that all of the seven detained men were released after a brief internment but his son’s whereabouts still remain unknown. He told the court that he had written a number of letters to multiple authorities including, but not limited to, the president of Pakistan, chief of air staff, and the Sindh Rangers director general imploring their help in locating his missing son.

In comments submitted at an earlier hearing, a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) official had denied arrest or detention of the petitioner’s son and said that Anwar Kamil was not in the custody of the PAF or its intelligence wing. He had submitted that the PAF had no knowledge regarding the petitioner’s son and that if he were required for any case then the legal procedure would have been adopted.

The case investigation officer, Pir Baksh, submitted that a PAF official, Squadron Leader (Retd) Shafiqur Rehman, had informed him that all seven men were taken into custody separately by the Sindh Rangers for investigation purposes and were later released. The IO told the court that a reply from the Rangers was still awaited.

The court was informed by the PAF’s intelligence unit that a focal person had been appointed to facilitate the case IO.

The IO told the court that the statement of the seven released men could not be recorded, on which the focal person of the PAF undertook to produce all seven men before the IO for recording of their statements. The court directed the IO to submit by August 10 a detailed and comprehensive report after recording the statement of the seven men.

More missing men

The court also directed the federal and provincial law officers and others to file comments on petitions against detention of citizens allegedly by law enforcement agencies.

Zubair Ahmed, Umair Khan, Tehseen Khatoon, Ayesha Nasir, Fizza Faisal and Hameeda Bibi submitted that personnel of law enforcement agencies took away Owais Ahmed, Mohsin Ali, Mohammad Farooq, Mohammad Nasir, Faisal Mehmood Siddiqui and Owais from Gulzar-e-Hijri, New Sabzi Mandi, Super Highway, Boat Basin and New Karachi and their whereabouts remain unknown.

The petitioners submitted that the police was neither disclosing their whereabouts nor providing details of any cases against the missing men. They sought production of the detainees before the court and the SHC bench directed the provincial and federal law enforcement agencies, Sindh IGP and Rangers DG to trace the whereabouts of the detainees and submit a progress reports within two weeks.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/213376-IO-told-to-record-statements-of-seven-men-released-by-LEAs

June 29, 2017   No Comments

Social media gives voice to Parachinar protesters

by Sadia Qasim Shah in Dawn, June 29th, 2017
PESHAWAR: After blackout by mainstream electronic media, the social media became voice for the protesters, who were mourning as well as asking the government some serious questions about their security following Friday’s massacre that killed 72 and injured more than 300 in Parachinar, Kurram Agency.

“The protesters, who staged sit-in after the twin blasts, decried that mainstream TV channels did not give enough coverage to the terrorist attacks in tribal area bordering Afghanistan,” a reporter, who visited the protest, told Dawn.

“Protesters in Parachinar have been protesting with coffins of their loved ones for 4 days but there is complete blackout,” tweets Liaqat Ali Hazara.

Mainstream media, which focused on Ahmad Pur East (Bahawalpur) tragedy, was accused of discrimination. Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif was also blamed for the same.

However, social media became voice for the Turi tribe, hit hard by terrorism, when mainstream media was busy giving tickers and reports about rainy weather and families enjoying Eid at parks and markets in the main cities of the country.

People from different walks of life criticised the media blackout and general apathy openly on social media like Facebook and Twitter and shared their thoughts on Watsapp groups to vent their feelings.

“This kid lost his parents, a brother and a sister in Parachinar blasts. You won’t see him on TV because he is not from Punjab,” says Shahid Qazi in his tweet while sharing photo of a wailing child.

Bilal Hyder in his tweet accuses media and politicians of a ‘criminal silence’ on Parachinar blasts.

Sharing picture of a child killed in Parachinar blast on Friday, Hareem in her tweet says: “I’m sorry the picture of the victims is hurting you. But friend your silence is hurting us more.”

People started comparing the tragedies as to how the prime minister reacted to Friday’s terrorist attacks and then that of Ahmad Pur East (Bahawalpur- Seraiki belt of Punjab province), claiming more than 150 lives.

The prime minister cut short his London’s tour and reached APE for condolences. He announced compensation of Rs2 million for killed, Rs1million for injured and promise of employment for the children of the deceased.

The social media users criticised how political leaders of PML-N and PTI even failed to visit the injured of Parachinar at Peshawar’s hospital where they were being treated.

“If COAS or high (rank) officers of government don’t visit us, it means they don’t consider us Pakistani,” says Dr Asad Ali in his tweet on Parachinar blasts.

The list of tweets expressing how neglected and voiceless the people of Parachinar feel continues since Friday on social media.

There is a growing sense of discrimination and alienation as is visible from the tweets as well as listening to those, who have visited the sit-in at Parachinar.

The protesters feel that they have not been given the same attention by the prime minister as he has treated the victims of Bahawalpur, they say.

One wonders why the government especially the prime minister treats people in Parachinar killed by two bomb blasts planted by terrorists different than those people, who were collecting the spilled oil from an oil tanker that overturned on the highway.

They were not doing any good deed or any patriotic act. So why ignore the victims of terrorism, who were only demanding safety and security — their basic rights as citizen of Pakistan, while compensate those, who risked their lives for the sake of a litter or two of oil.

Mainstream electronic media is interviewing the wailing women and men, the shortcomings of medical aid and rescue work in repeat special reports on Bahawalpur tragedy but on the other hand there is complete blackout of victims of terrorist attacks of Friday. No TV reporter with his camera team has gone to the bereaved families of the victims.

But who would ask these serious questions when media itself is busy with reports about funfairs and Eid festivities being celebrated in main cities while in some far flung border town people caught in proxy war having faced closure of road and rations for years and bombed still hold on to their Computerised National Identity Cards.
https://www.dawn.com/news/1342102/social-media-gives-voice-to-parachinar-protesters

June 29, 2017   No Comments