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Category — AF-PAK ISIS

Denial of IS footprint: Editorial in Dawn, September 30th, 2017

THE vigour and alacrity with which Pakistani authorities deny that the militant Islamic State group has an ‘organised’ presence in the country is matched perhaps only by evidence of an IS footprint in the country. On Thursday, the Foreign Office spokesperson once again denied that evidence of an IS presence in the country, or at least sympathy for IS, is of any significance.

The incident in which a version of the IS flag was confiscated by the police from the outskirts of Islamabad following a civilian report is troubling because authorities were not only unaware the flag was on display but once their attention was brought to the matter, they have been unable to explain who is responsible for the act. Across the board, the security apparatus seems unwilling or unable to recognise the threat that IS may pose.

In Pakistan, the absence of an organised IS network like in the Middle East or that of the TTP can be misleading. A wave of attacks in Europe have demonstrated that a combination of sophisticated propaganda via the internet and the presence of disaffected individuals in society can have terrifying consequences. Pakistan’s vulnerability is also deeper: IS ideology can penetrate existing terror networks or their remnants and morph into a menacing new threat.

Instead of recognising that reality and developing a strategy to combat it, the state seems to be repeating many of the mistakes it made early on in the fight against the TTP and other anti-Pakistan militant groups.

Then too there was a belief a soft approach to militancy or so-called peace deals would prevent the problem from growing out of control. But it did grow out of control, to the point that the state has had to launch the largest internal security operations in its history to fight militancy and terrorism.

Troubling too is the glib manner in which counterterrorism operations are reported by the police.

In yet another incident where individuals who are mysteriously eliminated in police ‘encounters’ are later labelled as members of all manner of terrorist groups, the Karachi police on Thursday killed five individuals, one of whom was identified as a member of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. The individuals were, according to the police, planning to carry out attacks on Muharram processions. While Al Qaeda does have a sectarian strain in its militant ideology, more details are needed about the victims and their alleged militant affiliations before firm conclusions can be drawn.

What is striking about the police claims is that a hotchpotch of militants was found together — and a typically large number of attacks have been attributed to them. While the incident will soon be forgotten, the broader pattern is clear: the state seems to be lurching from incident to incident without a clear idea of the nature or scale of the threat it faces. https://www.dawn.com/news/1360857/denial-of-is-footprint

October 1, 2017   No Comments

Woman held after encounter in Lahore went to Syria for training

by MOHAMMAD HUSSAIN KHAN | IMRAN GABOL in Dawn, April 17th, 2017
LAHORE/HYDERA­BAD: A medical student from Hyderabad who was arrested after her husband was killed in an encounter in Lahore on Friday night had visited Syria after leaving her home in February to join the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

According to sources, Naureen Leghari, a student of the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, who is being interrogated by law enforcement agencies, came to Lahore about three weeks ago and was being tracked by security personnel. She had also received training in Syria for using weapons, the sources said.

She had reportedly been contacted by militants through social media.

Ali Tariq of Bedian Road, Lahore, whom she had married after leaving her home and joining the militants, was killed in the encounter in the Punjab Housing Society. Four security personnel were injured during the shootout.

Security personnel found her college card and her father’s computerised national identity card from their hideout and reportedly contacted her family in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, Sindh police contacted their counterparts in Punjab on Sunday to confirm the detained woman’s identity.

She was being interrogated about the modus operandi of the militant network and other people associated with it, the sources said.

Talking to Dawn, Sindh police chief A.D. Khowaja said: “We are in touch with Punjab police to get an official word from them and then we will share facts with the media. I have just spoken to Hyderabad range DIG Khadim Rind in this regard.

“We had been suspecting that Naureen Leghari had been radicalised by some elements.”

According to sources, the Senior Superintendent of Police, Hyderabad, Irfan Baloch, also spoke to officials of the Counter-Terrorism Department in Lahore, “but nothing was confirmed to him officially by CTD officials since the ISPR is involved in the matter”.

Lahore police also arrested Hafeez, the owner of the house where the encounter took place, and a property dealer, Ayub, and were conducting raids to arrest Azeem, a facilitator of the militants who is said to be a leader of the IS. The law enforcement agencies had announced Rs1million head money for his arrest.

The woman’s father Dr Jabbar Leghari had lodged a report with Hussainabad police in Hyderabad that she had been kidnapped.

Hyderabad police investigation reportedly showed that she might have joined a banned group and travelled to Lahore by bus. They also arrested a rickshaw driver who had dropped her at a bus station.

The law enforcement agencies have arrested four people suspected of being linked with the IS network in the city.

The CTD registered a case against the three arrested militants on charges including terrorism, murder and attempted murder.

In Hyderabad, the family of Naureen were reluctant to share any information with the media.

Her father, who is a teacher at the Sindh University, had switched off his cell phone.

However, his son Afzal Leghari spoke to reporters and said that neither Punjab nor Hyderabad police had confirmed anything to the family regarding Naureen’s arrest.

“Although nothing is confirmed, my father says she may be Naureen. He is travelling and is only talking to us intermittently. He has switched off his cell phone because of frequent calls from inquisitive journalists,” Afzal told Dawn.

The woman’s father had claimed at a press conference that she had been kidnapped on Feb 10 when she left for the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, and “is being kept somewhere in Hyderabad”. He also led a protest demonstration along with Sindh University teachers’ representatives.

Police had reportedly told the family that she had travelled to Lahore by bus from Latifabad and showed them her ticket booked by phone.

The Sindh University Teachers Association’s general secretary Arfana Mallah said she had spoken to Jabbar Leghari after the news about the arrest broke on Saturday but he was unaware of the development at that time.https://www.dawn.com/news/1327453/woman-held-after-encounter-in-lahore-went-to-syria-for-training

Huge cache of arms recovered in Orakzai, Parachinar : report in The News, Apr 17, 2017
PARACHINAR: Security forces on Sunday recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition during a search operation in Kurram and Orakzai tribal agencies.

The sources said the security forces launched a search operation in the border villages in Kurram Agency and seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition. The forces also destroyed the bunkers that were being used by militants.

In Orakzai Agency, the forces recovered arms from the hideouts of a militant Aslam Farooqi in Gowak area. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the recovered arms and ammunition include rockets, prepared improvised explosive devices (IEDs), grenades, mortar bombs, different types of weapons and communication equipment.

The operations were launched on credible intelligence and a centre of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), established in underground tunnels in Kalaya, Orakzai Agency, was destroyed during the offensive.

The ISPR said the recovery of such a huge cache is indicative of planning for a major terrorist attack, which has been averted. The operation was carried out as part on the ongoing Raddul Fasaad offensive against the militants.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/199092-Huge-cache-of-arms-recovered-in-Orakzai-Parachinar

Noreen not a terrorist, she was kidnapped: Father
report in The Nation, Apr 17, 2017

LAHORE – “My daughter is not a militant, she was kidnapped a few months ago,” said father of Noreen who was arrested in Lahore on Friday night.

In an interview with BBC on Sunday, Dr Abdul Jabbar Leghari, who is serving in the Sindh University as a teacher, said he did not know what had happened in Lahore. To a question about Noreen, Jabbar said he was unaware of anything about her after she went missing.

Noreen’s father had not been informed about recovery of his daughter through an authentic government source till Sunday’s noon.

SSP Hyderabad Irfan Baloch said on Saturday night that he did not know the girl held in Lahore was actually Noreen. After getting an FIR registered, Jabbar told BBC that her daughter was kidnapped. In this connection Jabbar had also held a press conference in Hyderabad Press Club. He said her daughter had no contacts with anyone.

The suspect’s father Jabbar Leghari said that Noreen had left home for university to attend morning classes on February 10 and had been missing since then. Rejecting the claims of Hyderabad police and other LEAs, Professor Laghari said his daughter’s views were not so ‘radical’ that she could leave home and join a militant organisation.

Noreen’s brother Afzal Leghari said if the girl held in Lahore was Noreen, then she might have been kidnapped by a terrorist organisation. http://nation.com.pk/national/17-Apr-2017/noreen-not-a-terrorist-she-was-kidnapped-father

April 17, 2017   No Comments

A Path to ISIS, Through a Porous Turkish Border: by Tim Arango & Eric Schmitt

By TIM ARANGO and ERIC SCHMITT in The NY Times, Mar 10, 2015
GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Under pressure from its allies in the West, Turkey has made it harder for would-be jihadists to slip across the border and join the ranks of the Islamic State group at its base in northern Syria.
But it has been unable — or unwilling — to halt the flow as the group, also called ISIS or ISIL, continues to replenish forces depleted in battle.
Smugglers from border villages who have long earned a living ferrying pistachios, sugar, cigarettes and fuel across the border say they are compelled by the Islamic State to traffic in jihadists, under the threat of death or the end of their livelihoods. Sometimes they receive a late-night phone call from an ISIS commander inside Syria directing them to receive a recruit at a luxury hotel in this city to escort across the border.
“Things have become more difficult because Turkey has stricter procedures on the border,” one smuggler who gave only his first name, Mustafa, said in an interview at a cafe in Kilis, a border town.
Even so, he said, he always finds a way, and sometimes the Turkish border guards in his village, who know him, look the other way.
The increased pressure means the frenetic days of 2012 are over. Foreign jihadists, with long beards and trademark fanny packs who once filled the cafes and streets in border towns, now slip quietly through Turkey, trying to attract little attention. Military supply shops, which once openly sold black headbands printed with Islamist slogans, body armor and, sometimes, weapons to foreigners on their way to Syria, have taken their business into back rooms.
So far nearly 20,000 foreigners, including about 3,400 Westerners, have joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington. The majority of them have traveled through Turkey, underscoring, Western officials said, both the difficulty of patrolling a porous border and a degree of ambivalence among Turkish officials who do not see the Islamic State as a primary enemy.
Though Turkey has taken some recent measures to crack down on the flow of jihadists, none of these efforts are enough for Turkey’s Western allies, especially those in Europe who, in the wake of the January attack on the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, are increasingly worried about the return of militants to launch attacks.
The issue has highlighted the widening gulf between Turkey and its Western allies, who have frequently questioned why Turkey, a NATO member with a large military and well-regarded intelligence service, is not doing more to address the jihadist threat.
In recent testimony in Washington before Congress, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, was asked if he was optimistic that Turkey would do more in the fight against the Islamic State.
“No, I’m not,” Mr. Clapper said in an unusually blunt public criticism. “I think Turkey has other priorities and other interests.”
Mr. Clapper cited public opinion polls in Turkey that show Turks do not see the Islamic State as a primary threat. For instance, the Turks, he said, are more concerned with opposing Kurdish autonomy within Syria than in fighting the Islamic State.
The consequence of Turkey’s stance, he said, is the continued “permissive environment” in the border region that still allows the movement of jihadists back and forth across the border.
Turkey insists it is doing what it can. At Turkey’s airports, train stations and bus depots, undercover security agents search for travelers on one-way tickets and secretly scrutinize passengers with long beards and other indicators that suggest they might be jihadists. But officials say that Islamist recruits are increasingly trying to blend in as tourists — shaving and wearing jeans and T-shirts.
Turkish officials also say they are limited by restraints on intelligence sharing from Western countries, which they say has improved but remains inadequate. They say they have compiled, with the help of foreign intelligence agencies, about 10,000 names on a no-entry list, or about half the number of foreigners believed to have joined the Islamic State.
Turkish officials bristle at the criticism from the West and say that, especially among European countries, the focus on the problem came only after the Charlie Hebdo attack and after Hayat Boumeddiene, the wife of one of the Paris attackers, was able to slip in to Syria from Turkey. But Turkish officials also say that Europeans should try to fix the problem at its root, stopping the demonization of Islam in Europe, which they say contributes to radicalization in the first place.
A senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official, responsible for intelligence on foreign fighters, said: “I am not trying to put the blame on others here. Everyone is responsible and this is not about a blame game, but those who accuse Turkey of not doing anything should ask what exactly they have done to prevent these people from traveling so freely, or to get radicalized in the first place.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss intelligence matters.
Another Turkish official involved in intelligence matters, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the nature of his work, said of the Europeans, “Ultimately they end up exporting jihadists to Turkey and then make it appear like this is Turkey’s problem.”
In the border area, the official involved in intelligence matters acknowledged, “there are many smuggling routes and it’s not possible to block them all.”
In the first years of the Syrian civil war, now approaching its fifth year, jihadists moved easily across the border, often with the help of Turkish agents acting on behalf of a government eager to enable the downfall of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey’s belief that Mr. Assad would fall quickly never materialized, and even as jihadists have come to dominate the battlefields, Turkey still sees Mr. Assad as its primary enemy. At the same time, analysts and officials said, Turkey is increasingly worried that should it take a tougher stance on the Islamic State there could be retaliation inside Turkey, in the form of attacks by ISIS cells known to operate within the country.
Turkey has long pushed for a buffer zone in northern Syria. This area, say the Turks, would allow a safe space for refugees and an opposition government to set roots on Syrian soil, and for moderate rebels — who could fight both the Assad government and ISIS — to train. The United States has so far been opposed to this, saying it would entail a significant expansion of the military operation, including establishing a no-fly zone.
But as worries increase over the threat posed by foreign jihadists, the idea could be revived, some analysts and officials said.
“The buffer zone is the only solution for the crisis of the refugees and the crisis of the extremists and foreign fighters in Syria,” said Col. Ziad Obeid, a commander in the Free Syrian Army who is based near the Syrian border in southern Turkey and has been involved in discussions with the Turks about a buffer zone.
As the wars in Syria and Iraq rage on, and the international coalition struggles for an effective strategy, there is a deepening sense among Western officials that they will have to accept a limited role from Turkey.
“We have a complicated ongoing discussion with the Turks, all of the Turkish government elements, about the specific ways in which Turkey can contribute to the coalition,” Mr. Rasmussen, the terrorism official, said in recent congressional testimony. “It is truly a mixed story.”
In the border region, smugglers say they have no choice but to continue ferrying foreigners to Syria to join the Islamic State. Despite Turkish efforts to shut down border gates that once allowed refugees and militants to cross freely to and from Syria, Turkish smugglers are still often found approaching people near border crossings to offer their services.
Mustafa, the smuggler, estimated that in recent years he has helped about 200 foreigners get across the border to fight. In the beginning, he said, he did so willingly and mostly for Jabhet al-Nusra, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda-and from which ISIS, a more brutal outfit, broke away.
Then, he was happy to help Nusra. “They were the real jihadis,” he said. “They were fighting Assad. ISIS is killing everyone, even the Sunnis.”
Tim Arango reported from Gaziantep, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Karam Shoumali contributed reporting from Gaziantep, and Ceylan Yeginsu and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul. www.nytimes.com/2015/03/10/world/europe/despite-crackdown-path-to-join-isis-often-winds-through-porous-turkish-border.html?ref=world

March 10, 2015   No Comments

The raise of ISIS in Afghanistan is a tactical adjustment of Pakistan’s Afghan policy

By AHMAD HASIB FARHAN in The Khaama Press, Feb 22 2015, 8:15 pm
The writer is an Afghan analyst and commentator on political and socio-economic affairs in Afghanistan.
A group loyal to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Daesh, the most extreme and ferocious among all the terrorist groups announced its organizational structure in Afghanistan and named its outfit for the region as the Al-Khorasan. On January 18, an Afghan Security official confirmed ISIS existence in the country. Lieutenant-General Murad Ali Murad, commander of Afghan army’s ground forces, told Al Jazeera that “elements under the ISIL flag” have been trying recruit fighters in Afghanistan. Few other Afghan government officials also confirmed that a group of militants is active in the south, recruiting fighters, flying black flags and, according to some sources, even battling Taliban militants.
Is everyone with a black flag operates for ISIS?
Any reports about the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan should be treated with some caution; it is unreasonable to believe that everyone with a black flag operates for ISIS. It will not be an easy mission for ISIS to spread its wings to Afghanistan, more than 1,000 miles from their home territory in Syria and Iraq.
First, Afghanistan is not an oil rich country like Iraq that could encourage or offer opportunities for ISIS. The oil money of Iraq has dramatically enriched ISIS and serves as the main source of income for the terrorist group.
Second, the people of Afghanistan won’t tolerate domination by any means from non-Afghans, even from other Muslim countries. Afghanistan has a long history of uprising and impeding rebellions against foreign occupation. The country has been invaded many times in recorded history. Some of these invaders in the history of Afghanistan include Indians, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Timur, the Mughal Empire, various Persian Empires, the British Empire, Sikh Empire, the Soviet Union, and currently the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. However, no foreign power has ever subjugated Afghanistan, even temporarily. The country has been thoroughly debunked, yet it refuses to die.
ISIS certainly have a sharp memory to recall the Afghan history. It will be an irrevocable mistake for ISIS to attempt occupying Afghanistan.
Third, ISIS cannot get any cooperation from Afghan Taliban because of the visible evil of their actions on one side, and their different visions on an Islamic state on other side. ISIS chief Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi considers Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar a fool and illiterate warlord. Al-Baghdadi believes that Mullah Omar does not deserve a spiritual or political credibility. Such kind of rivalry of ideas and beliefs between these two terrorist groups limits the scope of operation for ISIS in Afghanistan.
So who are these militants with the black flags in southern Afghanistan?
Over that past three decades, Afghanistan remained the battle ground for the proxy wars of its neighbors, particularly Pakistan. Pakistan has been changing its proxies systematically to reach its antagonistic aims in Afghanistan. Though, Pakistan is signaling a change in its policy on Afghanistan, yet Pakistan’s strategic objectives in Afghanistan remain largely unchanged. The new group with black flags that claimed to be ISIS are the old pawns of Pakistan under ISIS name and flag. Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, who claimed to be the commander of the so called ISIS group was a former Taliban commander and a faithful to ISI who spent couple of years in Guantanamo prison. Mullah Khadim who proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State, was killed in a military operation in Helmand Province recently. The militants who sworn alliance to Mullah Khadim and ISIS are the students of madrassas run by Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI.
Pakistan has realized that the prospect of a Taliban military victory is neither realistic nor desirable in presence circumstance of Afghanistan, moreover the Taliban are now turning to China to reach a peace deal with the Afghan government. Therefore, Pakistan needs new proxies to replace Taliban and continue its covert war in Afghanistan. This is the same tactic that Pakistan used in 1996 by supporting Taliban against the Afghan Mujahidin who lost their reputation and foundation in the Afghan society because of their active involvement in the bloody civil war.
The Afghan government must not rely too much on Pakistan. The raise of ISIS in Afghanistan is not more than a tactical adjustment of Pakistan’s policy regarding Afghanistan in response to international pressure and Afghan government demands to end support for Taliban.http://www.khaama.com/the-raise-of-isis-in-afghanistan-is-a-tactical-adjustment-of-pakistans-afghan-policy-9949

February 23, 2015   No Comments

Terror proliferation: edit in Daily Times Jan 9, 2014

The attack by at least three gunmen on the offices of a French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday that killed 12 people and left scores injured has brought home with a vengeance to France and the world the predicted blowback from the civil wars in Syria and Iraq. Amidst persistent reports over time that young men (and even women) were being recruited for these wars on the side of Islamist extremist groups, the intelligence agencies of a number of European and other countries have been warning that these recruits could pose a terrorist threat to their home countries when they return. Given that the videos available of the Paris attack show the men had military training, that warning seems to have come true. This is the worst terrorist attack in France in living memory. Two brothers have been named as suspects. Cherif and Said Kouechi have been reportedly spotted at a motorway service station north of Paris. A massive manhunt has been mounted amidst a high security alert throughout the country. On Thursday early morning, another attack was reported in Paris that killed a policewoman and wounded a sanitary worker, but French authorities were cautious about linking the two incidents on two successive days. No claim of responsibility has come forward so far, so it is difficult to pin down which of the plethora of extremist jihadi groups that dot the Middle East and further abroad was behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Condemnation has come thick and fast from virtually the entire world, notable amongst which are Saudi Arabia and Al Azhar University in Cairo. Journalists and wide swathes of opinion in France and all over the world have reignited the debate about freedom of expression after the attack on the magazine. In one corner of this debate are the upholders of the freedom of unfettered expression, whose renewed defiance of the terrorists’ intolerance and violence is imbedded in the deeply held values of a democratic state and society. In the other corner are the fanatics who regard any caricature, cartoon or satire on Islam or its Prophet (PBUH) nothing short of insult and blasphemy, for which they do not shrink from killing the offender. In between these polarised positions are those who support freedom of expression, but do not agree it should be unfettered by any sense of responsibility. In 2006, when the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of the Prophet (PBUH), it sparked off riots in the Middle East that killed 50 people. Charlie Hebdo, in trying to drive home its point about freedom of expression, reproduced those cartoons, opening itself to attacks and threats from jihadi terrorists over the years. Police protection for the magazine proved inadequate in the face of a determined assault by attackers clearly well trained for their mission. Charlie Hebdo, other papers and journals and particularly cartoonists in Europe and the rest of the world defiantly showed their solidarity with the magazine and vowed to protect their freedoms from all such attempts at silencing them. That posture suggests we should brace ourselves for further such attacks on publications that fall foul of the jihadi terrorists.

Pakistan is still reeling from the attack and massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar on December 16. While the country is wrestling with the challenge thrown down by the terrorists on our soil, we cannot remain unmoved at the fate of fellow journalists in Paris, whether we fully agree with their position on freedom of expression irrespective of its consequences or not. After all, Pakistan is widely labelled the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. The statistics of media workers killed over the years in the country bear out the integrity of that description. Both the Peshawar and Paris attacks show the world is not yet sufficiently prepared to face what can only be described as spreading terror proliferation. A quick glance at the news every day would be enough to convince even the most uninformed of this growing menace worldwide. Logically then, Pakistan and the world need to come together to face this menace together and crush it out of existence. That task requires not only military and security means, but perhaps even more importantly in the long run, the credible and persuasive counter-narrative that can wean away actual or potential recruits to the terrorist cause. Muslims in particular need to revisit the Prophet’s (PBUH) response/example in the face of insult and provocation to understand that those who wield the language of weapons actually lack a convincing argument and those who choose to combat them with the weapon of language will win out in the end.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/09-Jan-2015/terror-proliferation

January 9, 2015   No Comments

The Paris attack: edit in The News, Jan 9, 2015

The attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by masked gunmen, which left 12 people dead, is both shocking and expected. The magazine had previously been a target of a firebombing after it published sacrilegious cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); there is a history of extremists going after those believed responsible for such acts. The Paris killings, the worst terrorist attack carried out in France in more than 50 years, are still shocking for how brazen and brutal they were. The police have released sketches of the suspects and there was a shootout in a Parisian suburb as the manhunt intensifies. Needless to say, the killers should be apprehended and served justice for they are responsible not only for the immediate deaths but for creating a chilling atmosphere throughout the world where even serious and objective journalists will have to think twice before tackling certain subjects. To that extent, the Charlie Hebdo attack is about freedom of speech, but the debate it inevitably engenders will need to move beyond black and white. Freedom of speech, association and expression is curtailed everywhere in the world and France has been a particularly bad offender, especially with its burka ban. The whole point of freedom is to ensure the vulnerable are protected but France has coddled the majority while alienating the minority. This, along with the provocative exercise of speech by publications like Charlie Hebdo, serve to radicalise a fraction of that minority. Yet it is the entire minority community, in this case Muslims, who are trapped between these extremes and made to suffer a form of collective punishment.
At a time when most of Charlie Hebdo’s staff has been slain it seems churlish to question its editorial agenda but it is undeniable that the magazine preyed on the most xenophobic fears of the white French majority. Satire should seek to afflict the powerful, not stereotype the downtrodden. Muslims in France are often accused of not assimilating but that may be because they have been made to feel so unwelcome. The popularity of the quasi-fascistic Front National, now the third largest party in the country, speaks to the demonisation of Muslims. Now, after the attack, the likes of Front National leader Marie Le Pen will only get more grist for her anti-Muslim material and we can expect further Islamophobia, not just in France but throughout Europe. Already officials have reported attacks on mosques in France, including one bomb blast. From the UKIP in Britain to the Sweden Democrats in Sweden, anti-Muslim parties have been gaining legislative strength and such attacks only empower them. Rather than blaming the attacks on the perpetrators and the sliver of the Muslim population that is in ideological sympathy with them the entire community is blamed. Charlie Hebdo should rise again because no one wants the media, no matter how irresponsible, to be silenced. But those who have been stoking the flames of anti-Muslim hatred should look at the attack not as vindication but as a moment of reflection. http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=294944&Cat=8&dt=1/9/2015

January 9, 2015   No Comments

Paris attack : edit in Dawn,Jan 9, 2015

MUCH of the world is reacting in shock and grief over the massacre at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday.Nevertheless, regrettably enough, some are still trying to contextualise the attack by bringing in the larger issue of provocation in matters of faith, extremist Islamists’ demonstrated tendency to resort to violence in such situations, and the marginalisation from the mainstream that Muslims in many countries feel despite being perfectly law-abiding.Of these people, there is a simple question to be asked: in choosing to adopt such an abhorrent method of voicing their disapproval of the publication’s editorial choices, did the perpetrators of the attack do their religion and its 1.6 billion adherents any sort of positive service? Or have their actions poured yet more fuel on the fires of prejudice and fear that are lighting up in many parts of the West regarding the inherent ‘otherness’ of Muslims?In the minds of those who are neither Muslim nor immigrants from Muslim countries, did the three gunmen’s decisions do anything to further the fact that the ones responsible are merely a minority of violent extremists, and not the overwhelmingly peaceful majority or the system of belief itself? Obviously, the answer is no.

Once again, Islam and Muslims are in the spotlight, and once again, it is for all the wrong reasons.That strong denunciations are coming from Muslim sources too is exactly as it should be. It is fitting that the Al-Azhar University in Cairo called the attack “criminal” and reiterated that Islam denounces “any violence”, while the Arab League has also condemned the massacre, echoing Pope Francis who called it “abominable”.But much more needs to be said and done, particularly given the deep divisions that are springing up between Muslims and non-Muslims in the West.This latest in a string of atrocities, the perpetrators of which claim refuge in religion, was certainly not the will of the majority, and neither does it reflect their mindset.A large number of commentators and ordinary people across the world are clear enough thinkers to refrain from the temptation — led by fear — of tarring all with the same detestable brush.Nevertheless, amongst many others, there is unease; there is a growing lack of understanding of the way the religion is being misused and misquoted by fringe extremist elements.If further evidence were needed, attention only has to be paid to what is happening in Germany, where thousands have participated in anti-immigrant demonstrations. This is the reality that Muslim societies and countries need to recognise, and counter.The push back can only come from what is within their own purview: inculcating tolerance, clamping down on extremist tendencies, and controlling violence in their own societies, thus giving the signal that assaults such as that in Paris are universally, utterly, indefensible.http://www.dawn.com/news/1155755/paris-attack

January 9, 2015   No Comments

Taliban spokesman’s social media account closed down: by Amir Mir in The News, Jan 9, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The US-based LinkedIn management has taken down the account of the TTP Jamaatul Ahraar (TTP-JA) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan after he was found using the international social networking website to propagate his extremist jehadi agenda.
Headquartered in California, the LinkedIn allows registered members to establish and document networks of people they know and trust professionally.Ehsanullah Ehsan, who used to be the central spokesman for the Fazlullah-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, had listed his skills [while registering himself with LinkedIn] as “jehad and journalism”. A LinkedIn spokesman has already confirmed that the company’s security team had taken down the account and it was no longer in operation.
LinkedIn network members are called “connections.” And before his account was taken down, Ehsanullah Ehsan had 69 connections on LinkedIn, indicating a sizable network.
Interestingly, Ehsanullah, who is wanted for the October 2012 failed assassination bid on Malala Yousafzai, did not hide his jehadi links and clearly introduced himself on LinkedIn as spokesman for the Jamaatul Ahraar, which is a splinter group of the TTP led by Commander Omar Khalid Khurasani who had claimed responsibility last year for beheading 23 jawans of the Frontier Corps. The Pakistan government had placed a million dollar bounty on Ehsanullah Ehsan’s head after he had claimed responsibility for the murder attempt on Malala.
Ehsanullah said that after the failed attempt on the young girl from Swat: “Malala was pro-West. She was speaking against Taliban and promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas.”
As per his employment history, Ehsan has been a spokesman for the Taliban since 2010. A LinkedIn member’s profile page, which emphasizes employment history as well as education, has professional network news feeds and a limited number of customizable modules. Listing his skills as jehad and journalism, Ehsanullah had provided details of his school, employment history and language skills.
He had described Jamaatul Ahrar as his current employer. While setting up his LinkedIn account, Ehsanullah did not hesitate to incorporate his picture.
Ehsanullah is currently affiliated with the most lethal splinter group of the Taliban led by an equally ruthless commander, Omar Khalid Khurasani who maintains close ties to al-Qaeda and is believed to have given sanctuary to Dr Ayman Zawahiri in the past.
Abdul Wali Khan alias Khurasani, a former journalist from the Mohmand Agency, had slaughtered 23 FC personnel in February 2014 while the government was holding peace talks with the TTP. His group was formed in August 2014 which instantly announced its support to the Islamic State (IS) led by Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi on September 4, 2014. “The Islamic State is working for the implementation of Islamic system and creation of the caliphate and we respect them. They are our Mujahideen brothers. If they ask us for help, we will look into it”, so said Ehsanullah Ehsan, a resident of Mohmand Agency whose actual name is Sajjad Mohmand. http://www.thenews.com.pk/PrintEdition.aspx?ID=294999&Cat=2&dt=1/9/2015

January 9, 2015   No Comments

ISIS: no threat to Pakistan:  by Mohammad Jamil    in Daily Times,  November 19, 2014

The writer is a freelance columnist

In the first week of November 2014, MQM chief Altaf Hussain in an address referred to wall chalkings and the hoisting of a few flags in southern Punjab. He also expressed serious concerns over the growing threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Pakistan. Some analysts also view ISIS’s presence as a major threat to Pakistan, Afghanistan and the region at large. The Balochistan government, quoting intelligence sources, has made a similar statement. However, in reply to a question about ISIS’s presence in Pakistan during an interview the other day, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG), Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said, “There could be isolated cases where they are trying to show their presence or to become relevant, but I do not see this growing into a major threat.” The terrorists of ISIS may have some individuals helping them in Pakistan but they are not a major cause of concern, he added.

It is true that thousands of militants from Europe and dozens of other countries have flocked to Iraq and Syria, which is the main battleground for ISIS. However, ISIS militants’ actions are confined to Iraq and Syria and there is not even a remote possibility that ISIS can make inroads into Pakistan. Countries in the region such as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are staying vigilant and will not allow them to enter by air or land. ISIS can use some Taliban elements or members of other groups but they are already on the run due to the ongoing military operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency. In this backdrop, there is no cause for alarm or threat from ISIS in Pakistan, as Pakistan’s armed forces have the capacity and capability to fight the militants, something they have proved during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The hoisting of a few flags and the distribution of pamphlets by some ISIS sympathisers does not pose any palpable threat.

Of course, the MQM is concerned over the presence of the Taliban and other militants, who have challenged the monopoly of the party that ruled the roost in Karachi during the last three decades. After the 2009 military operation in Swat, disguised as internally displaced persons (IDPs), militants from Swat, South Waziristan, Mohmand Agency, Bajaur, Dir and elsewhere began taking refuge in Karachi. At first, they did their best to blend in with other militants who fled to Karachi. They shaved their beards, cut their trademark long hair and worked in the city as petty labourers. Thus disguised, they waited for the right time to establish and reinforce their networks in the city. Earlier, small cells of various Taliban groups existed in the city but their job was primarily to raise funds for their parent groups, largely through bank robberies.

The Pakistani military and its agencies seem to be aware of the level of the threat of ISIS in the Middle East and elsewhere, and have also taken notice of the distribution of ISIS pamphlets that bear the logo of the kalima (Muslim profession of faith), the historical stamp of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and a Kalashnikov rifle. On August 4, 2014, in a post on its Twitter feed, the Pakistan army’s spokesman, Major General Bajwa stated, “Pakistan army soldiers have neither been sent to Saudi Arabia nor deployed on Saudi Arabia’s borders with Iraq to fight Islamic State (IS).” This means that the Pakistani military understands the repercussions of sending troops to act as a mercenary army. It is worth mentioning that an ISIS delegation reportedly met the Taliban’s second-tier leadership to seek their allegiance after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi pronounced a caliphate. Since they have already taken an oath of allegiance to Mullah Umar, how can there be two amirs (leaders) or caliphs?

It is also well known that, in August 2014, ISIS distributed pamphlets in Peshawar and the border provinces of Afghanistan. The booklet, titled Fatah (victory), published in Pashto and Dari was distributed in Peshawar as well as in Afghan refugee camps on the outskirts of the city. A number of splinter groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan announced their support for the ISIS. Among them, Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and Maulvi Abdul Qahar, operating in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, announced their support for the self-styled caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid and six other TTP commanders joined ISIS recently. But ISIS cannot help them in Pakistan or Afghanistan, as their area of influence is in Iraq, Syria and their neighbourhood where they have started losing ground after making initial gains.

A representative of Hizbut Tahrir (HT) in Pakistan vowed to support ISIS but HT is no more than a constellation of minor groups with a fantasy about a caliphate, held together by affiliation to the global jihad. However, the little known Tehreek-e-Khilafat Pakistan declared its allegiance to the pseudo-caliph. According to the Daily Telegraph, the Tehreek-e-Khilafat is considered part of the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella movement linked to al Qaeda, containing dozens of terrorist groups, racketeers and sectarian outfits. On the other hand, many Muslim extremist groups and militants from the world over condemned Baghdadi’s proclamation. Baghdadi’s hatred and violent behaviour are against the very essence and teachings of the Quran and sunnah. He is, therefore, not worthy of the title of caliph and must be denounced assertively. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/19-Nov-2014/isis-no-threat-to-pakistan

November 19, 2014   No Comments