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Category — southern Punjab

The police and the Rangers: Part – II:

by Dr Naazir Mahmood in The News, Oct 21, 2017
The writer holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad.
When my article with the above caption appeared on this page on Oct 7, the response from the police, the Rangers, and the readers was overwhelming. The police wrote to me appreciating the contents and the tone of the article, which they found accurate and objective.

The Rangers were happy at the positive light shed on the police but they did not like the unflattering recount about the episode in Islamabad when the federal interior minister was stopped by the Rangers personnel. The readers sent me emails with a mixed response.

With this background, it is important to set the record straight. The purpose of the article was not to praise the police at the cost of the Rangers, nor was there any intention to downplay the role the Rangers have played in restoring order, to some extent, in Karachi. The efforts made by our security forces – under civilian and military commands – are commendable. The sacrifices that the armed forces, the police, and the Rangers make can never be paid back by the nation. And, despite incidents of corruption, our men and women in uniform have done tremendous services for the country.

In the article, the enumeration of the problems the police face was meant to highlight the pathetic condition in which the police operate. Some of the readers have complained that the article was too soft on the police and failed to highlight the rampant corruption the police indulge in: the traffic police that extracts money from the public at every nook and corner has been a major concern. The problems people face while trying to register an FIR was another. The real or perceived support the police provide to criminals was the third. The list of grievances the public has against the police is long.

One reader opined that the police cannot expect any respect from the public unless they start treating the people, especially the victims of crimes, with respect. Fair enough. But the police itself force comes from society and is treated by the feudal lords and politicians as their servants. Moreover, as mentioned in the previous article, even our military and paramilitary forces browbeat police personnel with impunity. The resultant anger and frustration in the police further aggravates the situation. They don’t have a CMH or an APS for their families.

This is not to justify police excesses or give them an excuse to misbehave with the public. The police should be held responsible for their misdeeds but this accountability should not be a must for the police alone. Our military and paramilitary officers should also be held answerable if they cross boundaries. One can cite dozens of examples in which the police high command was dismissed, handcuffed, sentenced, or suspended for something they did or didn’t commit. One can hardly recall any incident in which the same can be said about our military and paramilitary forces.

In an email to this writer, a deputy superintendent of the Rangers (DSR) in Karachi, Javed Ahmed, has highlighted ‘the perspective of the Rangers which is not visible to [the] common people of Pakistan’. He clarifies that ‘the Rangers is a civil armed force commanded by army officers’. According to him, this is ‘due to the [fact that] army officers things runs (sic) in [an] organized and proper way as compare (sic) to [the] police’. He also mentioned some points ‘regarding pay and packages’, such as the fact that the Rangers have established hospitals, schools, colleges, and hostels for their children; set up ‘cook houses for its troops’ but the police don’t do it ‘because [they] come for 8 to 10 hours duty and go back home’.

The DSR further clarified that the ‘Rangers soldier cannot go to home because his native town is in Punjab, KP, Balochistan, Gilgit and Kashmir’. As per his email, ‘Rangers soldiers mostly live [a] bachelor life’ and ‘cannot accommodate family at [the] duty station due to shortage of married accommodation but police officials, being local, [look] after [their] family’.

This is precisely why it is not a good idea to deploy the Rangers for maintenance of public order in cities. It is neither fair to them nor to the police and the public. Requesting help from the paramilitary force once in a while may be acceptable and necessary. But keeping a large contingent of non-local forces in an urban area for decades is not a good idea. That’s why in the previous article it was stressed that the local police should be sufficiently equipped and trained so that our brethren from the Rangers do not have to do a duty that is not primarily theirs.

There is no denying the fact that the Rangers have contributed a lot towards the maintenance of law and order in Karachi. Their efforts must be praised and adequately rewarded but one has to also acknowledge the still simmering tensions in Karachi and perpetual street crimes that haunt the denizens of this megalopolis. It is unfair to expect from the Rangers duties that are in the police domain.

A longer presence of the Rangers in urban areas will be harmful to the force itself since long military rule in the country has done tremendous harm not only to the country but to the army too. (Concluded) https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/238673-The-police-and-the-Rangers-Part-II

October 22, 2017   No Comments

Punjab contests: by Dr Niaz Murtaza in Dawn, Oct 10th, 2017

The writer is a senior fellow with UC Berkeley and heads INSPIRING Pakistan, a progressive policy unit.
THE big battle is over: Punjab will rule Pakistan. But winning wasn’t easy. It took several armed forays over 70 years in Balochistan, urban and rural Sindh, and Fata to end revolts by irked minorities. Sans India, even ’71 would have been won at any cost to the locals. But even that loss produced profit as post-’71 demographic destiny slowly became democratic destiny. So, both ways, Punjab has won Pakistan.

But this isn’t the end of history. Societal tussles are mainly about class, ethnic, ideological and institutional sway. Ethnic and ideological ones are, for now, over: Punjab conservatism has won big. The issue now is: who exactly from the province will rule Pakistan. Punjab has now turned on itself as its elites fight bitterly for class and institutional sway. Not even all of Punjab is involved, but mainly its northern urban conservative elites: industrialists (PML) vs institutional (army, bureaucracy and judiciary), private (PTI) and jihadi middle classes. But stay calm. The war is non-violent.

The 2013 polls routed the centrist Sindhi PPP and made two Punjab conservative parties the key national foes. The dharna was the first salvo. The gloves again came off recently in this squabble. Panama gave easily what the dharna couldn’t: the head of the head of the industrialists. Whether Punjab middle-class groups contrived this is unclear, but the verdict was glaringly weak and fanned gossip and turmoil.

Some of those who lost from Punjab, ex-defenders of Pakistani ideology but floored by more potent others from there, are now talking about ’71 like minority leaders. Nawaz retook the party head post with legislation as iffy as the judicial verdict unseating him. In this war, there are no principles, just crude interests and tactics. Some want Imran barred too. They don’t trust his past: player, playboy, philanthropist and now politician.

Even the opposition head post may go from a centrist Sindhi to a Punjab conservative, now or in 2018. In fact, even the spoiler jihadi groups will now mainly be Punjab conservatives after the shock betrayal by Fata jihadi ex-allies. Milli (cynics call that short for military) is now into politics. The DG ISPR supports its move. Its flag vividly displays its aims. It’s a redo and negation of the national flag, with the green making deep inroads to sharply shrink the white minorities’ space. All these tactics have roiled Pakistani polity and economy. But the elites are too busy fighting to care. So politics is now mostly an all-Punjab conservative affair. It also runs KP politically, whose politics is with urbanites too. Once part of Punjab, KP is dominated by the two Punjab parties.

Despite taming others, can Punjab’s elites coexist given conservatism’s flawed DNA? It defeats enemies but soon gets divided and creates new ones from within given internal rifts. The main goal for both middle and upper class conservatives is economic. But industrial conservatives don’t need merit but allegedly thrive on fraud. The middle classes survive only on merit.

The middle class too is divided. Pindi institutional elites are driven by power and prefer conflict with alike regional foes. This irks economic conservatives, who want regional economic ties. To sway society, the Pindi boys employ jihadis, which fill it with hate and violence. But the patrons lack either the intellect to see this or the ethics to care. Even this alliance is shaky. The high zeal on faith of the clients irks patrons, whose opportunism on faith irks clients.

The battle now is about 2018. It will likely remain political as the Pindi boys can achieve their aims without taking over. Some among Punjab’s divided middle-class conservative groups may ally against the PML-N then. But Nawaz is still popular and major rigging too tough and risky now.

Some think Plan A may be to quietly fix enough swing seats to help the PTI win overall: so not match- but spot-fixing. Even if they win, the middle-class groups will soon start infighting. If the PML-N wins, there may be an impasse. But Nawaz and the Pindi boys will likely compromise eventually. After all, they’re all conservative and have learnt their lessons. So the fight will resemble that of early-morning irritating cats perched on a wall eyeball to eyeball, which growl, scowl and half-punch for long, but then back off seeing that small mice make easier prey. Civilian sway may go up a bit, if we’re lucky.

Meanwhile, minorities and masses, mere spectators here, can only watch with awe as the titans of Punjab clash and wait with bated breath to discover their own fate. But patriotism, faith, CPEC and end-to-sleaze, the competing conservative slogans, cannot truly solve their problems. https://www.dawn.com/news/1362846/punjab-contests

October 10, 2017   No Comments

Ex-military men holding top slots in Punjab: report

by Javed Iqbal in The Nation,Oct 7, 2017
LAHORE – Retired military men are enjoying high positions in the Punjab like chief secretary, senior member board of revenue, additional chief secretary (home) and IGP, all being in Grade-22.

Capt (r) Zahid Saeed was promoted to the top administrative slot of chief secretary after he had served as senior member board of revenue. Earlier, Capt (r) Naveed Akram Cheema also served as the Punjab CS. Later, he was appointed as Federal Public Service Commission chairman.

Capt (r) Javed Akbar is currently holding the top revenue slot of the BoR. The SMBR is the highest position in the matters like land records, acquisitions, allotments, revenue collection, mutations etc. He works as chief judge and the final review authority in the revenue matters.

ACS (home) is another sensitive and important slot in the law and order matters. He also deals with police, arms licences, jails, visas, schedule-4 criminals, imposition of Section 144, deployment of Rangers and many more. Currently, Maj (r) Azam Suleman is holding this office. This is for the first time in the history of the Punjab that an ACS (home) is a grade-22 officer. Previously, an officer in grade 20 or 21 was being posted as home secretary.

Capt (r) Arif Nawaz is holding top police office of inspector general. He was recently promoted to grade-22. Earlier, he was posted as IGP when he was in grade-21.

National Accountability Bureau Chairman Qamar Zaman and Anti-Corruption Establishment DG Muzaffar Ali Ranjah are also retired army officers.

Other officers holding important seats include Agriculture Secretary Capt (r) Muhammad Mehmood, Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Secretary Capt (r) Khuram Agha, Transport Secretary Capt (r) Naseem Nawaz, Irrigation Secretary Capt (r) Asadullah Khan, Gujranwala Commissioner Capt (r) Muhammad Asif, Planning & Development Secretary Fl-Lt (r) Iftikhar Sahoo, Environment Secretary Capt (r) Saif Anjum, Bahawalpur Commissioner Capt (r) Saqib Zafar, Punjab Land Records Authority Director General Capt (r) Zafar Iqbal and Punjab Food Authority DG Capt (r) Noor-ul-Amin Mengal. Moreover, former Lahore DCO Capt (r) Usman Younus and many more retired army officers were inducted in civil services and posted against important slots.http://nation.com.pk/newspaper-picks/07-Oct-2017/ex-military-men-holding-top-slots-in-punjab

October 7, 2017   No Comments

Pak Punjab Police see marginalisation in new draft law

by Intikhab Hanif in Dawn, September 20th, 2017
LAHORE: A new law replacing the Musharraf era Police Order 2002 prepared by the provincial home department for Punjab police has been rejected by the latter on the ground that it did not represent them, was an attempt to marginalise them and to hoodwink the high court hearing a petition on the issue.

The government officials in Civil Secretariat said on Tuesday there was no attempt to place police under civil bureaucracy. The draft act had been designed mainly to adapt the Police Order 2002 in its original shape in the light of decisions taken jointly by civil officers and police authorities at a meeting chaired by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan sometime ago.

The major changes in it are the deletion of so many clauses of the Police Order 2002 pertaining to the federal government functions and policing in Islamabad included in the law introduced by Musharraf as chief executive for the entire country.

“Since we are now making a provincial law, we are deleting everything that is not related to us,” a senior official said.

He said under the new law the IGP would continue to enjoy financial and administrative autonomy and the status of an ex-officio secretary of the provincial government.

“The draft has been sent to the chief minister for a formal approval of the intentions to introduce it. After this [approval] the draft would be vetted by the law department threadbare and sent to the cabinet for approval for submission to the assembly,” an official of the law department said.

A senior police official said his department would fight against the draft at all forums. “The law pertains to the police department but has been made by someone else which is strange and illegal. It is the prerogative of all government departments to make laws for themselves on their own,” he said.

Officials in the Civil Secretariat said the draft law was meant to re-establish and regulate the police as a service that could efficiently prevent and detect crime and maintain public order, protect and assist the people from disorder and offences, act in accordance with law and democratic aspirations of the people, and be accountable to the people.

Police officials said it was an attempt to hoodwink the high court and police. The Lahore High Court had asked for the creation of safety commissions. But the bureaucracy was making a new law that would bring police under their control, a senior police official said.

The Police Order 2002 was a perfect document. There was a mere need to implement it in toto particularly allowing the IGP to appoint RPOs and DPOs and freeing the police department from political or administrative interventions. “There was no need for any new law. We merely need independence from political interference,” he said.

A copy of the draft law obtained by Dawn says every general police will have the following branches: General executive, legal, telecommunication, transport, sergeant, forensic, constabulary, traffic, training and criminal record.

There is no mention of the CTD, Special Branch or other existing police departments.

It says the superintendence of police throughout general police area shall vest in the “government”. The power of superintendence shall be so exercised as to ensure that police performs its duties efficiently and strictly in accordance with law.

The draft law changes the nomenclature of the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) of Lahore to Chief Metropolitan Police Officer (CMPO). It says it is the government which will appoint the CMPO and all DPOs in consultation with the Provincial Police Officer (IGP) “provided that consultation with the PPO shall not be required in the case of appointment of the CMPO where the District of Lahore has been declared to be a separate general police area.”

Police officials say this would mean creating an independent police department in Lahore within the provincial police department. As to how Lahore could be taken out of the command of the provincial police chief, they argue.

The law does not mention the Regional Police Officers who act between the IGP and the DPOs as per the Police Order 2002 meaning thereby that the IGP would directly deal with the DPOs.

Police officials also declare it impractical.

The law also changes the nomenclature of the investigation police to detective officers and officials.https://www.dawn.com/news/1358808/police-see-marginalisation-in-new-draft-law

September 21, 2017   No Comments

AGP report: Punjab accounts show irregularities at Rs 36bn

By Rana Yasif in the Express Tribune, September 15, 2017
LAHORE: The Auditor General of Pakistan has unearthed irregularities totalling over Rs36.94 billion in the accounts of the Government of the Punjab during the financial year 2015-16.

The AGP report, available with The Express Tribune, points out Rs.20.64 billion worth of reported cases of fraud, embezzlement, and theft, misuse of public resources amounting to Rs.1.04 billion, losses due to the weaknesses of internal controls to the tune of Rs1.82 billion, recoveries and overpayments representing cases of established overpayments or misappropriations of public money of Rs4.11 billion, losses due to non-production of records valued at Rs7.81 billion, and other cases such as accidents and negligence amounting to Rs1.52 billion.

Other tabulations in the AGP report show unsound asset management causing losses of Rs414.21 million, weak financial management hitting the exchequer for Rs11.92 billion, weak internal control relating to financial management causing Rs23.5 billion in losses, and ‘others’ being responsible for Rs1.11 billion in losses.

The key audit findings of the report included misappropriation of funds amounting to Rs1.04 billion, noticed in nine cases, recoveries pointed out in various sections amounting to Rs3.12 billion, unauthorised payments of Rs547.05 million, noticed in four cases, non-production of record amounting to Rs7.811 billion, noticed in 10 cases, 13 cases of irregular expenditure and violation of rules amounting to Rs1.12 billion, lack of internal controls noticed in twelve cases amounting to Rs1.55 billion, five cases pertaining to nonproduction of assets amounting to Rs405.45million, and one case of non-adjustment of advances causing losses of Rs122.84 million.

The AGP reports also found disregard towards prescribed frameworks, inappropriate use of funds, poor record management, lack of transparency in procurements, and mismanagement of receipts in different departments of the Government of the Punjab.


The AGP’s report showed that during the audit of various formations of the agriculture department, records were not produced, nor was the vouched amount of Rs276.27 million provided for audit scrutiny.

Finance department

The AGP’s report showed that during the audit of the finance department for 2014-15, the auditable record of vouched accounts, financial statements, record related to commitment charges, sanctions authority letters and others amounting to Rs43.917 billion were not produced for audit. It also showed that during the audit for the year 2014-15, it was observed that the department provided loans to various companies at a uniform interest rate of 0.25 per cent per annum and repayment within five years along with a two-year grace period without executing any agreements between the government and the companies. The AGP was of the view that the grant of loans without executing agreements could result in complications in the payback of these loans.

Food Department

The AGP’s report showed that during the audit of the food department, it was observed that various contracts were awarded for the procurement of various items such as jute bags, PP bags and AP tablets amounting to Rs7.11 billion. The audit, however, did not find any proof that, at the time of evaluation of technical proposals, specifications of materials to be procured were tested by recognised government laboratories.


During the audit of the health department, it was observed that medical, surgical, and chemical items amounting to Rs2.02 billion were produced in violation of PPRA rules. The audit was of the view that weak supervisory and financial controls resulted in the stated two-plus billion rupees in irregular expenditure.

Higher education department

During the audit of the higher education department (HED), auditable records of Rs3.95 billion were not produced to audit and the AGP was of the view that due to non-production of these documents, it could not ascertain the authenticity of HED’s accounts.

The AGP report further disclosed that an amount of Rs3.996 billion was invested in different banks without fulfilling prevailing conditions. The audit was of the view that non-observance of rules and weak administrative controls resulted in unauthorised investments.

Home department

During the audit of the home department, the auditable record and the vouched account of the releases and payments amounting to Rs2.07 billion made to various organisations and personnel were not produced for scrutiny. The AGP was of the view that due to non-production of these records, audit could not ascertain the authenticity of the accounts.


September 15, 2017   No Comments

Police and power: Editorial in Dawn, December 31st, 2016

THE tussle for control over some crucial police functions in Punjab is at its height. On Thursday, police officers en masse dismissed the proposed Punjab Civil Administration Ordinance and, in a last-ditch effort to thwart the move, declared they were ready to fight it in a court of law. At the same time, a team of Punjab officials readied the bill for a nod by the cabinet the following day. The draft bill was critcised for generously granting the deputy commissioner and other district administrative officers the final word in matters related to law and order. This upset police officers who not only defended their right to take decisions in moments such as during a law and order emergency, but also spoke in favour of the elected local governments. Another major objection to the new law is that it will run contrary to the principles set in the Police Order 2002. Thursday’s desperate attempt by serving police officers was backed by a strong statement from a number of retired inspectors general of police. The IGs called on the chief minister — and his cabinet — to not approve a new law that they say will lead to conflict between a section of police and bureaucracy.

On Friday, the cabinet did approve the bill but, obviously under pressure from the police, left certain grey areas. The crucial question about who will call the shots about law and order was apparently dealt with in the provision of a collective comprising police officers, other district administrative officials and elected representatives at the local level. This core group may decide what action is required and when — again an arrangement which will be contested. For instance, if such a council is to discuss action on how to contain an unruly crowd, or worse, a mob with ‘deadly’ ambition, whose definition and decision will prevail in case there is a disagreement within the council? An individual with unbridled power — with whatever title and from whichever department — would be a recipe for trouble. There has to be counterbalance and oversight, and an institutional answer to the issue. This inevitably brings us to options discussed previously, such as a safety commission consisting of bureaucrats and citizens which was provided for earlier and tried half-heartedly. What we ought to do is to find a way to ensure that the oversight forum is not filled with cronies and allies of the very police officials they are supposed to hold accountable. http://www.dawn.com/news/1305440/police-and-power

January 4, 2017   No Comments

Four ‘TTP militants’ shot dead in Karachi; army-run schools closed: report in Daily Times, Jan 28, 2016

KARACHI: Police claimed to have killed four suspected militants in an alleged encounter near Safoora Goth on Wednesday evening.

SSP Malir Rao Anwar told media that police conducted a raid in Safoora Goth area after receiving a tip-off about the presence of suspected militants. During the raid, the law enforcers allegedly came under attack and in an ensuing encounter four suspects were killed, he added.

Anwar claimed that the deceased men belonged to the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Three suspects were identified as Amirullah Mehsud, Khan Wali alias Khanewal and Khoni Khel.

Meanwhile, Sindh Rangers claimed to have arrested three suspects allegedly involved in target killings and other crimes.

According to Rangers spokesperson, the paramilitary force arrested Danish from Ramswami area who reportedly confessed his involvement in at least four murders.

A suspect Aslam alias Munna was taken into custody from Landhi area who, according to Rangers, admitted his involvement in several murders as a member of the target-killing team of a militant organisation.

The third suspect, named Ahsan, was arrested from Usmanabad. He is member of a militant organisation who reportedly confessed to his involvement in various murders, collecting extortion and a number of other crimes.

Meanwhile, all army-run educational institutes in the metropolis were closed until Monday over ‘security situation’. Students and parents were informed that all institutes under the Army Public Schools & Colleges System in Karachi will remain closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and will reopen after the weekend on Monday, officials said.

According to the school officials, the step has been taken because all army-run schools across the country followed a combined syllabus and the school closure will ‘enable synchronisation of studies across all schools’. However, security sources said the announcement was made in light of the security concerns for schools.

In wake of the Bacha Khan University attack, security in schools across the country has been beefed up while mock security exercises were carried out in many others in the past week. Bacha Khan university, which briefly opened on Monday after a terrorist assault that claimed 21 lives, was closed for an indefinite period due to security reasons.

Earlier on Monday, the Punjab government announced closure of all public and private schools in the province from Jan 26 to 31, citing ‘extremely cold weather’ as the reason.

Punjab government’s last-minute order also spilled over into Islamabad, where a number of private schools remained shut on Tuesday, while others sent students home and closed early. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/sindh/28-Jan-2016/four-ttp-militants-shot-dead-in-karachi-army-run-schools-closed

January 28, 2016   No Comments

Over 9,000 ‘hate preachers’ arrested under NAP

By Zahid Gishkori in The Express Tribune, Oct 23, 2015.
ISLAMABAD: Some 9,400 firebrand speakers and clerics have been arrested on charges of fanning the flames of sectarian hate as the government stepped up efforts to curb strife as part of the National Action Plan (NAP).

“All of them were found involved in fuelling sectarianism in the name of religion,” an official tasked with monitoring the progress of the action plan told The Express Tribune.

Law enforcement agencies have registered 9,689 cases against ‘hate preachers’ under the law that has banned hate speeches and misuse of loudspeakers.

Police have also arrested 9,354 religious leaders and clerics under the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Pakistan Penal Code.

Moreover, the home departments of all the provinces have barred 1,345 firebrand speakers belonging to different schools of thought from making speeches on Muharram 8, 9 and 10.

There is zero tolerance for hate speech in Pakistan, even if you are a cleric!

Around 6,504 cases against religious leaders have been registered in Punjab, 1,647 in Sindh, 1,286 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and 47 in Balochistan, reveals NAP’s progress report.

Meanwhile, 94 cases have been registered in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 91 in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and 20 in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).

Law enforcers have arrested 6,943 clerics in Punjab, 1,383 in K-P, 775 in Sindh, 38 in Balochistan, 122 in ICT, 53 in AJK and 40 in G-B.

Seventy-one shops or other sites involved in spreading hate literature in Punjab, Balochistan, AJK and G-B were also sealed.

Law enforcement personnel have also confiscated 2,129 materials from mosques and seminaries that were being used to incite hardliners to attack minority groups.

“We are serious about getting rid of all elements breeding extremism in our society,” said Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousuf.

Reacting to the ongoing crackdown, clerics have said the LEAs should not measure all religious teachers or scholars with the same yardstick.

Thousands of clerics have been imprisoned or are facing trial, said Abdul Quddus, spokesman for the Wifaqul Madaris (education board for seminaries). “All religious teachers are not terrorists.”

He urged the government to “consider us true representatives of this poor society”. He also claimed: “We, for sure, are the true guardians of this state.”

Yousaf said representatives of all schools of thought were cooperating with the government. “We believe we can win the war against extremism only if the clerics stand by us. And yes, religious leaders of all sects are supporting us.”

Senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader Prof Muhammad Ibrahim Khan also criticised the government for the crackdown. “Ulema’s arrest is not the solution to curbing extremism. Such arrests under NAP are meaningless because the action plan itself has several loopholes.” The detained religious teachers should be provided the right to defend themselves, he added.http://tribune.com.pk/story/977902/sectarian-strife-over-9000-hate-preachers-arrested-under-nap/

October 23, 2015   No Comments

Extremism in southern Punjab: edit in The News, May 17

More disturbing evidence that the Taliban have established a foothold in certain parts of southern Punjab has come to light following the lodging of an FIR in Jhang against a former district head of the banned Jaish-e-Muhammad. This is the first-ever FIR of its nature in Punjab and reflects a belated but welcome official admission of a serious problem that can no longer be wished away. The FIR, lodged under the Anti-Terrorist Act, suggests that the town, long a hotbed of sectarianism and home to banned outfits such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba, is now a major recruitment ground for the ‘Punjabi Taliban’ fighting in the north and a stepping stone for the group to spread its influence in other districts further to the south and east. Dr Imran, the man named in the FIR, is accused of running the network of the Tehrik-e-Taliban in the area, launching fund-raising drives and sheltering wanted Taliban leaders. Parts of southern Punjab certainly are a fertile breeding ground for militancy. There is a thriving network of religious seminaries dotted across the region and a history of fierce sectarian strife. The area is also extremely backward economically and poverty is widespread.

 To make things worse, the provincial government has been accused of turning a blind eye to the growing militancy in the area and sometimes even fanning extremist sentiments for political gain. Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was recently embroiled in a controversy for seeking the support of a banned sectarian outfit during a by-election campaign and of letting off suspected terrorists under pressure. It is time for the provincial authorities to snap out of their collective state of denial and act before it is too late. The utmost vigilance is necessary and an effective intelligence network must be activated to keep tabs on a growing menace that can spread to those parts of the country relatively unscathed by the scourge of extremism. Equally important is to stem the flow of funds and men from the area to the battle zones in the north. With the army heavily deployed in anti-terrorist activities in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, it would be unrealistic to expect it to open up another front and launch a full-scale anti-militant operation in the area. It is therefore all the more important that the civilian authorities keep a vigilant eye on elements out to exploit the backwardness of the area to recruit young men to fight for their misguided cause. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=239853

May 17, 2010   No Comments

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

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

October 13, 2009   No Comments