Archive for May 6th, 2009

Talibanisation & Musharraf. How Pakistan is changed as Terroristan.

May 6, 2009

The more they go against India, Pak will face more Terrorism – USA.

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The Taliban crisis is a direct result of Pervez Musharraf’s rule.

By Shehryar Mazari
Wednesday, 06 May, 2009 | 09:56 AM PST |

http://www.dawn.com

While most people rightly blame Ziaul Haq for the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan, Musharraf’s role in bringing about Talibanisation in the country has been greatly overlooked.

Three decades ago Zia Haq chose the Hezb-i-Islami leader, Gulbadin Hikmatyar, as his favoured successor to Soviet rule in Afghanistan. After Zia’s death, the security establishment disenchanted with Hikmatyar’s lack of success replaced him in 1994 with the recently discovered Taliban. The Taliban’s seizure of Kabul in 1996 provided a boost for Pakistan’s security establishment. It provided Pakistan a foothold in Afghanistan and much-desired strategic regional depth to counter India.

Following the 9/11 attack in the US by Al Qaeda which was being sheltered by the Taliban Musharraf was forced to disown the Taliban regime. However, within days he announced on TV ‘I have done everything for the … Taliban when the whole world was against them….We are trying our best to come out of this critical situation without any damage to Afghanistan and the Taliban.’

Shortly afterwards, when the Taliban were ousted by the US-led invasion, Musharraf allowed tens of thousands of Taliban to enter Pakistan’s tribal belt, believing that opposing them would sideline Pakistan from the regional power game in Afghanistan. What was not revealed then was that a large number of Al Qaeda militants had used this opportunity to stealthily move into Pakistan as well. However, fearing direct US intervention, Musharraf vocally denied their existence within Pakistan.

Perhaps he imagined that the extremists would remain quiescent in Pakistan’s mountainous borderlands, but this was not to be. The military dictator’s personal agenda soon came in the way: Having flouted the constitution by coup d’état, Musharraf, like previous military dictators, became desperate for legal protection. This legal cover could only be provided by a compliant parliament.

Misusing his powers as army chief, Musharraf used his agencies to ensure that the 2002 election was rigged in Sindh and Punjab against the PPP and PML-N. This led to a rise of a motley bunch of politicians under the façade of the PML-Q. However, real damage was done in the NWFP and Balochistan, where the security agencies ensured the success of the religio-political alliance of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal. As part of an understanding, Fazlur Rehman ensured that the MMA’s newly elected members of parliament united with the PML-Q to pass the 17th Amendment, legitimising all Musharraf’s unconstitutional acts.

Perceiving the two popular political parties — the PPP and PML-N — as a threat to his power, Musharraf became an inadvertent hostage to the MMA’s blackmailing. His backtracking in 2006 on repealing the Hudood Ordinances was just one example. The seats MMA ‘won’ in the National Assembly gave it serious clout in national affairs. Worse was that it also dominated the NWFP and Balochistan governments. The MMA government of NWFP moved quickly to impose a Taliban-like agenda. In a short space of time, the MMA produced a fertile environment for the spread of religious militancy throughout the NWFP and parts of Balochistan.

While the Taliban were perceived as essential to future Afghan policy, similar leniency was also applied to militant groups habitually infiltrating the Kashmir ceasefire line. The post-9/11 international crackdown on terrorism had given Musharraf much cause for worry. Initially he went on the offensive, proclaiming these militants valiant freedom fighters — in other words ‘good jihadists’ vs Al Qaeda, the ‘bad jihadists’.

However, the international pressure became too much to bear. Consequently, many of these groups were officially banned by Islamabad, and thus were forced to go underground and operate under different names. It became a game of smoke and mirrors. Every now and then a militant leader would be placed under house arrest and then released a few days later. Militant groups would be officially condemned on television while their workers continued to collect donations under different guises. While the Musharraf regime kept up appearances with the West, it felt impelled to maintain a working relationship with the MMA for its political survival. It also continued its linkages with the numerous politico-religious militant groupings in pursuit of its strategy for Afghanistan and India.

The MMA’s policy of providing succour to religious militancy, combined with Musharraf’s strategy of benign indifference, at best, towards the Taliban and Kashmiri militants, led to a perfect jihadi storm. Provided freedom, the militant groups gained momentum and developed linkages with each other and in some cases with Al Qaeda itself.

Soon the Taliban, with its new allies, spread its tentacles from Waziristan to the rest of Fata and later to Swat and beyond. Moreover, some of the militant groupings active in Kashmir had by now joined up with these transnational jihadist forces. Talibanisation had begun in earnest.

The Taliban crisis is a direct result of Musharraf’s legacy. For self-preservation he deliberately weakened the secular political structure, replacing it with a political environment which proved extremely conducive for religio-political militant groups that now threaten the existence of Jinnah’s Pakistan — ironically created as a refuge for the subcontinent’s Muslims.

It is time for a rethink. In this post-Musharraf scenario one can appreciate our security establishment’s preoccupation with external threats; that is their job after all. Nonetheless, why relentlessly pursue a policy to defend Pakistan externally which may, in itself, ultimately lead to the country’s destruction from within? Yes, hostility from neighbouring countries is a disturbing reality. But need we continue with a bungled policy which has led to destruction from within and failure without; Afghanistan remains a troubled dream and Kashmir a hopeless mirage.

It is time for an open discourse between parliamentary leaders and the security establishment to find a better solution to our problems. The protection of Pakistan’s river resources from encroachment is of vital importance; the survival of millions depends upon these rivers. However, this begs the question: if Pakistan disappears under the onslaught of religiosity, what use will all this water be? So, no matter how serious the water issue may be, it should, along with Kashmir, yield to a more pressing concern.
 
Obviously today’s most burning issue is the Talibanisation of large swathes of our country from where it appears to be spreading day by day, night by night. There is little point in berating the culprit. Recently in a foreign interview Musharraf offered his presidential services to save Pakistan from ‘self-destruction’. He is obviously delusional.

And the solution? All civil society can do is raise its voice as loudly as possible; the best the parliamentarians can do is pass sensible legislation; and the best the government can do is issue prudent instructions (which may or may not be obeyed). In the end, the answer can only lie with the army. Let us hope it now fulfills its primary responsibility to the people of Pakistan.

Foreign militants yearn for Pakistan’s training camps

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By William Maclean
Wednesday, 06 May, 2009 | 02:30 PM PST |http://www.dawn.com

LONDON: Turbulent Pakistan has replaced Iraq as the place to go for militants bent on striking the West, but the threat of US attacks means al Qaeda recruits may spend more time out of sight in a classroom than on an assault course.

Long a favoured destination of British militants of Pakistani descent, Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas are now attracting Arabs and Europeans of Arab ancestry who three years ago would probably have gone to Iraq to fight US forces.

With the Iraq war apparently winding down, security sources say, the lure for these young men is to fight US forces in neighbouring Afghanistan or to gain the skills to carry out attacks back home in the Middle East, Africa or the West.

One consequence: Western armies in Afghanistan increasingly face the possibility of having to fight their own compatriots.

These foreign militants are likely to feature in Wednesday’s meetings between US President Barack Obama, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama wants to end the use of Pakistan’s tribal zones as a staging area for al Qaeda activities in support of the hardline Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as their role as a training ground for new attacks around the world.

Dennis Blair, Obama’s national intelligence director, said in February the primary threat from Europe-based extremists stemmed from members of al Qaeda and its affiliates ‘who returned from training in Pakistan to conduct attacks in the West.’

‘We remain concerned about an influx of Western recruits into the (Pakistani) tribal areas since mid-2006,’ he said.

Western officials estimate there are several hundred non-Afghan foreign militants training in the tribal areas at any one time. That is probably more than three years ago, although the foreigners are outnumbered by Pakistanis and Afghans undergoing similar training at the same, or similar, facilities.

Little detailed information is known in the West about the training operation, and analysts differ on whether the inflow of militants has risen or just held steady in recent months.

But the assumption among many Western officials is that US success in Iraq since 2006 has diverted some recruits for the anti-Western cause to the Pakistan-Afghan theatre.

Military training or adventure holiday?

US General David McKiernan told Reuters in October 2008 that intelligence had picked up the presence in Afghanistan of Chechens, Arabs, Uzbeks, Punjabis and even Europeans.

Some were old-time residents of neighbouring Pakistan’s rebellious border regions, but others were new arrivals.

Richard Barrett, coordinator of the US’s al Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team, said that the number of foreigners going for training in northwest Pakistan appeared to be rising, but might not exceed ‘a few hundred all told.’

‘Training over the last couple of years has typically taken place in small compounds which you find throughout the area of northwest Pakistan, rather than in large purpose-built camps,’ he said. ‘I have also heard of it taking place in apartments or houses in places like Karachi. It is hard to spot and quantify.’

Of Britons, Barrett said: ‘It seems that a fair proportion of the UK volunteers return home, which may reflect their attitude towards the training as only half-serious — an adventure holiday or bragging rights back home.’

‘But it is very hard to distinguish between the serious and the less serious, and of course to identify people who go with one intention and return with another.’

Western officials say the move to more discreet locations has been prompted by a series of missile attacks by US unmanned aircraft on suspected al Qaeda bases in recent months, which have killed about 350 people over the past year.

The content of training may also be changing, with as much or more emphasis on suicide bombing as on guerrilla war, curbing the need for assault course-style camps, some analysts say.

In Berlin, security analyst Berndt Georg Thamm said the flow of militants to Pakistan ‘has grown over the past few years.’

He cited German officials as saying that since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, about 140 people from Germany had gone to training camps in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region. Some 60 to 80 of them had come back to Germany.

Raphael Perl, Head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said risks remained even if trainees did nothing on returning home.

‘If I had to give a gut per centage, I’d say 60 per cent do nothing with the training. They just come home. But at some point they may be contacted to do a favour for somebody.’ — Reuters.

More than 40,000 flee in violence in Swat, Terrorism still overwhelms. Piont to point gunbattle in Buner & Lower Dir.

May 6, 2009

More than 40,000 flee as violence outbreaks  in Swat

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Hundreds have already fled the Swat Valley as fighting between army troops and Taliban militants has intensified.—AP/File

Wednesday, 06 May, 2009 | 12:16 PM PST |http://www.dawn.com

PESHAWAR: More than 40,000 civilians have fled deadly clashes in Pakistan’s Swat valley, officials said Wednesday.

Deadly clashes flared again overnight in Mingora, the main town in Swat, the one-time ski resort where local officials said armed Taliban have defied curfews and occupied government buildings, making a mockery of the peace deal.

Witnesses said ‘large numbers’ of residents fled in panic, although the military swiftly withdrew its evacuation order — saying the government was not ready to authorise an offensive.

‘We have now suspended this order and people are directed not to vacate their homes because the government has no immediate plan to launch an operation in these areas,’ said local military spokesman Major Nasir Khan.

The provincial government said it was scrambling to shelter up to 500,000 people they expect to flee Swat and local officials confirmed Wednesday that tens of thousands had streamed out of the district in less than 24 hours.

‘More than 40,000 have migrated from Mingora since Tuesday afternoon,’ said Khushhal Khan, the chief administration officer in Swat.

‘An exodus of more than 40,000 people is the minimum number — it should actually be more than 50,000,’ said an intelligence official.

Khan said a camp had been set up for the displaced in the nearby town of Dargai.

He said security forces could soon attack the militants and urged people to get out of harm’s way. But he later said the fear of fighting had passed and people could stay home, while the army said it was in control of the town.

Bedraggled men, veiled women and children piled onto pick-up trucks and led animals through streets in their haste to flee Swat, devastated by a nearly two-year Taliban insurgency to impose sharia.

‘I don’t want my unborn baby to have even the slightest idea what suicide attacks and bomb blasts are. That’s why I’m leaving Mingora with my husband,’ said a sobbing and heavily pregnant Bakht Zehra.

‘For God’s sake tell me where I can bring up my child where there are no suicide attacks,’ she cried.

‘Zehra and I had a love marriage. I don’t want to die. I want to live for my wife and my baby,’ said her 25-year-old husband, Adnan Ahmad, who had a mobile phone shop in Mingora and is studying for a degree in English literature.

‘We are leaving the area to save our lives,’ said Sayed Iqbal, a 35-year-old cloth merchant who was putting household goods in a pick-up already loaded with his elderly parents, wife and two children.

‘I’m taking my family to Peshawar because if there’s any fighting, no one can protect us,’ said Mohammad Karim, as he searched for a bus heading out of the valley to Peshawar.

Pakistan’s military has been pressing a fierce offensive in neighbouring districts of Swat, where armed militants advanced despite the February deal, raising expectations of a renewed operation in Swat itself.

Panic and confusion spread through Mingora on Tuesday after the military issued — but then swiftly withdrew — an evacuation order, and clashes between security forces and the militants broke out.

Khan said Taliban militants overnight seized control of several buildings and that four civilians were killed in the town — three in a mortar attack and one shot dead by security forces.

‘They are patrolling in the streets in Mingora and occupying many official buildings, including a police station and a commissioner’s office, which houses offices of top police and administration officials in Saidu Sharif,’ he said, adding that the militants were also laying mines.

Local police said Wednesday that the militants had vacated the buildings and dispersed into the mountains, similar to rugged terrain in neighbouring districts where they are fighting guerrilla-style against the military.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said the militants were in control of ‘90 per cent’ of the valley and said their actions were in response to army violations of the peace deal such as attacking insurgents and boosting troop numbers in the region.

He accused the government of acting under pressure from the US. ‘Everything will be OK once our rulers stop bowing before America,’ he told The Associated Press by phone, adding the peace deal had ‘been dead’ since the operation in Buner.

 

Security forces kill 64 militants in Swat, Buner

 

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Clashes in Swat killed 37 militants while at least 27 Taliban fighters were killed in the nearby Buner district. — AP

 

Wednesday, 06 May, 2009 | 05:51 PM PST |http://www.dawn.com

 

PESHAWAR: Sixty-four militants were killed on Wednesday in fighting in northwest Pakistan’s Buner and Swat districts, security forces said.

The army said 37 militants were killed in two clashes in Swat, where a peace deal aimed at ending Taliban violence has collapsed.

Officials claim Taliban militants placed Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on some of the main roads to inflict casualties on people and to impede the security forces’ movement. At least two soldiers died when they hit an IED in Swat’s Bahrain area.

The militants also fired at various check posts of security forces in Kanju, Saidu Sharif, Matta and other areas of Swat, the military said.

At least 27 militants were also killed in the nearby Buner district, the Frontier Corps said in a statement.

Clashes in Swat erupted between security forces and militants on Wednesday near an emerald mine in Mingora held by the Taliban, leaving 37 militants and 35 civilians dead, official sources told DawnNews. Militants also set two private banks on fire after looting them, the sources said.

‘There were 35 militants killed in the area near the emerald mines,’ Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.

‘It was a responsive action after militants attacked troops and government buildings,’ he added.

A major military offensive is likely to begin in Swat shortly with the army ready to push back militants. Gunship helicopters were already pounding militant hideouts in the district’s Mingora city, DawnNews reported.

Reinforcements have already been deployed in the valley, according to local citizens, prompting speculation that action is imminent.

Armed militants have come down from their hideouts into the cities and have occupied civilians’ houses and government buildings, military and local sources said.

On Tuesday, thousands of residents fled Swat following a government request to evacuate the area in preparation for a fresh offensive against Taliban militants.

‘More than 40,000 have migrated from Mingora since Tuesday afternoon,’ said Khushhal Khan, the chief administration officer in Swat.

The February peace deal lies in tatters, and militants have captured several important government buildings in Mingora, 80 miles northwest of Islamabad, and have taken up positions on rooftops, Reuters said.

DawnNews quoted residents as saying that the Taliban are stopping people from leaving the valley and intend to use them as human shields.

Reuters reported some residents of Mingora saying they faced dwindling supplies of food and were desperate to get out.

‘We are very scared. We want to go as soon as possible but can’t because of curfew,’ said grocery shop worker Gul Nazir.

‘We’re running out of food. We don’t know what to do.’

Operation in Buner kills another 27 militants

Pakistani artillery bombarded militant positions in Pir Baba and Sultanwas areas of Buner district, 60 miles northwest of Islamabad, on Wednesday, killing 27 militants and destroying eight vehicles, military sources and Frontier Corps were quoted as saying.

‘Today artillery engaged militant locations at Pir Baba Ziarat and Sultanwas areas. About 27 militants got killed and eight vehicles got destroyed,’ the Frontier Corps said in a statement.

Militants fired rockets at a girls’ school in Sultanwas which partially damaged the school building, the ISPR said.

On April 28, Pakistan launched an offensive in Buner to flush out advancing armed Taliban fighters.

More than 200 militants have been killed in the operation, official sources said. However, it has not been possible to confirm death tolls independently, as the terrain is remote and largely cut off.

Lower Dir

The operation against militants in Lower Dir is progressing smoothly, the military was quoted by DawnNews as saying.

Search and cordon operations continued Wednesday in various areas of Lower Dir.

Courtsey : The Dawn, Pakistan.