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Growing up in Islamabad, I would sometimes visit relatives in Karachi, but was seldom able to grasp the nuanced chaos that Pakistan’s bustling port city exudes. But last week, while visiting Karachi for work, I paid closer attention. The city is, after all, widely covered in the news for its volatile security situation. Corruption & crime are rampant. Bullet-riddled bodies, victims of targeted killings, become just another statistic. Inflation, load-shedding, and stand-still traffic are debilitating. All of these are part of Karachi’s daily reality. But what is often left out in the news stories – not surprisingly – is the vibrancy of the city. The energy of Karachi is palpable. The chaos is somehow still orderly. The atmosphere can both exhaust you and make you feel alive. As a born-and-bred Karachiite recently told me, “You can’t live with Karachi, but you can’t live without it.”

It is this dual identity that author Steve Inskeep touches on in his book, Instant City: Life & Death in Karachi, in which he writes plainly, “Everything that makes this instant city vibrant can also make it violent.” With 13 million people, Karachi is one the larger cities in the world, becoming “a metropolis that has grown so rapidly that a returning visitor from a few decades ago would scarcely recognize it. The instant city retains some of its original character and architecture…but has expanded so much that the new overshadows the old.”

In the book, Inskeep does not pretend to be an expert on Karachi, which is refreshing considering the number of books on Pakistan written by “experts” these days. Instead, the journalist and host of the National Public Radio (NPR)’s Morning Edition writes as an observer, weaving both the country and city’s history around the occurrence of one tragic event – the bombing of a Shiite procession on Ashura in December 2009 that killed at least 30 people in Karachi. The bombing and subsequent burning of Bolton Market are telling given the history of the city – its relationship with minorities, the increased tension amongst ethnic, religious, and political groups over the years, the tit-for-tat violence, and even the broader struggle with Pakistan’s identity. Inskeep wrote,

In this expressly Islamic state, well over 90 percent of the populace shares the same basic faith, yet throughout Pakistan’s history…that surface unity has masked great diversity and deep divisions. The divisions are especially evident in Karachi, which after receiving migrants from many places is Pakistan’s most diverse city. Karachi also faces a diversity of conflicts, which came into play after the Ashura bombing.

But while Instant City revolves around the Ashura bombing, it does not remain fixed around that day. Instead, the incident is strung into the broader narrative of identity & tragedy – how a country that was established with such hope and promise could have veered so drastically off course. Inskeep uses a steady stream of anecdotes, showcasing Pakistan’s history since the 1947 Partition and introducing familiar characters from the Pakistani fabric – Ardeshir Cowasjee, Abdul Sattar Edhi, and even Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

One of my favorite spoken word poets Phil Kaye eloquently stated during his performance, Repetition, “If you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning… If you just wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, one day you’ll forget why.” Words, and in the case of Pakistan, ideas, lose their meaning the more often we say them out loud. In the case of Jinnah, the father of our nation, his presence can be felt everywhere – from rupee notes when money changes hand to banners to street signs bearing his name. And yet despite this constant reminder of Jinnah in our daily lives, we now seem very far from his lofty aims for this state. In the book, Inskeep wrote, “It is easy to forget that Jinnah was a living man, with a taste for fine suits and waspish remarks.” Jinnah was a minority himself – a Shiite – and he knew “the minorities in his new nation could bring Pakistan strength…” The author quoted the Quaid-e-Azam further noting [during the Partition of India & Pakistan],

As far as I can speak for Pakistan, I say that there is no reason for any apprehension on the part of the minorities in Pakistan. It is for them to decide what they should do…I cannot order them.

Both Pakistan and Karachi are dubbed as peculiar, and this is a simple but apt reference. Pakistan is a country built on an idea, with aims purposefully vague, undefined, and lofty. Inskeep wrote, “Much of Pakistan’s history – and Karachi’s history – would be driven by the tension between the aspiration and the act.” Dawn columnist Cowasjee, a Karachiite through and through, told the author, “Jinnah told my father…that each government of Pakistan would be worse than the one that preceded it.” We are a nation that oscillates between extremes, schizophrenic in our intentions and unsettled in our reality. In the 60-plus years that we have been a state, we seem more uncomfortable in our skin than ever before. Though Inskeep’s book focuses specifically on the lights – both glittering & fading – of Karachi, the theme is very indicative of the wider national phenomenon. Life and death are two absolutes that are juxtaposed in the same daily reality in Karachi.

Instant City is a great read for a number of reasons. First, Inskeep rightly fixes his position as a humble observer instead of a smug pundit, making the book appear unassuming and non-judgmental. Second, he successfully weaves in a number of smaller narratives that showcase the multifaceted personality of Karachi and humanizes its history. Third, though there have been some criticisms surrounding the importance placed on the 2009 Ashura bombing in the story [some feel the Shiite attack was not indicative of Karachi's wider issues], the underlying themes surrounding the incident and subsequent burning (most likely perpetrated by the city’s embedded land mafia) do speak to broader issues currently raging in Pakistan as a whole. In short, Inskeep’s book is unique in its voice, refreshing in its outlook, and nuanced in its approach. Is it the best treatment of the numerous issues facing Karachi today? No. But it also doesn’t claim to be. It offers a fresh voice, something I at least was grateful to see.

To purchase a copy of Steve Inskeep’s Instant City: Life & Death in Karachi, click here.

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Prayers for Shahbaz Taseer

Image via Express

This morning I woke up to news that Shahbaz Taseer, son of Salmaan Taseer, the Punjab Governor who was assassinated back in January, was kidnapped in Lahore. According to the Guardian,

Taseer, 27, was on his way to work at around 10.30am (0630 BST) when he was taken at a busy junction in Gulberg, the most upmarket part of the city. The kidnappers have not been identified but there are fears that jihadists are involved.

Eyewitnesses told media outlets that four men on motorbikes reportedly intercepted Taseer while he was in his car, “and took him to a nearby street before kidnapping him.” Dawn cited Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who said he had been provided an official security detail in addition to the private guards he kept, but that he was without security at the time of the incident. As police are reviewing any CCTV footage, the Express Tribune reported, “One of the guards posted with Shahbaz Taseer was taken into custody and had his weapon seized when police questioned him and he revealed another guard was on leave. He had not left the house with Taseer but had later been told to go to the office.”

After reading the news and seeing numerous Facebook updates from friends who know Shahbaz and his family more closely than I do, it would be an understatement to say I feel sick to my stomach. My prayers go out for Shahbaz’s safe return and for the safety of his entire family. The Taseer family, first with the late Salmaan Taseer, and now his children (Shehrbano especially) are symbols and role models of the bravery and courage that this country should display in the face of those who wish to do it harm. I read a brilliant blog post by Acumen Fellow Bryan Ferris yesterday, who, after spending the past 10 months in Lahore working for Acumen investee Ansaar Management Company, wrote,

Pakistan is not a country of terrorists, but rather a country afflicted by terrorists.

Although the perpetrators of today’s kidnapping have not yet been confirmed, we know that whoever committed this act are not Pakistanis. They are not Muslims. They are not human beings. They reek of the rot and decay that plague this society, that people like the Taseers have had the courage to challenge and stand against. I’ll update this space as news comes in and send thoughts and prayers to his family for Shahbaz’s safe return.

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Via AfPak/FP

For those of us on the outside looking in, Karachi’s violence seems exceedingly complex. I’m often left perpetually confused. But last October, journalist Huma Yusuf told me that the mechanics of the conflict are often the same - ethnically driven conflict over turf and power in the city. As we continue to delve into the underlying causes of each upsurge in violence, we observe this same pattern in different iterations. In a modest effort to break down the most recent conflict, in which more than 700 have been killed so far, 200 in the last month alone, I give you Karachi Violence FAQs Part III (Click here to see Part I, and here to see Part II).

FAQ: Who are the main parties in this conflict and how did it escalate out of control?

In Karachi Violence 101, which I wrote back in January 2010 [Note: this is by no means a comprehensive treatment of the violence over the past year, just a summary of what we've covered on CHUP], the main players in the conflict were workers or gang members associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the political party which controls Karachi, and the Pakistan People’s Party, (PPP), who were then vying for control over land. Violence at the time was concentrated in Lyari Town in Karachi.

In October 2010, (see Karachi Violence 102) – tensions between the MQM and the Awami National Party (ANP) had spilled over in part because of the assassination of MQM’s Raza Haider and the subsequent by-election to replace his then-vacant seat. Violence and tensions were then concentrated in Orangi Town, one of Karachi’s largest and poorest slums, where the MQM had held the provincial seat since 1988 but where it was also considered the “tensest district divided between Mohajirs and Pathans,” noted Yusuf. So, again. Turf/Power = Violence [simplistic version].

In the most recent conflict, violence erupted after the murder of an ANP activist triggered an all-out war between the party and the MQM, noted Shaheryar Mirza in Caravan Magazine‘s “Karachi’s Turf Wars” (a must-read). The killings were once again first concentrated in Orangi, and became so escalated that media outlets called July, “the deadliest month in almost two decades.” (Although some sources claim the number was more than 200 killed, other outlets say it was upwards of 300.) On Tuesday, news agencies reported that in 24 hours, 26 people were killed, of which 18 were victims of targeted killings.

FAQ: So the violence this time around is between the MQM and the ANP, but where does the PPP stand in the conflict?

As with many of Karachi’s past escalations in violence, all three parties in the PPP-MQM-ANP trifecta appear to have some role in each iteration of the cycle. Last month, Sindh Minster and PPP member Zulfiqar Mirza caused an uproar after he made provocative remarks against the MQM’s Altaf Hussain, calling the leader of a breakaway MQM [MQM(H)], “the true leader of the Muhajirs” while accusing the main MQM of trying to divide Sindh. He further stated, “I call upon the people of Karachi and Hyderabad to get rid of these lowlifes.” The Express Tribune reported, “Mirza’s rant sparked an almost instant outburst of violent protests throughout Karachi, with aerial gunfire heard in nearly every part of the city.”

But wait. There’s more on the PPP dynamic in this conflict.

During a brief period between June and July, Sindh’s “longest-serving” Governor Ishratul Ibad resigned from office, after the MQM pulled out of the ruling coalition in protest over the postponement of elections of two Karachi seats in the Azad Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly.  In the Friday Times, Ali K. Chishti wrote,

During the brief period in which the Sindh governor was away, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) undid the Local Governments Ordinance of 2001 and revived the 1979 Local Bodies Ordinance, restoring the magistrate system to manage the districts through commissioners and deputy commissioners.

Chishti added, “The PPP, which represents rural Sindh, wants to consolidate its position in the cities against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which represents urban Sindh.” Fellow blogger Umair Javed, on the tense MQM-PPP dynamic, wrote, “Those of you who’ve been following PPP-MQM relations over the last few years would know that agreeing on a time line for local government elections has remained a major thorn for the coalition,” [read the rest of his post to learn more].

So, incendiary remarks by a PPP member (though other party members distanced themselves immediately), and tensions surrounding the local government issue – both factors that make the conflict all the more exacerbated and intense. In regard to the current violence, the ruling party – the PPP – have  been watching from the sidelines this increasing breakdown of law and order. Bilal Baloch wrote last month for Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel,

The dilemma is thus: How should the government respond effectively and objectively to the violence when it is the very political actors tasked with governing and solving Karachi’s problems that are themselves protagonists of the quagmire? When the workers and supporters of the MQM and ANP… are slaughtering one another, who should the ruling partner PPP, crack down on? They could move against the ANP, but this would effectively lead their government to collapse. Perhaps the government could use their iron fists against the MQM, but battering this powerful party, long the overlords of Karachi, traditionally results in political suicide.

Just this past week, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters, “We will take every possible action to restore peace in Karachi,” adding that results of the government’s action will be visible soon. In the meantime, calls for peace by the government and political parties have so far fallen on deaf ears. Finally, on Tuesday, the Pakistani government “authorized paramilitary forces to conduct raids in some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods to try to restore order,” reported the NY Times.

FAQ: Calling in the [paramilitary] troops? What does that mean, exactly?

This is not the first time the government has called in the Rangers to curb the violence, nor is it the first time that the political parties involved in the conflict have asked for these forces to be deployed, [Ahsan from Five Rupees questions how the MQM could even do that in this post]. Back in January 2010, a journalist source told me, “The rangers that have been sent in with the police won’t make much of a difference, particularly since the police is politicized and doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the city government. Dawn‘s Huma Yusuf noted last year, “…the MQM’s request for the Rangers, the army and intelligence agencies to maintain law and order in the city is akin to slapping a band-aid on a deep, infected wound.”

Interesting how history repeats itself, don’t you think? Or how I can cite analysis and statements made a year and a half ago during a different iteration of the violence and it still holds true today?

In terms of the role of the police in the situation, Baloch wrote in another AfPak piece this week, “Yet it is not the police themselves who are entirely to blame for the breakdown of law and order, but rather a system whereby politicians are able to use the police according to their whims…A revolution in police affairs needs to take place with regards to the relationship between the police and the province’s politicians.”

All of this further emphasizes how violence continues to be used as a political tool for intimidation and power. Mirza noted in the aforementioned Caravan piece how both parties take advantage of this, but the MQM tends to have the upper hand, particularly since they are more media savvy than their counterparts and can therefore demonize the other side more aptly.

FAQ: Amid the escalating violence, is there a potential solution?

So far, we have seen temporary solutions to a very endemic problem, a problem that is far too complex to be linear, far too brutal to be easily forgotten. The call for the Army and Rangers may quell the violence temporarily, but it is only a matter of time before Karachi erupts once again. A truce among the parties may also soon occur, but this also appears to be a short-term concession rather than a long-term solution.

On Monday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan urged in a statement, “While gangs of land-grabbers and mafias have tried to exploit the breakdown of law and order…they do not appear to be the main directors of the horrible game of death and destruction; that distinction belongs to more powerful political groups, and it is they who hold the key to peace.”

As Karachi continues to burn, Shaheryar Mirza noted poignantly, “Land is priceless in this growing metropolis, but lives have become increasingly worthless.”

Here’s praying for you, Karachi. 

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Mumbai Blasts Coverage

Via NY Times.

There were three blasts in Mumbai today during rush hour today, reportedly hitting Dadar, Opera House and Zaveri Bazar areas. According to the Guardian’s live updates, “There were no confirmed numbers of fatalities or injuries but NDTV quoted reports saying 10 people have been killed,” while the Indian Home Secretary says over 60 people have been injured. The numbers are likely to rise. Although BBC News reported, “The blasts coincide with the birthday of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed nearly 170 people,” this is untrue. Kasab’s birthday is in September (!).

There is no news yet on who perpetrated the blasts, but according to NDTV, this was confirmed as a terrorist attack. At this time, a lot of people like to perpetuate rumors. I’ll be following news outlets and journalists on my Twitter timeline and keep this space updated. Our prayers go out to those in Mumbai.

UPDATE 1100 EST: NDTV reports Mumbai police & the Home Ministry suspect the Indian Mujahideen. NDTV is now discussing the areas were targeting, noting that the three areas were all very crowded and the “near-simultaneous” attacks occurred at a time at a busy time (7:00 pm IST). Al Jazeera noted that this attack occurred just a few days after the anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

UPDATE 1110 EST: Friends in Mumbai, for places to stay, people needing rides, and medical care, see this spreadsheet. The Guardian cited Maseeh Rahman who told the news agency,

The home ministry said it’s a terrorist attack and has rushed three teams from the newly-created National Intelligence Agency to Mumbai, including forensic experts.

Most people were injured at Zaveri Bazaar, where Mumbai’s bullion traders and jewelry shops are located, and at Opera House, where diamond exporters have their offices and workshops.

Zaveri Bazaar is close to the city police headquarters, and has been bombed by terrorists twice in the past – in 1993 and in 2002. This time the improvised explosive device was placed inside an electrical meter box.

The third blast was near Dadar Railway Station in central Mumbai at a road intersection known as Kabutar Khana (Pigeon House), where devout Hindus come to feed the city’s pigeons.

UPDATE 1120 EST: Via the Express Tribune, the MP of South Mumbai tells NDTV – avoid rumor mongering, avoid messages that spread communal discontent. NDTV also says that an IED has been found hidden in an umbrella. The Home Minister says that the official casualty account is 10 dead, 54 admitted to hospital [i.e., injured]. Two teams from Delhi and Hyderabad have been dispatched to Mumbai, which has been put on high alert. The Home Minister is appealing for calm.

UPDATE 1142 EST: Death toll has risen to 13. Crowd management, according to Al Jazeera English, is an issue and an impediment to rescue work. The most intense blast was at the Opera House. Officials are urging people to remain calm to facilitate in these efforts. NDTV spoke to Prithviraj Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra, home of Mumbai, who said the number injured is now 83 . He also did not want to comment on who the perpetrators of the blast are – saying instead that their first priority is to help people in need.

UPDATE 1155 EST: 13 people killed, 81 people injured is latest count, via NDTV. All three blasts were caused by IEDs. Via the WSJ, “Vikas Mahekar, a member of the Maharashtra nationalist group the Shiv Sena, in Colaba: “We immensely condemn the attacks…All these talks of a safer Mumbai is just an eye wash. The reality is out for everyone to see today.” Because of the low-intensity of the blasts, hope the toll will stay relatively low: NDTV (Strongest was at Opera House, where the IED was hidden in an umbrella).

UPDATE 1205 EST: Via the Guardian updates, “NDTV is reporting that two members of the Indian Mujahideen, who have been blamed by Mumbai police for the attacks, were arrested in the city yesterday.” Again, remember that Indian officials are not commenting on who committed the attacks.

Via Channel 4, here is a map of the blast locations:

UPDATE 1210 EST: Via Twitter, @AnandWrites has created a crisis crowdmap post-attack. Here it is.

UPDATE 1330 EST: NDTV keeps speaking to eyewitnesses, who basically discuss the chaos and the blood that was “everywhere.” Via the WSJ, “News channel NDTV says police are already looking at footage from a CCTV near the bus stop in the Dadar area and another in the Opera House area.” Death toll has risen to 21, 120 injured. According to NDTV, the leads are “currently very sketchy.” According to the Home Minister, all of the injured have been taken to hospitals. The blasts occurred at 6:45 pm IST, within minutes of each other, therefore allowing officials to conclude that attacks were coordinated.

UPDATE 1630 EST: (Last one of the day) Death toll: 21 dead, 141 injured.

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Via NY Times.

Everyone is weighing in on the news that the U.S. is halting hundreds of millions of dollars (basically, a lot of zeroes) in military aid to Pakistan. According to news agencies, about $800 million in military aid and equipment - over one-third of the more than $2 billion in annual American security assistance to Pakistan – could be affected. The NY Times noted in its coverage, “This aid includes about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border to combat terrorism, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in training assistance and military hardware…”

Given the spiraling relations between the U.S. and Pakistan in recent months, this news is not all together surprising. But it still is a pretty significant public move by Washington. Cue reactions. India – not surprisingly – welcomed the development, saying “a heavy presence of arms would have disturbed the equilibrium in the region.” Pakistan – via Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas – essentially stated, “We didn’t need yo money, anyway!” (His actual statement: “We can conduct our operations without external support.” But you get my gist.) The U.S. Ambassador to India, Thomas Pickering, made this point,

We tend to need Pakistan more than Pakistan needs us. That’s the current dilemma, because in many ways the United States is utterly dependent on Pakistan for logistical access to Afghanistan. In some respects this situation is paradoxical, because in my own view the United States is in Afghanistan more to avoid destabilizing Pakistan than for almost any other reason.

Hmm. In The AtlanticSteve Clemons makes a similar point:

…The raw truth is that America has no real choice but to remain engaged with Pakistan — but this can’t be a binary arrangement in which Pakistan extorts and the US turns a blind eye to Pakistan’s role empowering rogue regimes and animating some of the world’s worst transnational terrorists.  Slow disengagement, a decrease in financial support (as the US has just done) — though not a full suspension — some arm-twisting of its patrons like China and Saudi Arabia and some strategic clarity in the Obama administration on what the real prize here is — which is a less psychotic Pakistan…

 Jeffrey Goldberg (also for The Atlantic) believes that humiliating Pakistan is not a good policy, noting, “It seems that it would be more in the American self-interest to speak quietly to Pakistan at moments like this, rather than to deliver a public spanking.” He added, “I will make a bold prediction: Six months or a year from now, we will look back on the withholding of aid as a failure of policy.”

What do you think? First, remember that U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan has not been impacted. Second, from a strategic perspective, the U.S. cannot afford to turn off all military aid to Pakistan, particularly given their presence in Afghanistan. It’s just not going to happen. They are, however, halting just enough to make a statement – both to the American public as well as to Pakistan. But in the grander scheme, will this move impact the chess game that is U.S.-Pakistan relations? Ayesha Siddiqa told Reuters, “America understands that Pakistan needs money. Pakistan is insolvent. It cannot disengage (from the United States), so eventually it will turn around.”

So based on the punditry and statements, here’s what we have: the U.S. knows they can’t fully cut off Pakistan. Pakistan knows that the U.S. knows this. Pakistan knows they can’t fully disengage from their relations with the U.S. The U.S. also knows that Pakistan knows this. So both know stuff that the other knows they know. 

If you’re like me, your head hurts right now too.

But because I’m a fan of comedians-who-are-better-pundits-than-actual-pundits, here’s a good breakdown of the situation by Stephen Colbert (barring the fact that the “terrorist”  in the clip sounds more Mexican than Pakistani):

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On Tuesday, news agencies reported that authorities detained a Pakistani Army officer, Brigadier General Ali Khan, on suspicion of links to banned militant outfit Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT). According to the New York Times,

General Khan was serving at the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, outside the capital, Islamabad. He was picked up for questioning by the Special Investigative Branch of the Pakistan Army on May 6, but the announcement of the arrest was made Tuesday after an army spokesman confirmed that he had been detained to the BBC Urdu Web site.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told reporters, “We have a zero tolerance policy towards people indulging in such activities.”

Zero tolerance? Selective tolerance? Tomato To-mah-to? Hmm.

The Express Tribune yesterday noted it was unclear whether the arrest was part of a larger “cleansing process” of the military. However, on Wednesday, the military announced that it had begun investigating other officers with links to HuT, saying they had questioned four majors with links to the case.

But just who is HuT, aside from a pretty convenient, ridiculously good-looking acronym?

HuT, or Hizb ut-Tahrir, meaning Party of Liberation, is a radical Islamist group that was established in 1953 and “wants to revive the Islamic caliphate and unify Muslim countries under Islamic laws.”  According to GlobalSecurity.org,

Hizb ut-Tahrir now has its main base in Western Europe, but it has large followings in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, as well as in China’s traditionally Muslim Xinjiang Province. Most of its members are believed to be ethnic Uzbeks. Its expansion into Central Asia coincided with the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. By one estimate there are more than 10,000 followers in Central Asia. Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami has been active in Central Asia since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The group was banned in Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf‘s regime, but continues to operate relatively freely in the country, reports Reuters, “clandestinely distributing leaflets and sending e-mail and text messages.” On HuT’s UK website, the group notes that Pakistan “is a powerful nuclear-armed country, let down by a corrupt government, absence of Islamic rule and subservience to the West.”

Analyst Imtiaz Gul told the news agency that the outfit, which claims to have a peaceful agenda, has some influence within the military. “They basically address educated people, educated Muslims, middle-class, lower middle-class.” In Britain, where they are not banned, the group allegedly attracts well-educated British Pakistanis as supporters, and told Reuters that HuT has not specifically targeted Pakistan’s military, but “works with all sections of society.”

But according to the New York Times, HuT – apart from organizing underground meetings and seminars in Pakistan – also uses SMS text messages and social networking sites to spread its message. The Times noted, “A recent text message sent out by the media office of Hizb-ut-Tahrir on June 9 stated: ‘Remove the traitors amongst the civilian and military leadership. Fulfill your obligation by establishing Khilafah,’ meaning the caliphate.”

The Guardian‘s Declan Walsh echoed in his coverage, “HuT has long faced accusations of seeking to infiltrate Pakistan’s army. In the wake of Bin Laden’s death it distributed pamphlets near army bases calling on officers to overthrow the government and forge a new Islamic caliphate.” Former HuT activist Maajid Nawaz, now part of Quilliam, a UK think tank, told the Guardian that HuT plans to come to power through a military coup. Walsh noted, “[Nawaz] has previously admitted recruiting Pakistani officers who were attending a training course in Sandhurst in 2000.” Nawaz told the Guardian in 2009, “We sent them back to Pakistan to infiltrate the army. They were recruiting for three years and tried to mount a coup.” The plotters were discovered and jailed by then president Pervez Musharraf, he said.

 The Pakistani military has recently come under fire for its alleged ties with militants – particularly following the Osama bin Laden raid and the PNS Mehran attack last month. Omar Waraich wrote in TIME this week that it has been “a grim seven weeks for Pakistan’s powerful generals.” Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general-turned-analyst told Waraich, “It’s amazing the level of criticism that the military leadership is facing. It’s clearly the worst in its history.” Perceptions of COAS Gen. Kayani are increasingly negative, if polls are anything to go by. While the most recent Pew (pee-you) poll on Pakistan found that the army remains popular (79% says it has a good influence on the country), only 52% of respondents gave Kayani a favorable rating, down from 57% before the Osama bin Laden raid.

However, analysts are skeptical that Kayani will be fired or pushed out of his position. The Atlantic Council’s Shuja Nawaz told TIME, “My understanding is that there is a debate on different issues within the corps commanders and senior officers from the General Headquarter. It is not in the form of pressure on General Kayani as such, but on what to do in response to the criticism.”

The arrest of Khan and the investigation into other officers linked to this case are indicative of such a response. Imtiaz Gul wrote in the AfPak Channel this week,

The bad news of Khan’s arrest is that it underlines the presence of a radical mindset within the armed forces. The good news is that it probably also reflects new thinking: greater attention to all those who might be influenced by organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and Lashkar e-Taiba. Moreover, if the army can demonstrate it has gone after suspected militant officers successfully, it might be able to release some of the pressure it currently faces from the United States, which is demanding that Pakistan do more to fight Pakistan.

But is this indicative of a greater purge within military ranks? A part of me – the part that still blinks at Pakistan with hopeful puppy dog eyes – wishes this were true. But the larger part of me – the part that rolls eyes frequently and scoffs snarkily – has heard this tired refrain before. Yes, the arrest of Khan is significant. The investigations are notable. But I’d wait before passing judgment on whether there is an impending sea change. HuT is a dangerous outfit, despite their claims to the contrary. That is certain. But is the military rooting out infiltration amidst its ranks because it’s genuinely concerned with extremist tendencies, or because the HuT-specific links are a direct threat to the military’s authority? Would the Army perform similar exercises with officers linked to other militant groups that still hold strategic interest?

The jury’s still out.

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Source: The News

On Wednesday, news outlets report that a young man was “brutally murdered” in an extrajudicial killing that took place in Benazir Park in Karachi. According to Express, the man was accused to be a “snatcher,” or a robber, and was arrested by police who then handed him over to Ranger personnel who cornered him and then shot him in the stomach, despite the man’s pleas. The man is reported to be a ‘matric’ student, as well as the brother of a Samaa television reporter, and he died on the spot.

News outlets continue to play the footage of the shooting over and over again on television, which garnered much discussion on Twitter. Ammar Yasir tweeted, “Just watched the Samaa footage and I feel like throwing up. This happened in Karachi, imagine the extrajudicial murders in Balochistan,” while Tammy Haq noted, “Pakistan is a state of anarchy. Anyone can do what they like and get away with it.”

Express 24/7 reporter Shaheryar Mirza (@mirza9) tweeted, “Nothing shocking about this killing. What’s shocking is that it was caught on tape. Rangers have done this countless times before.”

As details unfold, it also is evident that Ranger personnel and police officials previously lied about details of the shooting, previously stating that the young man was armed and that 15-20 witnesses could testify to that. But, thanks to the footage, we now see that he was unarmed. In other words, noted Mirza, they were “caught red-handed.”

Hundreds of people have organized a “peaceful sit-in” outside the Chief Minister’s house in Karachi in protest of the killing.  MQM leader Wasay Jalil told Express, “Karachi has seen in its past extrajudicial killings…but the people of Pakistan will lose further confidence in the police…and law enforcement officials.”

CHUP will continue to provide updates of this tragic killing as more details come in, but feel free to share your thoughts and reactions in the comment section.

UPDATE 1745 EDT: Express reported, “Five men from the Ghazi wing of the Rangers are said to be involved in the incident, of whom two have been arrested.” The news agency further noted, “Initially, the police and Rangers had claimed that they were informed that a dacoit had held a family hostage in Benazir Bhutto Park. The security personnel claimed that they went inside the park and asked the man to surrender. When he refused to do so, the Rangers shot at him in retaliation. Shah was injured and died after reaching Jinnah Hospital, security personnel said.” Obviously, that was not the accurate report of the incident.

UPDATE 6/9: According to the Associated Press, Pakistani authorities are now investigating the video “as hundreds of angry mourners attended his funeral.” Here’s the account of the shooting:

It showed a man in civilian clothes wrestling what appeared to be a gun out of Shah’s hand and kicking him toward a group of Rangers. Shah said it was just a toy gun as he pleaded with a Ranger who pointed his rifle at his neck.

“I am helpless,” he said to the Rangers.

The men surrounded Shah and pointed their guns at him. He moved toward one Ranger with his arms outstretched, saying “No, no, don’t kill me brother.” He was pushed back and shot twice in the hand and leg.

Shah fell to the ground screaming and begged the Rangers to take him to a hospital, a longer version of the video posted on YouTube showed. They stood by as he writhed in an expanding pool of his own blood.

Shah was eventually taken to a local hospital but died shortly thereafter from “profuse bleeding,” said Seemi Jamali, director at the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical College.

The really sad part? Rehman Malik claiming the boy was a “criminal,” as if that somehow justifies this killing. Disgusting:

UPDATE 6/9 2000 EST: Another video is out (via Rabayl). So sad and disgusting:

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Post-PNS Mehran Thoughts

Star Wars Yoda. Cute & cuddly. No resemblance to armed militant.

By now, you’ve all heard of the shocking attack on PNS Mehran, Pakistan’s largest naval base this past Sunday in Karachi.

Here’s what we know:

  • Armed militants stormed the base, using ladders to scale the back wall of one of Pakistan’s premier naval air stations and destroy two U.S.-supplied P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.
  • The base was “recaptured” by Pakistani security forces after a 17-hour gun battle, during which 10 personnel lost their lives, and 15 were injured.
  • Lieutenant Yasir Abbas, who was killed leading a counter-attack against the attackers, is being hailed as a national hero.
  • 17 foreign personnel – six Americans and 11 Chinese – were on the base at the time of the siege, but escaped without harm.
  • The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, telling Reuters by telephone, “It was the revenge of martyrdom of Osama bin Laden. It was the proof that we are still united and powerful.”
  • Interior Minister Rehman Malik refuses to admit that the attack was a serious breach of national security, and said it was due to an intelligence failure by the Air Force and Navy (via Al Jazeera English).
  • Malik said “external elements” (*cough* India/Zionists/Blackwater *cough*) may have been involved with the militants, although he did not provide evidence supporting this claim.
  • Malik also said the attackers resembled Star Wars characters, noting, “They were wearing black clothes like in Star Wars movies…”
  • Rehman Malik is an idiot.

Here’s what is still ambiguous:

  • A police report released after the attack said 10-12 militants were involved, although Pakistani officials (including Malik) said “up to six” were involved in the incident.
  • Sources say two of the attackers escaped, rather than being killed as was previously reported.

Here are the questions that still require answers:

  • How did 10-12 militants manage to launch an attack of this magnitude against Pakistan’s security establishment? (And no, “using ladders” is not a sufficient answer.)
  • Why did it take 17 hours for security forces to regain control of PNS Mehran?
  • Who was complicit in these attacks? Dawn newspaper (via AJE) questioned whether the attackers had help from the security establishment, writing, “Did the Taliban raiders have information inside the naval base? Such a possibility cannot be ruled out, because the involvement of serving personnel in several previous attacks has been well-established.”
  • After all this loss, how can anyone still claim that this is anything but our war? How can anyone credibly claim that the enemies are conspiratorial foreign hands? How?

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The WTF List

LOLCat says WTF.

 It’s Friday, (ok fine, early morning Saturday), so I thought it was high-time for some recent WTF-worthy stories:

  1. WTF #1: Wikileaks has partnered with Dawn Newspaper, India’s NDTV and the Hindu to release a new round of secret U.S. diplomatic cables. Yikes. According to the cables, in 2008, COAS Gen. Ashfaq Kayani asked the U.S. to increase “Predator coverage” in South Waziristan to support Pakistan’s military operations in the tribal agency. Yes. He meant the drones. According to Dawn, which cited a report of a meeting between US CENTCOM Commander Admiral William J. Fallon and Kayani, Fallon “regretted that he did not have the assets to support this request” but said trained US Marines to could coordinate air strikes for Pakistani forces on ground. Kayani then “‘demurred’ on the offer, pointing out that having US soldiers on ground ‘would not be politically acceptable.’” Uh yeah.
  2. WTF #2: Also revealed via Wikileaks, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad recommended an increase in American military aid to Pakistan to address their “conventional disadvantage vis-a-vis India” in order to secure its cooperation in the war on terror. A year after the Mumbai attacks. Awkward.
  3. WTF #3: Meera strikes again! Our favorite Pakistani Lollywood actress and “layer” stars in a new reality show that premiered last night on Geo’s Entertainment channel. In Kaun Banega Meera Pati, aka the Pakistani Bachelorette, Meera will choose her future hubby from 13 candidates, and will reportedly get married by the 26th episode. I don’t know what’s worse – that there’s now a desi version of the Bachelorette (shoot me now), or that viewers have to wait 26 stupid episodes to watch Meera’s shaadi. Oh no jaani no.
  4. WTF #4: Former IMF managing director (and alleged rapist) Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from jail Friday after posting a $1 million bail and a $5 million bond. According to the NY Times, “He was taken to 71 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, a building that has rental apartments but is a bit of a comedown from the deluxe accommodations he had expected.” Here’s what I think – who gives an F what Strauss-Kahn thinks? The dude is an alleged rapist, a pervert, and a creep. His residence should be behind bars.
  5. WTF #5: Apparently the world is supposed to end today (May 21). Harold Camping’s prediction that Rapture (Judgment Day) would be May 21, 2011 has received unprecedented publicity and has led to a number of doomsday parties, entrepreneurs offering post-Rapture services, jokes, and heated debates on American news channels. And here I thought that Rapture was a new night club that just opened. Had I realized earlier, I would have eaten that damn cheeseburger at lunch. Sad Kalsoom.

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Source: Guardian

Today, more than 80 paramilitary soldiers were killed when at least one suicide bomber blew himself up at a military training center in Charsadda. At least 115 people were wounded in the bombing, labeled by the NY Times as, “the first major terrorist attack since the American raid in Abbottabad on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden,” and by other outlets as the deadliest attack in Pakistan since last November.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, and a spokesman told the AFP, “This was the first revenge for Osama’s martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” (The AfPak Channel’s daily brief, however, did note, “Pakistani police officials…were skeptical that the attack…was the work of the TTP, and suggested it may have been orchestrated by Omar Khalid’s group, which is currently fighting the Pakistani Army in Mohmand.”)

In a Parliamentary session today on the bin Laden operation, ISI Director General Pasha (who may or may not be resigning) admitted to intelligence negligence but not failure regarding the U.S. raid that killed OBL.

Jason Burke noted in a column for the Guardian,

There is a terrible inevitability about the bombing in Charsadda, Pakistan, on Friday morning. Little about it is different from previous bombings. There is the same vicious tactic…a familiar target: hapless recruits to the underpaid, under-equipped paramilitary frontier corps. There is a familiar culprit…The only difference is that this strike comes after the death of Osama bin Laden. It is an attack, claimed in the name of Al Qaeda in effect, by Pakistanis on Pakistanis.

As I watched images of injured young cadets on the news, I felt sick to my stomach. I felt sick because as this country goes up in flames, people are not protesting for the thousands of Pakistani lives lost because of terror attacks in the last few years alone. No. They are protesting violations of sovereignty committed by the Americans. They are pointing fingers at one another, shifting blame, searching for scapegoats. I am sick to my stomach.

Other interesting reads before the weekend:

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