Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’

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: 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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AFP/Express: Relatives see the bullet-riddled car.

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minority Affairs was shot dead in Islamabad. According to news agencies, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of the Federal Cabinet, was on his way to work “when unknown gunmen riddled his car with bullets.” Al Jazeera English noted that Bhatti’s driver was also wounded in the attack, and correspondent Kamaal Hyder reported, “They asked the driver to get out of the vehicle and then peppered the minister with bullets…He was on his way to a cabinet meeting.”

Express reports that the Tehreek-e-Taliban had claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, which reportedly took place outside Bhatti’s parent’s house in I-8/3. In leaflets left at the scene of the shooting, the militants “blamed the government for putting Bhatti, an ‘infidel Christian,’ in charge of an unspecified committee, apparently referring to one said to be reviewing the blasphemy law,” noted the Associated Press. The pamphlet emphasized, “With the blessing of Allah, the mujahedeen will send each of you to hell.”

Soon after Salmaan Taseer‘s assassination, Bhatti voiced fears that he was “the next highest target,” given his statements against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Back in January, he told the AFP, “During this [Aasia] Bibi case I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer… these messages are coming to me even publicly.” Bhatti reportedly requested more security, and was provided four guards from the interior ministry. However, news agencies report that Bhatti’s security detail “were not with him at the time of the attack.” Although this fact raises significant concerns, Islamabad’s Inspector General (IG) insists this was not a security lapse because Bhatti “had apparently instructed his security to wait at the office in I-8/4.” Durrani told reporters, “The squad officer told me that the minister had directed him to wait for him at his office. He used to often visit his mother’s house without a squad…We are investigating the matter from different angles.”

If this is indeed the case, then Bhatti’s assassins were still well aware of when the minister wasn’t accompanied by his security detail. That is still a potential concern.

And of course, there can’t be an act of violence without some accompanying conspiracy theory. According to Express, after news agencies reported the Taliban claimed responsibility for Bhatti’s death, former MNA and chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Sindh chapter Asadullah Bhutto told reporters the assassination “was an attempt by the CIA to divert the attention of masses from Raymond Davis.” In the statement, Bhutto further emphasized,

Accepting the responsibility of killing the minister soon after the incident by ‘Punjabi Taliban’, as reported by media, is ample proof that the CIA is behind this crime because the US spy agency had been staging such ‘dramas’ of ‘Punjabi Taliban’ after committing the crimes of same nature earlier.

Bhatti’s death today is an immense tragedy, another nail in the coffin for those willing to be truly courageous in this country. Both Taseer and Bhatti may have spoken out openly against the blasphemy laws, but just as this legislation has become a larger-than-life symbol, so has this type of bravery. After today’s assassination, Pakistani politicians issued the expected condemnations, but not one person even mentioned the laws. In fact, voices against the blasphemy laws have dwindled considerably. Political analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais told the AP today that Bhatti’s death “further weakens a government already seen by many as corrupt and ineffective.” He emphasized, “They’re not interested in providing citizens with what they need. We don’t have good economy, good society, good education or good security.”

Bhatti was well-aware of the danger he was in, and taped a farewell message to be broadcast in the event of his death. Despite the threats he received, he said in the tape, he would not be deterred from speaking for “oppressed and marginalized persecuted Christians and other minorities” in Pakistan. “I will die to defend their rights. These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles.”

CHUP will provide further updates to this story as it develops.

UPDATE 1000 EST: Via @beenasarwar, there will be protests over the Bhatti assassination held today 5.30 pm [PST] Karachi Press Club, 3.00 pm [PST] Lahore Press Club.

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Mehdi Hassan, chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who said Pakistan’s political parties are so bitterly divided it makes it extremely difficult to unite against rising extremism. “Our political leaders do not view security as a top priority problem.” Thoughts?

Bhatti’s farewell tape/interview:


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NYT/Reuters: Children Taken to Hospital After Karachi Bombing

A version of this piece first appeared in Foreign Policy‘s AfPak Channel, in a series called, “The Hidden War: The Stories You Missed in 2010”:

The persecution and targeting of religious and sectarian minorities has occurred throughout Pakistan’s history, but a number of attacks in 2010 highlight a qualitative shift in this trend. The scale, location, tactics, and claims of responsibility for attacks on minority religious institutions have changed dramatically between last year and this one, showing that Pakistan’s minorities are an increasing target of the region’s extremist groups.

On May 28, 80 people were killed and over 90 injured in coordinated attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore. On July 2, two suicide bombers attacked a Sufi shrine in Lahore, killing at least 50 and wounding more than 170. Three bombs targeted a Shiite religious procession in Lahore on September 1 during the month of Ramazan, killing at least 35 and injuring around 250. On October 25, two suicide bombers killed eight people and wounded over 60 in an attack on a Sufi shrine in Karachi.

According to numbers based on calculations from the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, news reports, and other sources, there were 25 attacks on mosques in 2009, and 11 of those incidents targeted sectarian minority mosques and institutions. In comparison, there were 19 attacks in 2010, with 10 targeting minority religious institutions.

Although the number of recorded attacks against minorities seems not to have changed much between 2009 and 2010, other key factors changed significantly. In 2010, attacks on minority religious institutions were for the most part large-scale, resulting in significantly higher death tolls than those in 2009. For instance, the average number of people killed in minority-related mosque attacks in 2009 was three. In 2010, the number ballooned to 18 (the average number wounded was 24 in 2009 and 61 in 2010).

Many of these 2010 attacks occurred in Pakistan’s major cities, such as the Sufi shrine bombing in Karachi and the Ahmadi mosque attacks in Lahore. In 2009, comparatively, such attacks were mostly concentrated in the country’s northern areas, including the tribal areas and smaller towns in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The type of attacks also shifted between 2009 and 2010. Last year, militants used mainly IEDs (improvised explosive devices), VBIEDs (vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices), and grenades in their attacks on minority religious institutions; in 2010, on the other hand, suicide attacks were more common, a reason for the larger death tolls.

Finally, there was a shift in groups claiming responsibility. While there was no claim of responsibility for many of the attacks in 2009, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed more attacks this year, including the bombings of the Sufi shrine in Karachi and the Ahmadi mosques in Lahore (though TTP spokesmen denied they were behind the Sufi shrine attack in Lahore in July).

As Cyril Almeida, an assistant editor and columnist at Dawn Newspaper in Pakistan, noted, “The [Pakistani] military suggests that the success of its operations in the tribal areas has disrupted the militant networks. This has made it more important for TTP to be seen to be ‘active‘ and still posing a threat. This might explain why we have seen a rise in the claims of responsibility of minority religious institutions this year.”

But the TTP, despite what it claims, may not be behind all these attacks. Instead, groups belonging to the Punjabi Taliban, with more reach into Pakistan’s urban centers, could be working with the militant umbrella organization to carry out these attacks. By claiming responsibility, the TTP is in effect perpetuating the perception that there is one centralized larger enemy rather than a more manageable cluster of nameless militants operating independently. The increasing number of large-scale suicide attacks occurring in Pakistan’s major cities, not just in the northwestern areas, is also important in the perceptions war because these incidents garner more media attention and exacerbate the notion that the threat is close by, stoking greater instability and fear in the country.

Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia advisor for the United States Institute of Peace, further emphasized, “Terrorist strikes on minority religious institutions are now overall more well-coordinated. More groups are involved in each strike, and better-trained cadres are sent to high-value targets than in the peripheral areas.”

The shift in the nature of these attacks on minority religious institutions also mirrors increasingly heightened anti-minority sentiment in the country. Religious and sectarian minorities have long been marginalized, targeted, and persecuted throughout Pakistan’s history, though the introduction of the blasphemy laws in the 1980s added further legitimacy to this intolerance. Among the most recent victims of these laws is Aasia Bibi, who recently became the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death because of a conviction under the blasphemy laws, and whose story has sparked polarizing reactions from human rights groups to religious organizations.

According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom‘s latest annual report, “[D]iscriminatory laws, promulgated in previous decades and persistently enforced, have fostered an atmosphere of religious intolerance and eroded the social and legal status of members of religious minorities, including Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadis, Hindus, and Christians. Government officials do not provide adequate protections from societal violence to members of these religious minority communities, and perpetrators of attacks on minorities seldom are brought to justice.”

In the case of attacks on minority religious institutions, the trend in the past year further illustrates how sectarian violence has intensified to a new level, and are perpetrated on a larger-scale by increasingly well-coordinated militant groups. If these groups want to destabilize Pakistan, noted Yusuf, then attacking minorities’ places of worship adds a further “sectarian dimension to that instability.”

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Targeting the Ahmadis II


Image: Express Tribune

On Sunday, Pakistani police forced an Ahmadi family to exhume the body of a relative [identified as Shehzad Warriach] because it was buried in a Muslim graveyard. According to the BBC, “Officials in the Sargodha district of Punjab province say they took the unusual move after anti-Ahmadi Muslim groups threatened peace in the area.” Ghulam Murtaza, a senior police official, told the AFP, “Warraich’s family agreed to exhume the body on October 31 after local people approached us amid protests and demanded that the body be removed from the Muslim graveyard.” The “local people” noted BBC News, were reportedly members of Khatm-e-Nabuwat, “an anti-Ahmadi religious organization that acts as a watchdog on their activities.”

The police, he added, “had to intervene to prevent any untoward situation though we have no law barring burial of a non-Muslim in a shared graveyard.”

So, instead of protecting the interests of a grieving family who had not broken any law, the police catered to the whims of intolerant protesters? I have no words.

However, Aatekah Mir-Khan over at the Express Tribune Blog, does:

Religion is supposed to be something between you and God, even when you are alive. Thus, people who do not give the living that freedom are wrong, but to continue hounding a person based on their religion even when he is dead is detestable. But have we heard a single condemnation from any of the politicians or the religious leaders on the outrage? No. Why? Because commenting on anything that has to do with religion (if it is against what ‘they’ believe) is shunned like playing with fire. There is no way you can leave unscathed if you dare speak up.

Back in May, more than 70 people were killed and 108 were injured when gunmen launched simultaneous attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore. Although political leaders condemned the attacks, they stopped short of tackling the glaring inconsistencies and laws that led to such incidents in the first place. In fact, when Nawaz Sharif expressed solidarity with the Ahmadiyya community after the May attacks, calling them “brothers” of Muslims, he was immediately criticized by leaders of Deobandi madrassas, who advised him not to “defy religion for petty political gains.” According to the Express Tribune, leaders of the Muttahida Tehrik-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat even claimed the Lahore attacks “were a conspiracy to repeal laws against Ahmadis” at a meeting that included 13 political and religious organizations like JUI-F and Jamat-ud-Dawa.

It is not surprising that conservative religious clerics and figures spew intolerance and prejudice, peddling the idea that Islam is under attack to further their own power agenda. But it is frankly despicable that we continue to cower to those voices. It happened in 1973, when the Ahmadis were declared “non-Muslims” by the state, and it happened again in 1984, when they were legally barred from proselytizing or identifying themselves as Muslims. It continues to occur every time members of this community [and other minorities] are persecuted without any consequences, without so much as a word from our leaders or fellow citizens. And it happened this past Sunday, when the police ultimately gave credence to intolerance and prejudice over reason and sensitivity, forcing an Ahmadi family to exhume a relative’s body from a graveyard.

We talk constantly about how Islam has been hijacked by radicals and extremists. But cases like these show how much we also allow ourselves to be hijacked. By virtue of doing nothing, we legitimize those voices. We are therefore also to blame.


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Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images


On Thursday, twin blasts struck a Sufi shrine in Karachi, killing at least 5 people and injuring at least 40 others (the Express Tribune reports 10 killed and over 50 injured), just a few months after 40 people were killed in an attack on the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore. According to Al Jazeera English’s correspondent, the incident at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine appears to have been perpetrated by suicide bombers.The Express Tribune spoke to eyewitnesses, who said the first blast occurred when “a guard tried to stop a suicide bomber and he blew himself up.” The News provided more [horrific] details, noting, “Two heads, believed to be of the bombers, have been recovered from the blasts site where severed limbs and human flesh littered the ground, sources said.”

BBC News cited President Zardari who said the attack occurred when people gathered to hand out food to the poor.  The Associated Press added in its coverage, “Thousands typically visit that shrine on a Thursday, praying, distribute food to the poor and toss rose petals on the grave of the saint.” Zardari told reporters, “The relentless attacks on ordinary Pakistani citizens by those who want to impose an extremist mindset and lifestyle upon our country will not deter our government and the Pakistan Peoples Party. We remain committed to fighting these murderers and expelling them from our land.”

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts, Al Jazeera’s correspondent noted the attack bears “the hallmarks of a Taliban attack.” Express reports that all shrines in Karachi have been closed, as well as the Bibi Pak Daman shrine in Lahore.

CHUP will provide further updates on this story.

UPDATE 1140 [EST]: According to the Associated Press, a Pakistani Ranger said some “suspicious packages” were found at the blast site.  Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza told reporters, “We have provided the best available security at this shrine. Humanly, it is not possible to stop suicide bombers intent on exploding themselves.” Meanwhile, GEO News quoted Secretary Auqaf Sindh who said they “had not received any security threat from the Interior Ministry and there were no security cameras installed inside the shrine.”

UPDATE 1330 [EST]: The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, news agencies report, while authorities say schools will remain open tomorrow. According to the Associated Press, “The first explosion took place as the suspected bomber was going through the metal detector before a long staircase leading to the main shrine area, said Babar Khattak, the top police official in Sindh province. The second blast took place about 10 seconds later, farther ahead of the metal detector, he said.”

Some people are questioning whether the presence of security cameras in the Sufi shrine would have made a difference in stopping this attack. My thought? Hindsight is 20/20, but if the suicide bombers entered the shrine during a busy period, amid throngs of people, security cameras would have done very little.

UPDATE 1430 [EST]: Fahad Desmukh has some insightful sound bites on his blog from speaking to people at the shrine just after the blasts occurred. See here.

The Data Darbar shrine bombings spurred a lot of conversation about Sufism in Pakistan. The truth is that Sufism, or mystical Islam, is arguably not an “antidote” to Islamist extremism, but it is an embedded part of the Pakistani culture, an integral part of our narrative. Abdullah Shah Ghazi was an 8th century Sufi saint credited with bringing Islam to the region along the coast. His shrine is believed to protect Karachi from cyclones and other sea-related disasters. A BBC article written five years ago about the shrine noted, “Although Thursdays are traditionally holy nights when devotees pray at Sufi shrines, the revelry at Shah Ghazi seems to have little to do with prayer,” adding that music, dance, and drugs “are the traditional vehicles of devotion.”

BBC reported, “The Sufi shrines offer the underclass spiritual sustenance, a social valve of entertainment, and a safety net of free rations. It is a bond that has not been loosened by militant Islam.”


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Pakistanis & Tea Baggers? So Not a Tea Party.

Yesterday, Foreign Policy (dot com) released a biting article by David Rothkopf (a scholar at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) entitled, “A Tea Party Made in Heaven: Should Islamabad be the Next Stop for Angle & Co?” In the piece, Rothkopf claims that two of the biggest threats facing America – “the decay of nuclear Pakistan and the rise of the Tea Party movement here at home” – can be resolved by sending the Tea Party away to Pakistan. He noted,

We need to keep an eye on Pakistan, but can’t officially send troops there…At the same time, at home we are confronted by a new political movement whose leaders drape themselves in the flag and then proceed to espouse a worldview that is alternatively un-American (anti-immigration in a nation of immigrants, anti-personal freedoms like choice, pro-infusion of politics with religion) and ante-diluvian (anti-science, pro-vigilantism, pro-solving problems at the point of a gun). They are out of place here and lord knows — given our history of success without them — they are expendable. The tea-baggers want a country? Let’s give them one: send them to Pakistan.

Rothkopf proceeds to compare the “Tea-bagger” worldview with the “Pakistani” one, gleefully noting similarities among sentiments toward taxes (the rich don’t pay taxes in Pakistan and they don’t in the U.S., so if Tea Baggers left for Pakistan, maybe the government could actually implement sensible tax policies in the U.S.), gun control (both Tea-baggers and Pakistanis LOVE guns! Whee!), religious tolerance (they both are intolerant! Who knew!), love of foreigners (no love! Sad face 😦 ), and foreign policy (both likely to see Russia from respective houses).

Is Rothkopf being facetious? Of course. Was he successful? Not really, especially with literary gems like these,

Here is a country with a large population committed to policies rooted in the values and outlook of centuries ago and a large group of Americans with a similar nostalgia for hangings, gunfights, superstition, racial and religious conflict and witch hunts. So theoretically, despite Pakistan’s historically documented, deeply rooted strain of anti-Americanism, this may well be the one group of Americans with whom they have the most in common and thus, the ones with the best chance of building the bridge we need between our two cultures.

I am not denying that Pakistan as a whole tilts more right of center, (when I asked the Twitterverse to weigh in on the issue of Pakistan’s right-wing, @umairjav noted that politically it’s about 30-35 percent right-wing, and about 95 percent socio-culturally right-wing). Regimes in the last 40 years have also approved legislation that have increasingly legitimized intolerance and violence towards Pakistan’s minorities, and the paranoia among the “right wing” has been discussed at length. But to paint an entire country with the same brushstroke as a right-wing socio-political movement? That’s offensive.

Maybe the better solution would be for Pakistan’s militants to run away with American Tea Party supporters. That way we’re both rid of them.

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"I'm not yo friend, buddy!" "I'm not yo buddy, guy!"

On Wednesday, news agencies reported that General David Petraeus, the new U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, is pushing to designate top leaders from the Haqqani Network as “terrorists.” According to the NY Times, “…Petraeus introduced the idea of blacklisting the group…late last week in discussions with President Obama’s senior advisers on Pakistan and Afghanistan.” The idea was first publicized by Senator Carl Levin on Tuesday, who just returned from Pakistan and Afghanistan. During a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Levin stated,

As a matter of fact, I think we have to include on the list other threats to the Afghan mission. We have to have, I believe, we should have on our list the headquarters of the Haqqani network. We know where they are. We know where that headquarters is… I don’t think they should be off-limits to those strikes. They directly threaten the Afghan mission.

Levin went on to add that he would pursue legislative action to ensure the Haqqani network was on the U.S. terror list, calling them “the greatest threat” to stability in Afghanistan, even more so than Taliban militants crossing the border into the country from Pakistan.

So what could this inevitably mean? Ding ding ding! More drone strikes and more pressure on Pakistan. Levin emphasized, “Can more be done? It has to be done by Pakistan, unless it is going to be done with drone attacks on their headquarters. More needs to be done by Pakistan. They have not gone into that area in North Waziristan where the Haqqanis are.”

The pressure on Pakistan to go into North Waziristan isn’t new; in fact, both the U.S. and Pakistan have been back-and-forth on this issue for months now. However, if Washington decides to rebrand [the top leaders of] the Haqqani network as “terrorists,” it does send a very clear message, especially amid reports that Pakistan’s military/ISI have begun trying “to seed a rapprochement between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Haqqani network,” (COAS Gen. Kayani has denied facilitating secret meetings between the two parties). The message – the U.S. may support Kabul’s Taliban reconciliation program, but leaders of the Haqqani network will not be included in this arrangement.

This may lead to interesting ramifications for Pakistan’s strategic depth ambitions, an effort to hedge India‘s influence in Afghanistan. The less-than-ambivalent term “terrorist” not only shifts the tone from Washington, it also leaves little breathing room for Pakistan. Terrorist/Terrorism labels aren’t light designations in this post-9/11 era, and it will be interesting to see how Pakistan responds. If the military doesn’t go into North Waziristan, will that lead Washington to feel more “justified” in increasing drone strikes in the region? (For coverage of the legal justification of drone strikes, see here.)

Watching these developments play out are akin to a complex chess game. Whose move is it next?

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Reuters/Dawn Image

Last week, brutal attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore killed nearly 100 people, and wounded nearly 150 people. The attacks garnered a wave of responses from the media, and many of my fellow bloggers noted how such a tragedy was the culmination of years of discrimination against Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community. Below, Madiha Kark, a Pakistani who is pursuing her masters in journalism in Texas, shares her very personal perspective on the attacks:

I am an Ahmadi. Since I was a little girl, I have walked into the mosques that were plundered on May 28. Holding my father’s finger in one hand and fixing my dupatta with the other, the six year old me sat and listened to the ‘khutba’ (Friday sermon), in the same halls that were covered by the blood of my brothers, uncles and family friends last week.

I grew up hearing of the atrocities committed against my ancestors, how sons were tortured in front of their mothers, how husbands were dragged on stone roads while their wives watched and sobbed from within the house, how sisters were raped in front of their brothers. For me these were stories of a history, tales of gallantry and heroism, of conviction and strong faith, tales of a time that had no effect on me. But today these stories are no longer history, they resonate a past that characterizes Pakistan’s flawed human rights.

The brutal attacks last Friday left 92 dead and 150 injured. Within 24 hours, the same attackers brought their wrath on innocent people admitted in the Intensive Care (ICU) and Critical Care Units (CCU) in Jinnah Hospital who had sustained injuries in the mosques. Many of my cousins, my kin and blood relatives were present in those mosques last week. While some managed to escape, others were wounded and more lost their lives.

One cannot deny the fact that religious extremists have a disregard for the sanctity of life or the teachings of Islam, or that state funded madrassas preach human barbarianism by brainwashing teenage boys to kill in the name of God. The Ahmadiyya predicament however is different. The targeting of minorities and other religious factions in Pakistan have increased considerably in recent years, but atrocities on Ahmadis have occurred throughout the history of Pakistan, most notably in 1953, 1974, and the 1980s. The laws that discriminate against Ahmadis have been part of the Constitution for almost three decades now. [Editor’s Note: Also see Tazeen’s post and Chapati Mystery for more background on these laws.]

Currently, Pakistan’s Constitution contains several articles specifically discriminating Ahmadis. Article 298B and 298C state that any Ahmadi who “directly or indirectly poses himself as a Muslim, or refers to his faith as Islam, or propagates his faith by words either written or spoken, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims shall be punished with imprisonment for up to three years.” The laws extend to barring Ahmadis from saying Assalam-o-Alikum (peace be on you) or calling their places of worship a masjid (mosque). No other minority in the world is subject to such discriminatory laws.

The day after these attacks, two Ahmadis were stabbed to death. The father died on the spot and the son was transported to a hospital in a serious condition. Drive down Mall Road (in front of the Punjab state assembly offices) in Lahore today and you will see banners inciting hatred against the Ahmadi community and urging the killing of Ahmadis. Extremist religious organizations convene conferences on the topic of Ahmadiyya persecution and their status as non Muslims. Religious leaders routinely announce on broadcast television that the killing of an Ahmadi is indeed a pious attack. The passport and the NIC (national identity card) demand mandatory signatures affirming “Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani to be an imposter nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to Lahori Party or Ahmadi or Qadiyani group, to be non Muslim.” The Ahmadiyya community has historically been subjected to a legitimized discrimination that no other community faces in Pakistan.

These blatant signs of hatred are witnessed by the people, bureaucracy and the judiciary on a daily basis. Media and politicians refuse to take a stand on the issue because if they even dare to highlight some of these atrocities and injustices, they are subsequently labeled “Ahmadis.” As a result, many public figures have had to publicly and categorically deny that they are Ahmadis, because it has been drilled into the Pakistani psyche that Ahmadis are disloyal to their country and have a hidden agenda in whatever they do.

I am proud to be an Ahmadi. Ahmadis are instilled with high patriotism and strong respect for their nation. Pakistan’s only Nobel Prize winner Dr. Abdus Salaam was exiled from his country because of his religious beliefs. Chaudry Zafarullah Khan, who served as the first foreign minister to Pakistan, was also discriminated against for his religious beliefs. These extraordinary men  served their country even if their country refused to serve them.

In the face of fierce and repeated state sanctioned persecution, the Ahmadiyya community has always maintained a peaceful stance. The community refuses to demand anything from the state or any person in the government because they have repeatedly claimed to rely on God alone to help them through any difficult challenge. However, this does not mean the government is absolved of any responsibility to protect them.

I need our nation’s supposed guardians to stop making hollow promises and stand up, be courageous enough to take a firm stance against the persecution of Ahmadis. You say it is not God who lies in my heart, but tell me does He live in your heart? You who kill His people in His home, do you think God lives in you?

The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.

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Targeting the Ahmadis

Reuters Image

I feel sick to my stomach.

Today more than 70 people were killed and 108 were injured when gunmen launched simultaneous attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore. The attacks – involving blasts as well as gunfire – took place during Friday prayers, when “over 1,000 worshipers were present in the mosque.” The NY Times cited the city coordinating officer who said that more than three hours after the attacks began, “the police took control of the mosques, where they found bodies strewn across the main floors and verandas.”

In a statement, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK noted, “The attacks are the culmination of years of unpoliced persecution of the [Ahmadis]… Today’s attack is the most cruel and barbaric.”

Although Pakistan’s political leaders condemned the attacks today, saying it “would generate greater resolve to combat extremism,” those statements failed to acknowledge what led to such killings in the first place. The Ahmadiyya community view themselves as a Muslim sect. However, because they claim their leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet (though, noted the BBC, “The Ahmadis insist that he was not a “law-giving” prophet and his job was only to propagate the laws enunciated by Islam’s Prophet Mohammad“), “they were declared non-Muslim in Pakistan in 1973, and in 1984 they were legally barred from proselytizing or identifying themselves as Muslims.” According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Ahmadiyya community, said to number between three million and four million in Pakistan, endure “the most severe legal restrictions and officially sanctioned discrimination.”

Why were the Ahmadis targeted in such a senseless, horrific and violent way today? Because we have a society that not only turns a blind eye to persecution but also legitimizes the mistreatment of all minorities in Pakistan. According to the LA Times, an Ahmadi elder from the Model Town mosque said the mosque had been getting threatening phone calls for some time, but, he noted, “when we asked the government and police several times to enhance our security… we didn’t get anything.”

Tell me – is this a country that we can proud of? Pakistan was supposedly established as a homeland for Muslims, to free them of discrimination. This same country now allows persecution to continue not just unabated but often by the writ of the state.  Intolerance and ignorance have a foothold in the fabric of this society, and today’s tragedy further highlights this horrific state of affairs. I am ashamed and disgusted.

This is a screenshot of the Pakistani Passport Application. Please note section c. This to me further emphasizes the problem.

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