PAKISTAN: Timeline on Swat Valley turbulence

12 02 2009
Source: IRIN


Photo: Kamila Hyat/IRIN
Schoolgirls even in veils are not allowed to continue their education in Swat

LAHORE, 11 February 2009 (IRIN) – Understanding the humanitarian situation in turbulent Swat Valley, some 160km from Islamabad in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), requires some knowledge of the political background to the current tensions and violence.

In 1995 radical clerical leader Sufi Muhammad Khan, leader of Tehrik-e-Nifaz e Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in Swat Valley, demanded imposition of Islamic law in the area. Violence followed as the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force, began an operation against Khan. Tourism, a major source of income, was disrupted and 13 militants died in fighting.

After the operation, the NWFP government agreed to enforce Shariah law in Malakand Division (in Swat District). TNSM’s main demand – the replacement of regular courts with Islamic courts – was partially met, but arguments over the peace deal led to sporadic violence.

In 2001 Sufi Muhammad Khan took a force of some 10,000 people from Swat and the tribal areas to fight against US forces invading Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 were killed, while others were jailed in Afghanistan or sent back to Pakistan, including Sufi Muhammad Khan, who was imprisoned. The TNSM was banned by the government.

In 2002 Sufi Muhammad Khan’s son-in-law, the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazalullah, emerged as a force in Swat and set up his headquarters at Imam Dehri. Linked to the militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he stepped up efforts to impose hardline Islam.

In January 2003 incidents of violence began to increase in Swat. The Afghan writer Fazal Wahab, whose work was viewed as being critical of Osama bin-Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, was shot dead in Swat by unidentified assailants.

Between 2004 and 2007 Maulana Fazalullah set up at least 30 illegal FM radio stations to get his message across. Girls’ education and any active role for women in society was opposed. Several schools, music shops and barbers’ businesses were attacked.

2007

July 2007 – Violence in Swat increases after Fazalullah urges his followers to launch ‘jihad’ (holy war) to avenge an operation carried out by the Pakistan military against the Lal Masjid (mosque) in Islamabad, where clerical leaders were accused by the government of harbouring “terrorists”.

4 July 2007 – Four civilians are killed and two police wounded by a roadside bomb. In a separate incident a policemen is killed and four others injured in a rocket attack on a police station in the Matta area of Swat District.

12 July 2007 – A suicide bomber kills three police.

13 July 2007 – President Pervez Musharraf approves a plan to deploy paramilitary forces in Swat to crush growing militancy. Troops are positioned in Swat.

15 July 2007 – At least 13 paramilitary personnel and six civilians, including three children, are killed and more than 50 people injured at Matta in Swat District when two suicide bombers ram two cars packed with explosives into an army convoy.

August 2007 – NGOs and international humanitarian organisations are asked by the administration to leave Swat after threats by militants. Attacks on several girls’ schools are reported.

30 August 2007 – Seven security forces’ personnel are killed as militants attack a checkpoint in Swat. Owners of video centres and barber’s shops receive threatening letters.

21 September 2007 – Maulana Fazalullah urged his supporters to attack government officials after a demand to release three militants held after a hotel bombing incident was rejected by the authorities.

October 2007 – Fazalullah sets up his own Islamic courts.

21 October 2007 – Eighteen soldiers and two civilians die and 35 others, including nine civilians, are injured in a bomb blast aimed at a vehicle carrying paramilitary personnel at Nawan Killi, about 1km from Swat city.

26-29 October 2007 – Fierce clashes erupt between troops and militants in Swat, leaving at least 29 dead. Thirteen security personnel are executed by militants.

1-2 November 2007 – Fighting resumes after a brief ceasefire. 60-70 people die after a clash in Khwazakhela town; 48 troops who surrendered to militants are paraded in public.

3-6 November 2007 – Militants extend their hold over Swat, capturing key towns including Madyan and Kalam.

November 2007 – The Pakistan military intensifies its operation in Swat. Helicopter gunships pound villages. Thousands flee the valley. There are conflicting accounts of casualties, but dozens are feared dead.

28 November – 6 December 2007 – Security forces say militants have been forced out of Swat and many key leaders arrested. Key centres such as Imam Dehri are seized. Hundreds are feared dead in the operation; 500,000 of Swat’s 1.8 million people are reported to have fled.

23 December 2007 – Fourteen die in a suicide attack on a military convoy near Mingora, Swat’s main city. Sporadic violence continues in Swat, including attacks on shops, schools and government buildings.

2008

January 2008 – Low-level violence between troops and militants continues in Swat.

29 February 2008 – Forty killed and more than 75 wounded when a suicide bomber targets the funeral of a police officer in Mingora.

1 March 2008 – Militants behead a 22-year-old man accused of passing on information to the security forces.

April 2008 – NWFP government launches a fresh peace process, setting up a committee to initiate dialogue with different groups of militants. Militant leaders, including Fazalullah, re-enter Swat. Maulana Sufi Muhammad Khan of the banned TNSM is released.

21 May 2008 – Taliban militants operating under Fazalullah in Swat District sign a 16-point peace agreement with the NWFP government and agree to disband their militia; they also denounce suicide attacks and stop attacks on the security forces and government buildings.

June-July 2008 – Attacks on schools and other buildings continue in Swat. Militants say the government refused to keep its part of the peace deal by retaining troops. At least 50 girls’ schools are reported to have been attacked by militants in 2008. Thousands of girls quit school, fearing for their safety.

27-30 July 2008 – Fierce clashes erupt again, after incidents involving the killing of military personnel.

August-December 2008 – The military moves tanks, heavy artillery and helicopters into Swat to combat militants. Hundreds are reported killed in heavy clashes. Reports of atrocities by militants increase – including the killing of women who decline to stop work and public beheadings of those accused of spying. Human rights activists say 60 percent of Swat’s 1.8 million people have fled. Thousands of homes are reported to have been damaged and 150 schools destroyed.

December 2008 – Press reports say the militants control 75 percent of Swat. Fazalullah announces a ban on education for girls.

29 January 2009 – Pakistan’s government announces a new strategy to combat militancy in Swat and pledges to ensure girls resume schooling. Schools for girls remain closed in Swat after the winter break leaving 80,000 girls out of school. Militants are reported to have seized control of almost all of Swat.

31 January 2009 – Fazalullah, leader of the TTP in Swat, says he will relax the ban on education to allow girls to attend school up to grade 5. The ban had been met by a nationwide outcry.

February 2009 – Renewed military offensives are reported against militants as the Pakistan Army pledges to regain control of Swat. Mingora said to be under government control. Fierce fighting continues and more people flee.

(Sources: Dawn, The News, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan State of Human Rights in Pakistan annual reports, and the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by the Institute of Conflict Management, New Delhi)

kh/cb





Pay-up time

12 02 2009

Source: Frontline
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

Pakistan: None of the first steps of the Obama administration has given the kind of unconditional reassurance that the Pakistanis want.

SHERIN ZADA/AP

A MAN CARRIES his elderly mother on his back as the family flees from the troubled Swat valley on February 1 as fighting between the militants and the security forces escalates.

THE bad news arrived quickly. Just three days after the Obama inauguration, the new United States administration made it plain to Pakistan that the winds of change sweeping America would not travel as far the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, at least not in the way that the rulers in Islamabad desired. If anything, the relationship might grow more difficult. The message came riding on two missile attacks on suspected militant compounds, within hours of each other, on the evening of January 23: one in North Waziristan and the second in South Waziristan.

The number of people killed in the attacks may have been 20. It is likely that there were both civilians and militants among the dead. It has always been impossible to verify such information. In Pakistan, the question is not so much if Al Qaeda operatives were among the dead. The missile attacks, launched from unmanned Predator aircraft, generically known as drones, are seen as violations of the country’s air space, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

There have been more than 30 such attacks since August 2008. Despite the Pakistani government’s protests against such incursions during the days of the Bush administration, the attacks continued, increasing in frequency and appearing to gain in precision. It led to the widespread belief that Pakistan’s civilian government was complicit in them. A Washington Post report in November 2008 said the Pakistan People’s Party-led government had given the Bush administration the green signal to carry out such attacks in the tribal areas. The understanding, according to the Post, gave Islamabad the right to protest against the attacks to keep domestic public opinion satisfied. Obama’s Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a congressional committee recently that the drone attacks would continue and that the decision had been conveyed to the Pakistani leadership.

The government has strenuously denied any secret understanding with the U.S. on the attacks. From President Asif Ali Zardari to Prime Minister Yusouf Raza Gilani to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, all Pakistani leaders have made the point that the missile attacks were “counter-productive”: they fanned the flames of militancy that is eating the region – when civilians get killed, their fellow tribesmen, looking for revenge, swell the ranks of the Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda elements.

Pakistan’s influential media even went so far as to advise the government to stop the drones militarily, and, for a few days last year, the Pakistan Air Force flew sorties over the tribal areas in a sort of show of force. But as Qureshi once told reporters in his hometown Multan, when they asked him why the country could not stand up to the drone attacks in the same way that they had dealt with the alleged air space violations by the Indian Air Force in the wake of the Mumbai attacks: “Pakistan cannot equate the U.S. with India.” An indication that there was a limit to how far the government could go in challenging the drones. This also became evident when drones attacked a target in Bannu, which is not a territory in the lawless tribal region known as FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) but a “settled” district in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Some days before the Obama inauguration, Gilani told the National Assembly, the lower house of the Pakistan parliament, that the incoming administration would not carry out missile attacks inside Pakistani territory. That turned out to be an incorrect reading of the new U.S. administration’s intentions.

In fact, none of the first steps of the Obama administration has given the kind of unconditional reassurance that the Pakistanis want from their patron country. In keeping with the new President’s campaign promise to focus on the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, his agenda for foreign policy, announced the day after his January 20 inauguration, gave top billing to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not in the way Pakistan wanted.

The agenda document spoke about refocussing American resources to deal with what the document described as the “greatest threat” to U.S. security: “the resurgence of the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. It spoke of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan and asking the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to do the same, while promising more money for economic development to the war-torn country. The new administration has said it will make the Afghan government “do more” in terms of cracking down on the illicit opium trade and on corruption. For Pakistan, the new administration has promised more “non-military” aid, while holding it “accountable” for security in the border region with Afghanistan.

Hussain Haqqani, Islamabad’s Ambassador to Washington, told Geo television that if U.S. policy was not “positive”, Pakistan “will have to review its options”. He expressed the hope that President Obama would give a “patient hearing” to Pakistan’s concerns.

The increase in non-military aid is expected to come via the Biden-Lugar Bill, a bipartisan draft legislation sponsored by Joseph Biden – now the U.S. Vice-President – and adopted by the Senate in September 2008.

The Bill, which the House of Representatives is yet to take up – it lapsed with the inauguration of the new administration and will need to be reintroduced in the Senate – proposes tripling Pakistan’s non-military financial aid over the next five years in recognition of the need to stabilise the country’s economy and democratic institutions, making the bilateral relationship more oriented towards Pakistan’s people rather than its military. It also makes military aid conditional on greater accountability from the Pakistan security forces.

Specifically, the proposed legislation authorises $7.5 billion over the next five fiscal years ($1.5 billion annually) under the Foreign Assistance Act. It also advocates an additional $7.5 billion over the subsequent five years, subject to improvements in the political and economic climate.

ASIF HASSANAFP

JAMMAT-E-ISLAMI ACTIVISTS demonstrate against the missile strikes after Barack Obama took over as President, in Karachi on January 25.

It makes military assistance beginning in 2010, and new military sales beginning in 2012, conditional on certification by the U.S. Secretary of State that Pakistani security forces “are making concerted efforts to prevent Al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups from operating in the territory of Pakistan; are making concerted efforts to prevent the Taliban from using the territory of Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to launch attacks within Afghanistan; are not materially interfering in the political or judicial processes of Pakistan”.

The increased non-military aid would address Pakistan’s contention that militancy must be tackled not by the military alone, but through economic development of the border regions, giving people education and jobs and “mainstreaming” them.

Pakistan had also hoped that Obama’s promised special envoy to the region would be mandated to work with India as well to press for a solution to the Kashmir issue. During his campaign, Obama said in an interview that a solution to the Kashmir problem was vital for peace in Afghanistan. The reasoning: the Kashmir issue is the cause of Pakistan’s insecurity with India, leading to its continuing quest for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan through jehadist proxies. Therefore, a resolution of the problem is as vital for the stability of Afghanistan as it is for peace between India and Pakistan.

In the event, the appointment of the tough-talking Richard Holbrooke as Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan caused disappointment in Pakistan that Obama had backed down, in the face of aggressive Indian diplomacy, from his resolve that the U.S. must help find a solution to Kashmir. But Pakistani leaders have continued to emphasise that Holbrooke’s mandate must be expanded to include India and Kashmir. In fact, the Foreign Ministry press release welcoming his appointment studiously avoided mentioning the two countries included in his mandate, stressing instead the word “region”.

The concern in New Delhi is whether Holbrooke will lean towards Pakistan’s view of the Afghan crisis or whether he will lean on the Pakistan military to produce the keys that can unlock the puzzle. Accepting Pakistan’s position would be no less than accepting jehad and terrorism as legitimate instruments of foreign policy. Leaning on the Pakistan military, on the other hand, would amount to challenging the nature of the Pakistani state.

Finally, the realisation that jehad is unviable has to come from within Pakistan, as it now has over the Taliban takeover of Swat. The picturesque valley in the NWFP, once a holiday destination for tourists, is now under the grip of a Taliban group under the leadership of Fazlullah, a mullah with extreme views who has thrown in his lot with the South Waziristan-based warlord Beithullah Mehsud.

Fazlullah’s marauding militants run a virtual parallel government in Swat. They brook no defiance and have imposed their extreme version of Islam on the people, making men wear beards and salwars that must end above the ankles, and women wear the shuttle-cock burkha, which was once unknown in that part of the world. Disobedience means death, with the body hanging in the main square in Mingora, the big town in Swat. The chowk itself has come to be known as “khooni chowk” (bloody square) or “chowk zibakhana” (slaughterhouse square). The valley was known for its vibrant singing and dancing, but that has ended, and an estimated 300,000 people of the total population of 1.6 million people have fled the district. No elected representative from Swat has dared to step into his constituency in months.

After a national outcry against the Pakistan Army for doing nothing to bring the situation under control, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited the valley in a prelude to a fresh round of operations.

But Pakistanis still tend to see the situation in Swat in isolation, as if it has no connection with the larger issue of jehadist militant groups raised by the Pakistani state for proxy wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

These groups and their virulent ideologies are eating at the very vitals of the country, threatening to tear it apart politically and socially, while their actions abroad threaten to push Pakistan out of the comity of civilised nations.

The message from Swat is that it is easy to start a jehadist war but containing it means a systemic overhaul that is not possible only by pasting a democratic face to the state. And in this lies the challenge for U.S.-Pakistan ties, as much as it does for the India-Pakistan relationship.•





Forget GAZA care about SWAT

12 02 2009

Source: The news
Thursday, February 12, 2009
By by Fasi Zaka
I think it would be absolutely inhuman not to care about the massacre in Gaza, the flagrant violation and cruelty demonstrated by the Israelis. But after talking to an old friend of mine, I can see how someone would be unmoved by the plight of the Palestinians.

A friend of mine called recently from the UK to announce the birth of his son. He was with me in university in Peshawar, and is a most amiable fellow. He is from Swat, and I had a good number of friends from that place during my student years.

The people of Swat are an extremely good looking people, and of a much more demure nature than most Pakhtuns, who are known to be boisterous. Several years after the completion of my education I went to Swat on a research project for the first and only time looking into the value chain of apple growers for the export market. I met many farmers, intelligent family men who were seeing hard times in agriculture but were optimistic about the future. Despite their hardships, they conformed to the gentleman farmer mould. If you had asked me at the time what would be the main concerns of Swat several years into the future I would have said it was the decimation of the population of bees due to pollution that was affecting the pollination of fruit-bearing trees. How wrong I was.

My friend who just had a son is in the UK, working; his wife and newborn are still in Swat. When he called he told me he was going to a protest in London to urge for action in his city. Several of his extended family had been murdered by the Taliban, and others threatened. The beauty of the valley is now irrigated by the blood of its slain innocents.

He asked me with what conscience could Pakistanis protest Gaza and be vocal about the atrocities there while remaining silent on Swat. He is right, it is unconscionable. More than the trouble in the tribal areas and FATA, Swat is problematic because it is indigenous Taliban without the benefit of being close to Afghanistan. When Swat goes, only a matter of time before Peshawar, and ultimately Islamabad too, if not the rest of the country, if the government does not detain these people.

How hard is it to take out a radio station there that Fazlullah uses to terrorise the citizens every night, announcing the roster of targets in his bloody workweek? What are the army and government thinking on this? There is already a report in the press that one of the ministers in the NWFP took out an advertisement in the local papers of Swat asking the Taliban to forgive him. Why is he still in office. The government has been shameless in only lauding Afzal Khan Lala, an octogenarian, the only resistance there is in the valley. Why is the burden of Swat on this old man?

The press has been irresponsible. Many commentators have romanticised the movement. But what is the core of the demands of the Taliban, other than regression of progress? Despite the horrific violence of the Communists, at least they gave their people education and quality healthcare that eventually helped undo the totalitarianism. The only way to undo the Taliban if they ever take over will not be education because there will be none. We will hark back to the days of brutes, leading short violent lives. There will not even be a noble savage amongst us. The moral relativism needs to end. They are massacring the people of Swat; the people live in terror every day while the army and the government watch on.

The Taliban have already issued their hit list to the media of politicians from the once serene valley. How long before they become even more ambitious and issue death verdicts to members of the legal fraternity, human rights lawyers and media men? Expect that soon. Where we can negotiate we should, no need for loss of life, even if it is enemies of the state, we need to preserve the sanctity of what is living. But sadly, we have moved beyond that phase because of the inaction of the both Musharraf and the current government.

The killing machine that the Taliban have become has created a new theatre of blood lust. They exhume graves of people to put corpses on display, they publicly kill people for minor offences, they fear education and ostracise it, they cut off people’s noses and ears. What kind of humanity is that? It’s not Islam, that’s for sure. It is an aberration.

Of all the coverage I have seen, the best came from unexpected quarters and in a totally different setting. While Hamid Mir is often criticised for being sensationalist, his reporting from Gaza was an unbelievable tour de force of mature and thought-provoking reportage. While surveying the damage in Gaza, he looked at the schools that were destroyed by the Israelis and pondered about Swat and the same that the Taliban manage to do with impunity. Without thinking everyone will denounce Israel, but hesitate to denounce what is happening in Swat. Why?

Gaza has been covered well by the world media and for the first time from both the west and the east there is tandem consternation over Israel, concentrating on it and ignoring our own plight is not sensible. The tragedy of Gaza doesn’t need to be replicated in Pakistan. We need to heal Swat, for the people of the valley and as a duty to our fellow citizens. The next generation will not forgive us for our silence.

The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email: fasizaka@ yahoo.com





Window on Pak Press: ‘Taliban fighters moving towards Islamabad’

12 02 2009

Source: India today

As an old adage goes ‘you reap what you sow’, Pakistan is now terrified over the threat from Taliban. The News reported on Wednesday that the local Taliban leadership has decided to send its fighters to Islamabad as a reaction to the operations in Darra Adam Khel and Swat Valley and in this regard chalking on the walls of Islamabad are already appearing, forcing the Islamabad administration to whitewash these messages quickly.

Many religious scholars in Islamabad, the leading daily The News and Urdu daily Jang said, have also received messages from the Taliban that they have only two options, either to support the Taliban or leave the capital or they will be considered collaborators of the ‘pro-American Zardari government’ which, they claim, is not different from the previous Musharraf regime.

Taliban threat coincided with US President Barack Obama saying that he has sent his special envoy Richard Holbrooke to Islamabad with a message that the terrorists, who threaten the United States, also threaten Pakistan. In his first prime-time news conference as president, Obama sent forceful message to Pakistan: “Washington seeks a closer relationship with Islamabad, but there can be no compromise on the issue of terrorism.”

“There is no doubt that in the Fata region of Pakistan, in the mountainous regions along the border of Afghanistan, that there are safe havens where terrorists are operating,” he said.

“It’s not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children,” he declared.

President Obama said that he has tasked his special envoy, now in the region, “to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations.”

Besides, India asking Pakistan if it needed any help in the investigation into 26/11 Mumbai attack probe and Pakistan and the United States agreeing to jointly review the policy to counter extremism and terrorism to ensure peace in the region, dominated the Pakistan media on Wednesday. Several papers including Daily Times quoted India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee criticising Pakistan on Tuesday for leaking reports to the media concerning its investigation into the Mumbai attacks, saying Islamabad should have communicated any information through official channels.

Meanwhile, The Nation on Wednesday morning said, “India, Pak keen on South Asia trade; mum on bilateral ties”. The paper said India and Pakistan came together on a SAARC platform, discussing ways to mitigate the impact of the global downturn on the South Asian region, even as the two neighbours have snapped bilateral trade talks after the Mumbai attacks. As the commerce secretaries of the eight-nation South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) met in New Delhi, officials from both India and Pakistan remained focused on giving a boost to the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), but remained silent on bilateral ties even on the sidelines.

“We are at the moment talking about SAARC. I think it is important to concentrate on the matters in hand … Multilateral forums are very important and we need to strengthen those,” Pakistan Commerce Secretary Suleiman Ghani said when asked about the fate of India-Pakistan trade ties.

Presiding over the meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation, Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai said, “Our resolve to initiate the review of the sensitive list is a pleasant (happening) in a depressing regional environment.”

This is for the first time that trade officials from Pakistan travelled to India after the Mumbai attacks in November. Officials agreed to work on pruning their sensitive lists to enable increased trade flow under SAFTA.

Daily Times also reported that a three-member team of the Indian Crime Branch investigating the Mumbai carnage has left for the US to meet FBI officials and share details of their investigation, a private TV channel reported on Tuesday. The channel quoted an unidentified Indian police official as saying that the team headed by Additional Commissioner of Police Deven Bharti had left for the US on Monday night. “They will discuss and share the details of the probe and also take input from officials of the FBI,” he said. The police team is likely to spend a week in the US. Meanwhile, Daily Times said Hindustan Times quoted unidentified sources in the Indian Crime Branch as saying that the investigators would collect, analyse and finalise the evidence gathered on the Mumbai case by both agencies in order to compile a comprehensive chargesheet.

The News reported that Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday agreed to jointly review the policy to counter extremism and terrorism to ensure peace in the region. It was the crux of meetings of the visiting US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday.

Holbrooke agreed with Pakistan’s proposal to form a parallel group to review the new US strategy towards Afghanistan, Pakistan and terrorism. In the meeting held in the Presidency, US Ambassador Anne W Patterson, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Information Minister Sherry Rehman, Law Minister Farooq H Naek and Adviser to PM on Finance Shaukat Tarin were also present.

Besides terrorism and extremism, the meeting discussed the regional situation in the wake of the Mumbai incident, the Kashmir issue and the situation in Afghanistan. According to sources, during the meeting, President Asif Ali Zardari presented some new proposals for peace in the region. But it was the Taliban threat that attracted attention. The News went on to say that it was also surprising that the Taliban of Swat and Bajaur have included the names of some religious and Jihadi leaders, who are not ready to fight inside Pakistan against their own countrymen, in their hit lists.

The Taliban have accused some militant leaders of the tribal areas and some leaders of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkatul Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen of trying to stop youngsters from fighting the Pakistani forces. Taliban have declared all these “pro-Pakistan” Jihadis as their enemies.

The names of Maulvi Nazir from South Wazirastan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur from North Waziristan, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Maulana Farooq Kashmiri and Syed Salahudin have been included in the hit lists of the Taliban, who have threatened some Hizbul Mujahideen leaders in Swat and Dir to leave the areas as soon as possible.

Another Taliban leader in the Mohmand Agency Maulvi Omar Khalid has threatened boys belonging to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba to leave the tribal agency or face death. Omar Khalid has claimed that these boys are only interested in fighting against the foreign troops in Afghanistan or against India, which means that they don’t want an Islamic government in Pakistan.

“This complicated situation has forced the government to take some extreme steps against the Taliban in Darra Adamkhel and Swat, who had killed a Polish engineer as a reaction to the operations in their areas,” the paper said.

“Some diplomatic sources have revealed that initially Pakistan was ready to release some arrested Taliban fighters in exchange for the abducted Polish and Chinese engineers but the US authorities raised objections and a deal could not be finalised,” the paper said.





Pak to stop broadcast of Taliban radio in Swat, FATA

12 02 2009

Source: Merinews

During a meeting, officials from ISPR, PEMRA and Radio Pakistan informed the Information Minister of the Pakistan government’s ongoing efforts to procure equipment for jamming illegal radio transmissions in Swat and FATA..

PAKISTAN GOVERNMENT has said that it will intensify the government’s public outreach and strategic communications efforts to counter extremist propaganda and prevent terrorism.

Officials also said that they were procuring high tech equipment to stop the broadcast of Taliban radio in Swat and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

“Pakistan is confronted with a war of ideas – between tolerance and extremism, and between democracy and anarchy,” said federal minister for information and broadcasting, Sherry Rehman, while chairing a high-level public outreach and communications meeting held today at the Information Ministry to assess the government’s counter-terrorism communications strategy.

In this war for hearts and minds, Pakistan’s vulnerable population segments are exposed to terrorists’ message,” said the Information Minister.

“Our poor and uneducated youth become hapless recruits to their sinister recruiting techniques. Only a well-coordinated and synchronised national and international framework of public outreach and strategic communications undertaken by government departments and agencies will counter and thwart extremist propaganda that represents a major challenge to our country today.”

During the meeting, officials from ISPR, PEMRA and Radio Pakistan informed the Information Minister of the government’s ongoing efforts to procure equipment for jamming illegal radio transmissions in Swat and FATA.

The Minister was informed that the necessary equipment will be procured and installed in the sensitive regions in the next two weeks, followed by launch of an elaborate and aggressive FM radio campaign in the region to counter extremists’ transmissions.





Troops throng Afghan capital after Taliban attacks

12 02 2009
Source: AFP

By HEIDI VOGT – 3 hours ago

KABUL (AP) — Heavily armed government troops thronged the streets of Afghanistan’s capital Thursday, stepping up security before the arrival of the new U.S. envoy to the region the day after Taliban attacks showed how easily the city’s defenses can be breached.

Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama’s recently appointed envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was expected later in the day for his first trip to the country. Security would have already been high for such a visit, but Holbrooke arrives following one of the Taliban’s most audacious attacks on the capital.

On Wednesday, Taliban militants killed 20 people in a coordinated assault on three government buildings. Armed with guns, grenades and suicide vests, they stormed through barricades at the Justice Ministry in the heart of Kabul and a corrections department building to the north.

One attacker was killed before he could force his way into a third building, the Education Ministry.

The Taliban claimed responsibility soon after the assault began.

The attack served as a reminder of the challenges facing Obama as he increases America’s focus — and troop levels — in Afghanistan. The new administration has promised up to 30,000 new troops. Holbrooke is helping the Obama administration chart a new strategy to beat Taliban insurgencies in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Under rain and snow, troops armed with heavy machine guns swarmed street intersections in Kabul on Thursday, checking drivers’ papers and searching cars.

“Security measures have been increased 100 percent, particularly at the gates of Kabul,” said Abdul Gafar Pacha, the head of the police criminal investigation unit.

All eight attackers died in Wednesday’s assaults, bringing the death toll to 28. Another 57 people were wounded, according to the Interior Ministry.

Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, said the attackers sent text messages to a militant leader in Pakistan before the attack.

Afghanistan has accused militants based in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas or Pakistan’s spy service of being behind several major attacks in Kabul, including the bombing of the Indian Embassy last July, an assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai in April and an assault on the luxury Serena Hotel in January 2008.