Swat girl denies she was flogged

7 04 2009

Two attacks a week to avenge U.S. drone strikes: Taliban

— Photo: AFP

Image taken from Pakistan’s Dawn News channel on Saturday shows the flogging of a woman by Taliban members in Swat valley.

Islamabad: The girl who was reportedly whipped by the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley has denied the incident, even as a rally was taken out in Karachi to condemn the public lashing. The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a probe into the matter.

The girl was reportedly flogged by a Taliban cleric for “coming out of her house with another man who was not her husband”.

The girl’s statement before a magistrate was presented in the Supreme Court through Attorney-General Latif Khosa. “The girl has denied the alleged flogging incident,” Geo TV reported. The lashing footage was telecast on many news channels worldwide.

The victim was not present during the hearing.

Senior officials, including the Interior Secretary and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Inspector-General of Police, appeared before the eight-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary which is hearing the case.

Chief Justice Chaudhary said “investigations be conducted” into the incident.

A two-minute video showed the 17-year-old, burqa-clad girl screaming while being whipped by the Taliban men.

The grainy video, shot on a mobile phone, showed the girl face down on the ground. Two men held her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned man with a flowing beard, whipped her repeatedly, London’s Guardian newspaper reported.

The newspaper said it received the video through Samar Minallah, a Pashtun documentary maker.

After 34 lashes the punishment stopped and the wailing girl was led into a stone building.

The Minhajul Quran Women League (MQWL) on Saturday staged a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club to condemn the flogging and demanded strict action against those involved in the incident, the News International reported.

Addressing the protesters, MQWL chief Fatima Mashadi said those who flogged the girl were not following Islam and they had brought a bad name to the religion and the country. — IANS

PTI reports:

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a paramilitary camp in the federal capital that killed eight security personnel and warned it would carry out two attacks a week to avenge U.S. drone strikes in the tribal areas.

Hakimullah Mehsud, one of the deputies of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud, said Sunday’s suicide attack on a Frontier Corps camp in the heart of Islamabad was carried out by his group.

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A new dimension of suicide terrorism

6 04 2009

A new dimension of suicide terrorism

M Abdul Vasiq Eqbal

After the successful escape of the Liberty Square attackers it was being assumed that Lahore has to face another attack in the same way, but right in the nursery of protectors was unexpected. Around 900 trainees and staff personnel were there when the “Suicide Attack” was launched. This brazen attack has given totally new dimension to the phenomenon of suicide terrorism. High value targets are no more accessible through the single perpetrator as they cannot penetrate within the security establishments blocked by barriers and security checks. Ramming vehicles is also not a worthy solution to this as it can damage the building infrastructure and that’s it. Police Training School was a “gold mine” of security personnel which were not even completely trained. Assailants were clearly ordered to kill themselves before getting caught; and out of one dozen four blew themselves up. However, two of them have been apprehended and rest of them managed to runaway in the police uniforms. They were aware that their target is place of no-return, reinforcements would be called up and even if they would use hostages to get an escape way, they would be chased till their den, still they came and did what they were indoctrinated to do. But why Police Academy was targeted? Question to this answer is that academy was located at the outskirts of the city neighbouring Manawan viallage, an urban locality just few miles away from the border line of India. Police training school is located in a city which is strategically very important and historical as well, this was the mightiest reason for the perpetrators to encircle the police training school on the map. Other reasons could be “pre-gauged” inadequate security measures and densely populated area which could provide them hindrance or easy escape way. Despite the current security situation and given warnings of Corps Commander Lahore, nothing was done to preempt the attacks. We are well aware of the ill-equipdness, inadequate training and limited resources of the police. With this kind of infrastructure they cannot maintain the law and order in the country but can just exist. Condition of the attacked police school, especially the rear side of the building clearly demonstrated the capability of police to face such kind of incidents, through the media. There were some reports in the media that according to post-event accounts of some eye-witnesses, assailants had also taken control of the arms store inside and due to that, security guards at the main gate ran out of bullets and could not resist for long. Albeit the precious lives of the policemen had been lost and number of them wounded and traumatized, Eight hours long battle is too short which has resulted in the capturing of two perpetrators which is enough to tail the storming brain. But on the contrary it is too long if the time was consumed to take the help of other security agencies through the systematic rules of engagement. Coordination of all the four agencies was praised in the media, but unfortunately one thing was neglected. If calling up army was the ultimate solution then why rangers and elite groups were mobilized to the location?

Displacement of entire security structure could have provided another and open battlefield to the “unseen” hand. If rangers were their just to cordon off the area, then I think our police can do this at least. Elite members were waving their weapons on the rooftop of the building after capturing the lost castle, the way they were moving in and out around the area, their body language was depicting the level of their training and the way they were raised up from within the existing police structure. Regular police personnel were also there, on the same scene but their inability to retaliate quickly and wisely, on such kind of assaults were in their demeanor. Do we have any contingency plan to face such kind of situation? Pakistani security forces are being attacked since Pakistan started the operation against al-Qaeda and Taliban in FATA, Swat and Waziristan. Police, the first defence line of civilian and government infrastructure has suffered the most in the country and particularly in Lahore, suicide attack at Lahore high court, another attack in front of Allama Iqbal town police station and recently on the Sri Lankan cricket team were the examples to hit the civilian security agency. A unified contingency plan for all the security agencies should be defined regardless of their type and style of working, whether they are from civilian or military setup. A well-established line of communication and chain of command that who will assist who, when, where, how and through what? A worst case scenario should be constituted to manage such kind ofhappenings. We are still onboard and the ship of war against terrorism is facing storm of Taliban but we cannot rule out our other rivals. Enemy of my enemy is my friend, quote goes with the time we are living in. Pre-defined set of rules, applicable anywhere in the country will provide basic platform to minimize the response and rescue time. It would decrease the damage and increase the chances of success simultaneously. The sooner the formation, the greater the fruitfulness, “a stitch in time saves nine”.

The author can be reached at: vasiq.eqbal@gmail.com





Editorial: Counter-terrorism in a divided land

6 04 2009

Sorce DAWN NEWS

The suicide-bomber who killed eight Frontier Constabulary men on Margalla Road in Islamabad two days ago was successful because the man appointed as guard in the camp thought he could leave his post during meals. In 2008, the truck that blew up the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad had taken the heavily guarded “high-security” Margalla Road because the security force stationed there thought it could leave its positions to break the Ramadan fast. In both cases the force knew that an attack was imminent.

The state can multiply the police force manifold but unless the quality of its recruits is raised, counter-terrorism strategy will be a failure. Pakistan can get any amount of money if it wants to raise the quality of its security forces through better salaries and higher educational qualification. In Lahore at Manawan the police recruits said that they were not even properly fed during training. Only an educated and “rational” security person will know that he can’t leave his post during meals and that his religion allows him relaxation of namaz and fasting during a life-and-death emergency.

Today the fact is that Baitullah Mehsud can attack a Friday congregation in a mosque and still be trusted as a “good Muslim” by sections of the population and media but the security forces cannot be relied upon to prevent their faith from becoming an impediment in the fight against terrorism. When Baitullah Mehsud says he has not done a certain act of terrorism, he is believed, adding to the deception and savagery of the violence done in the name of Islam. The latest proof of his strategy of false propaganda came when he claimed the killing of 13 innocent people at a New York immigration centre this week. The killer was in fact a Vietnamese.

It has been observed in the wake of 9/11 that Muslim terrorists find it easier and strategically useful to attack and kill Muslims. Mounting a terrorist attack in the US after 2001 and in the UK after 2005 has been difficult. Attempts made by Al Qaeda since then have been unsuccessful although the terrorists succeeded in coming to Pakistan and taking their training and indoctrination here. Killing Muslims in Muslim lands produces sympathy rather than fear and loathing. Fundamentally it is public fear and loathing which leads to better counter-terrorism efforts. This has been proved by unsuccessful Al Qaeda attempts in the US, Europe and Russia.

As terror becomes widespread in Pakistan — another incident happened Saturday when some JUI activists closed down a dancing event in Larkana, and on Sunday morning at an Imam Bargah in Chakwal — sympathy for the terrorists has arisen in Lahore instead of declining. Sympathetic terrorist incidents aimed at closing down theatres and music shops have increased. The video showing the lashing of a 17-year-old girl has united civil society but divided the media and the intelligentsia. At least two leading journalists of a major newspaper group have illustrated the dilemma of a nation trapped in terrorism it can’t clearly define in moral terms.

Reacting to the Pakistan-wide condemnation of the Swat Taliban, the chief reporter of the said group warned that the nation was “thinking like America” and referred to Sura Nisa to prove that the whipping punishment meted out in Swat was right. By ignoring the question of “authority” — a fundamental condition under Islam — he asked the nation to accept the legal status of whoever it was who ordered the whipping. Another TV anchor who does a popular “monologue” programme pointed out that the Swat whipping had brought the “humanist-Islamic” divide in Pakistan. A pro-Taliban leader in Swat also said on TV that the “roshan khayal” (enlightened) elements of the country were aligned with America and their NGOs were leading the assault against Islamic values.

Despite the nation-wide condemnation, the whipping incident is gradually becoming victim of the national division over terrorism. Are we being killed because we are fighting America’s war; or are we dying because the terrorists want to take over the country? The media is heavily tilted along with the opposition politicians in favour of the first cause. Civil society is being heavily influenced by the TV channels and is becoming vulnerable to the rhetoric of retired army officers who say terrorism can’t be fought and the correct policy is to fight the Americans out of Afghanistan instead of fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban out of Pakistan.

Terrorism has to be fought, if not as terrorism than as a law and order problem. If the state wants to survive it must raise a strong security force that will face the terrorists and lay down the law. *

Second Editorial: Uniting to kill Baitullah Mehsud

According to a reported intelligence source, “Pakistan and the US have agreed to stage a joint operation to kill local Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud”. The effort will include intelligence from Pakistan about Mehsud’s movements, with the aim of guiding a missile attack from an American drone. It is said that it took Pakistan time to persuade Washington to target Mehsud and abandon its earlier drone policy of not attacking elements who are not directly involved in raids across the Durand Line.

The Americans have likely agreed to cooperate on Mehsud after twice ignoring precise triangulation of Mehsud’s movement by Pakistan. The earlier American policy of letting Mehsud wreak havoc in Pakistan was flawed. His men literally drove NATO supply logistics out of Pakistan by attacking the truck convoys outside Peshawar. His men also spread from Khyber to Orakzai to Kurram and were able to increase Mehsud’s capacity to challenge America in Afghanistan and, finally, inside the United States. He is in his early 30s and dangerous precisely because he has acquired power without the maturity to use it judiciously. Before he goes down, he is bound to do a lot of damage to both Pakistan and America.

What Baitullah Mehsud is doing together with his master organisation Al Qaeda is global terrorism. If he is killing Pakistanis today, tomorrow he will be killing others all over the world. Pakistan can tackle him but lacks the technological capacity and funds to prepare itself for the job. It is joined with the advanced nations of the world in the fight against global terror, more or less like it is united with the world against such endemic diseases as polio and smallpox. Had Pakistan refused to join the world against the latter two diseases, a large percentage of its population would have died by now. *





The Death Throes of Pakistan’s Hindus by: Dr. Richard Benkin

6 04 2009

Hindu Temple in Pakistan

I just returned from a month in India during which time an incredible number of significant events were occurring. My primary mission in going was to document and raise awareness of the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus. I found plenty, including evidence of ongoing attacks on them both in Bangladesh and in West Bengal, India. The border between the two is so porous that terrorists and contraband move freely with and without the help of India’s Border Security Force or West Bengal police. But I also witnessed the tragic beginning of the end for Pakistan’s Hindus. Once one in five Pakistanis, they have been reduced to one percent of the population.

But as the Taliban take over ever larger chunks of that country, that remnant of a people is streaming across the border into Indian Punjab. The stream became a torrent with the Taliban’s seizure of the Swat Valley earlier this year. Hindu refugees report attacks and threats by the Taliban, as well as officials telling them to leave the country “or else.” The February agreement between the Taliban and the Zardari government ceded the area to the former and allowed Sharia law to be imposed on Swat’s 1.2 million inhabitants.

President Obama has used this agreement as a model in his stated quest for “moderate Taliban.” But not only does the agreement countersign ethnic cleansing, it also failed even before Obama’s anticipated speech on US policy in the region. Just hours before the President spoke, one of the Taliban parties to the agreement, Tehrik e Taliban, abrogated it with a terror attack on a mosque in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, and has engaged in other terrorist attacks subsequently.

One Hindi language channel quoted a Taliban spokesman confirming that his group was pulling out of the agreement not to attack elsewhere in Pakistan because, he said, it would be contrary to Allah’s wishes to limit Sharia to the Swat Valley. Yet, no major media in India, the US, or elsewhere made this connection.

Even more shameful, no media or government has protested the ethnic cleansing of Pakistan’s Hindus, who are being finished off by the Taliban. All governments involved in the region are just allowing it to happen,too. What kind of a world do we live in when India will not defend Hindus attacked for being Hindus; when the US ignores the atrocity; when not a single human rights group or the UN utters a word of protest?

What is happening to Pakistan’s Hindus is a crime, but a crime that is largely accomplished. There remain 13,000,000 Hindus in Bangladesh subject to the same attacks, the same racist laws, and the same intention to eradicate them. Worse, the battle is spilling across the open border into India, and it is changing the demographic balance in the region. It is also allowing terrorists into the country whose intention is to undermine the very nation of Hindustan.

My mission is to prevent that, to prevent the murders and other atrocities, even if I am the only voice of protest to cry out about this crime against humanity.





NY shooting: Pak Taliban claim responsibility

5 04 2009

TALIBAN STRIKES BACK: Baitullah Mehsud (center) says the New York attack was carried out by his men.

TALIBAN STRIKES BACK: Baitullah Mehsud (center) says the New York attack was carried out by his men.

New Delhi: Pakistan’s Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack on a US immigration centre in New York in which 13 people were killed, Pakistan’s Geo TV reported.

He said it was carried out by a Pakistani and another man to avenge the missile strikes by US drones in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“I accept responsibility. They were my men. I gave them orders in reaction to US drone attacks,” Mehsud told media men by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan warned that “such attacks would continue” to avenge missile strikes by US drones in tribal areas and “brutalities in Palestine.”

Mehsud also pointed out that he had said a few days ago that his militants would carry out attacks on American soil.

The claim by the Pakistani Taliban commander came hours after a US drone attack in North Waziristan tribal agency killed 13 people, including women and children.

A man armed with two handguns killed 12 people at an immigration services centre before turning the gun on himself, said authorities in Binghamton, upstate New York.

They identified the killer as Jiverly Wong, an immigrant from Vietnam.

Mehsud had recently claimed responsibility for the terrorist siege of a police training centre at Manawan near Lahore that killed eight persons and injured over 90 as well as for two recent suicide attacks.

WHO IS BAITULLAH MEHSUD?

  • He is the leader of militant group Tehreek-i-Taliban

  • He belongs to the Mehsud tribe from South Waziristan

  • Mehsud commands about 20,000 pro-Taliban militants

  • His group includes some foreign fighters

  • He is known to provide sanctuary to militants fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan

  • Mehsud is the main accused in the assassination of former Pakistan prime minister, Benazir Bhutto





Pakistan bomber targets Islamabad protectors

5 04 2009

Karachi News.Net
Saturday 4th April, 2009

A lone suicide bomber in Pakistan has targeted the residential camp of a group of paramilitary forces.

The forces, which were put in place to guard the capital, Islamabad, were attacked in an area of the city which houses foreign missions and the homes of Pakistani officials.

The suicide bomber attacked after dark, when the soldiers were preparing to eat.

He entered one of the canvas tents that serve as soldiers barracks and detonated his explosives.

Officials had earlier received intelligence about a general threat against the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, but were unable to pinpoint the potential incident.

The bombing is latest in a series of attacks against security forces in recent weeks.

More than 20 people, including nine paramilitary troopers, were killed in two sucide bombings in Pakistan Saturday, officials said.

At least six members of Pakistan’s paramilitary, the Frontier Corps (FC), were killed and four others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a check post in Islamabad when the soldiers were having dinner, Senior Superintendent of Police Tahir Alam said.

The blast occurred in the upmarket residential area of F-7/3 near the Jinnah Supermarket, nearly four kilometres from President Asif Zardari’s office.

Deputy Inspector General Bin Yamin told reporters at the blast site that at least six security personnel were killed and 11 were injured.

TV channels said the blast was followed by loud gun shots and there was an exchange of fire between security forces and militants. One report said some attackers had taken shelter in one of the houses of the F7 neighbourhood, one of Islamabad’s upscale areas.

A TV report said at least eight attackers were holed up in the area.

However, Alam denied any exchange of fire, saying the security men fired in the air to scare away any other attackers. He said no militant was holed up.

Alam told a TV channel that body parts of the suicide bomber were found at the site.

Alam said one attacker was arrested. ‘We have one suspect in our custody. His interrogation is on,’ he said.

Separately, another suicide bombing Saturday on the outskirts of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan, killed at least 17 people, including five children.

Over 40 people, including six Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers, were also injured in the attack which targeted security officials at a check post in the town, the Online news agency repoted. One soldier died later in the hospital.

Security forces took retaliatory measures and have cordoned off the entire area. The Miranshah Bazaar was also closed, the report said.

President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the terrorist attacks and vowed that his government would root out terrorism.

‘Such acts cannot deter the government’s determination to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,’ he said.

Violence in Pakistan has surged in recent months with a wave of attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

The latest attacks come five days after the March 30 terror assault on the Manawan police academy on Lahore’s outskirts when heavily armed militants held over 400 trainees hostage for over eight hours before Pakistani security forces recaptured the complex.

At least 18 people, including two civilians, eight policemen and eight militants, were killed and 95 injured in the terror attack owned up by Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Mehsud vowed in a telephone interview with reporters early this week to carry out an attack in Islamabad, as well as in the US, in retaliation for American missile strikes by Predator drone aircraft in the Pashtun ethnic belt of western Pakistan, near the Afghan border.

Last month, eight people, including policemen, were killed and several were injured when terrorists ambushed Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore.





Suicide blast kills 50 at mosque in Khyber

27 03 2009
Friday, 27 Mar, 2009 | 05:28 PM PST |

Source: DAWN

Tribesmen gather as they take part in rescue work at the site of a suicide blast near Jamrud in the Khyber agency tribal region, about 30 km from the Afghan border, March 27, 2009. — Reuters

LANDI KOTAL: A suicide bomber killed at least 50 people when he blew himself up in a crowded mosque near Pakistan’s Jamrud town, about 30 km from the Afghan border, on Friday, government officials said.

The bomber set off his explosives as an imam, or prayer leader, began the service.

Eyewitnesses believe the casualty figures are being under-reported and that at least 70 people have been killed, first by the explosion, and secondly by the collapsing of the mosque’s ceiling.

‘The moment the imam said Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), the blast went off,’ said Tauseer Khan, 70, from a hospital bed in nearby Peshawar.

‘It was huge. I still can’t hear properly,’ said Khan, who had wounds to his hands and face. His son and grandson were also wounded.

Rahat Gul, a spokesman for the Khyber administration, said 50 people were killed and 75 wounded.

Between 250 and 300 people were in the mosque, said Tariq Hayat Khan, the region’s top administrator.

‘It was a suicide attack. The bomber was standing in the mosque. It’s a two-storey building and it has collapsed,’ Khan said.

Worshippers searched through piles of bricks, pulling out bodies and carrying them to ambulances in sheets and on rope beds, television pictures showed.

Police caps, prayer caps, prayer beads and mobiles telephones were later lined up on a wall outside the mosque.

Dawn’s Khyber Agency correspondent Ibrahim Shinwari explained that the Friday prayer congregation at this mosque is quite large as it is frequented by Frontier Corps personnel and members of the Khasadar force who are stationed at the adjacent check post. Moreover, those who travel to and from Torkham for work stop at this mosque to offer prayers. There are also many tribal households within a two-kilometre area from where people come to offer prayers.

TTP militants had warned of a blast of this nature, Shinwari said, adding that a shoot-out between militants and security forces at the nearby checkpost one month ago left one militant dead and two injured, and they were thus seeking revenge. Following that encounter, a TTP spokesman in Khyber Agency had said that there would be consequences if Nato supplies are not suspended and if FC personnel are not disbanded.

‘ENEMIES OF ISLAM’

Police initially said a bomb blew up at a police post next to the mosque, which is by the main road leading to the Khyber Pass and the Afghan border beyond.

‘It’s surprising, those who claim that they are doing jihad (holy war) and then carry out suicide attacks inside mosques during Friday prayers,’ Khan told a private television channel.

‘They are infidels. They are enemies of Pakistan. They are enemies of Islam,’ he said.