Govt Removes Cyril Almeida’s Name from ECL

The government on Friday removed the name of Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida from the Exit Control List (ECL), confirmed a notification issued from the Ministry of Interior.

Earlier today, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan assured the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) that Dawn staffer Cyril Almeida’s name would be removed from the ECL.
The interior minister provided the assurance during a meeting with APNS and CPNE officials in Islamabad.

However, he told participants that removal of the name would in no way affect the ongoing inquiry into the the matter and the inquiry would continue till its logical conclusion.

The interior minister reiterated during the meeting that the independent media must play its role not only towards safeguarding national interests and security but also counter negative propaganda by enemies of the state.

Almeida’s name was added to the Exit Control List – preventing travel abroad – on Monday after he wrote the news report “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military”. The Prime Minister’s Office rejected the story thrice since it was published on October 6.

In an Editor’s note, Dawn clarified its position and stated on the record that the story “was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.”

The note further stated that “Many at the helm of affairs are aware of the senior officials, and participants of the meeting who were contacted by the newspaper for collecting information. Therefore, the elected government and state institutions should refrain from targeting the messenger, and scape-goating the country’s most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign.”

In the wake of the travel ban on Almeida, human rights and journalists’ organisations including the HRCP, PFUJ and CPNE protested and rallied in his support. Most TV news channels also ran reports and conducted programs criticising the government’s decision.

Corps commanders view leak from high-level meeting as breach of national security: ISPR

Participants of a Corps Commanders meeting at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Friday expressed serious concern over what they said was a leak from a security meeting which was reported by Dawn earlier this month.

In a statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), participants of the meeting expressed serious concern over “feeding of false and fabricated story of an important security meeting held at PM House and viewed it as breach of national security.”

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif presided over the meeting which was attended by all corps commanders and principal staff officers.

Almeida’s name was added to the Exit Control List – preventing travel abroad – on Monday after he wrote the news report “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military”. The Prime Minister Office rejected the story thrice since it was published on October 6.

In an Editor’s note, Dawn clarified its position and stated on the record that the story “was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.”

The note further stated: “Many at the helm of affairs are aware of the senior officials, and participants of the meeting who were contacted by the newspaper for collecting information. Therefore, the elected government and state institutions should refrain from targeting the messenger, and scape-goating the country’s most respected newspaper in a malicious campaign.”

In the wake of the travel ban on Almeida, human rights and journalists’ organisations including the HRCP, PFUJ and CPNE protested and rallied in his support. Most TV news channels also ran reports and conducted programmes criticising the government’s decision.

The participants held a comprehensive review of the internal and external security situation with a particular focus on prevailing environment at the Line of Control (LoC) and the operational preparedness of the Pakistan Army.

Participants rejected the Indian claims of ‘hoax’ surgical strikes as an attempt to divert the world’s attention away from brutalities being committed by the Indian Army against Kashmiris in held Kashmir, ISPR said.

The forum resolved that any attempt of misadventurism and irresponsible act will be met with the most befitting response.
While expressing complete satisfaction over the operational preparedness of troops, the COAS reiterated the army’s resolve to defend Pakistan against a full spectrum of threat.

Recounting the successes of Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the resultant stability achieved, the COAS reiterated the need for sustained efforts on internal security to defeat all hostile attempts to reverse gains made.

The participants resolved to continue sustained and focused combing and intelligence-based operations across the length and breadth of the country to uproot terrorism, harmonising it with implementation of the National Action Plan to address extremism and other causes of terrorism, the ISPR said.

U.S. blacklists Pakistan nationals on suspicion of money laundering

The United States blacklisted four men and their companies based in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, for purported ties to an organisation accused of laundering money for drug traffickers and Chinese, Colombian and Mexican crime groups.

Among them was Pakistani national Obaid Khanani, whose father Altaf Khanani was arrested by U.S. authorities in September 2015 and accused by the U.S. Treasury Department of laundering billions of dollars for the Taliban and other groups.
The department said in a statement that Obaid Khanani, 29, continued to help lead his father’s money laundering organization after the arrest. Altaf Khanani is set to be tried on money laundering charges in Miami this month, according to federal court records.

Another man on the list, Hozaifa Khanani, also 29, is Altaf Khanani’s nephew and was involved in real estate investments on behalf of his uncle’s organization, the Treasury Department said. Muhammad Javed Khanani, Altaf Khanani’s brother, was “heavily involved in laundering criminal proceeds via money service businesses” Treasury said. It said a fourth man, Atif Polani, helped move funds on behalf of Khanani’s organization.

The sanctions block any assets the men or companies might have had in the United States, and bars Americans from dealing with them.

“Treasury remains committed to combating illicit money laundering networks around the world and today’s action is the result of close coordination with our partners in the United Arab Emirates,” said John E. Smith, acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which imposes sanctions.

The department also blacklisted several businesses based in Pakistan and Dubai for either being owned by the men or being linked to money laundering.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Joel Schectman; editing by Grant McCool)

Dawn’s senior columnist Cyril Almeida put on Exit Control List for ‘misleading’ story on national security

ISLAMABAD, Oct 11 – Senior columnist of Dawn Cyril Almeida has been put on Exit Control List after his ‘misleading’ story regarding purported deliberations in a meeting on the security issues stirred controversy.

The writer announced Government’s latest move against the controversial story on Twitter.

Dawn’s editor Zaffar Abbas defiantly replied after the Government placed its staffer Cyril Almeida on the Exit Control List.
The writer created a buzz in Pakistan and India by reporting on October 6 that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had delivered a “blunt” warning to the powerful military that the country facing growing international isolation if it failed to tackle terror.

The ECL is a system of border control maintained by the Government of Pakistan under the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance. Persons on the list are prohibited from leaving Pakistan.

The PM Office had strongly rejected the story, terming it not only speculative but misleading and factually incorrect. “The fact that the report itself states that none of the attributed statements were confirmed by the individuals mentioned in the story clearly makes it an example of irresponsible reporting”, he said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Earlier today, the civil-military leadership expressed concern over the publication of a fabricated news story in Daily Dawn pertaining to security issues purportedly discussed in a meeting of National Security Committee in the last week.

Also, the participants of meeting were unanimous that the published story was clearly violative of universally acknowledged principles of reporting on national security issues and has risked the vital state interests through inclusion of inaccurate and misleading contents which had no relevance to actual discussion and facts.

The participants felt that it was imperative that the print and electronic media refrained itself from speculative reporting and issues of national security and interests of the state.

PM Nawaz took serious notice of the violation and directed that those responsible should be identified for stern action.

JIT To Investigate Hazaras Murders in Quetta

QUETTA, Oct 9: A day after gunmen shot dead four women from the Shia Hazara community, the Balochistan administration decided to form a joint investigation team to probe into the grisly violence which officials say violates all tribal norms of the province.

A high-level huddle reviewed the security situation following Tuesday’s deadly assault on a bus which was en route to Hazara Town, an overwhelmingly Shia neighbourhood, on the edge of Quetta. Three gunmen riding a bike intercepted the vehicle on Kirani Road in the Podgali area.

Two of them boarded the section reserved for women and shot five women after confirming they were from the Hazara community. Four of them died on the spot while one was injured in the attack which was apparently motivated by sectarian hatred.

Attendees at Wednesday’s conclave included Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti, Chief Secretary Saif Ullah Chatta, IGP Ahsan Mehboob, DIG Quetta Abdul Razaq Cheema and civil and other military officials. The meeting also decided to improve security arrangements by putting up closed-circuit television cameras in the city. IGP Mehboob updated participants on the investigations.

Meanwhile, Sariab police registered a quadruple murder case against unidentified gunmen. Investigations are under way.

Separately, the Hazara Democratic Party staged a protest outside the Quetta press club against the killing of the women of their community.

HDP Secretary General Ahmed Ali Kuhzad led demonstrators. Participants expressed concern over targeted attacks against their community. Killing women is a violation of tribal and Islamic values which is condemnable, they added.

“We want the government to tell us where did the attackers come from and how did they manage to commit the grisly violence amid heightened security,” Kuhzad said. The Hazara community leaders also criticised the intelligence and security agencies for their sheer failure to preempt the attack.

The protesters called upon the United Nations and rights groups to take notice of the ‘genocide’ of their community in Balochistan.

A top military commander, meanwhile, called for unity among all segments of society to defeat the enemy’s designs.

“We will have to demonstrate unity to defeat our enemy who is hatching conspiracies to divide us,” Lt Gen Aamer Riaz, Commander Southern Command, said during a visit to an Imambargah where he offered Fateha for the victims of Tuesday’s attack on a moving bus.

Lt Gen Riaz visited Nichari Imambargah in Quetta Wednesday to offer condolences to the aggrieved community. He promised that the perpetrators of the cowardly attack would not go unpunished. “They will be brought to justice at any cost,” he added. “Stern action will be taken against those involved in targeted killings of innocent people.”

He called upon all segments of society to maintain unity among their ranks in order to foil the evil designs of the enemy who wanted to divide the society.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2016

PPP Thunders in Parliament: `Why has the Govt been Unable to Defend Pakistan?’

ISLAMABAD, Oct 7: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) played the role of a vibrant opposition party today when it asked the government some tough question about its handling of the Kashmir issue.

On the third day of the joint session of Parliament today when a resolution was passed on Kashmir, PPP lawmakers systematically criticised what they said was the government’s inability to make a strong case for Pakistan on the international stage.

“The day Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says the name of Kulbushan Jadhav, I will donate Rs50,000 to the blind association,” said Senator Aitzaz Ahsan. He was referring to PM Nawaz’s UNGA speech, where he failed to mention the Indian spy caught by military officials months earlier.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman slammed Pakistan’s foreign policy, asking “Why are we not able to mount a serious, sustained, protracted defence of the federation of Pakistan?”

“Kashmir is one of the most important issues for us regarding our foreign policy… You cannot build your foreign policy through one speech,” Rehman said, referring to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s UNGA speech.

Rehman echoed Aitzaz’s address to the joint session a day earlier, during which the premier failed to mention the Indian spy caught by military officials months earlier.

Aitzaz Ahsan also had something to say about Jadhav during today’s session: “The day Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says the name of Kulbushan Jadhav, I will donate Rs50,000 to the blind association.”

The Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval said if there was another terrorist attack in India, Pakistan would lose Balochistan, Rehman said. “Who is the NSA of India to say this?” she questioned. “How dare any Indian speak about the federation of Pakistan?”

“One-seventh of India is constantly under insurgency. That is their internal matter. Why did you not bring this matter up?” the PPP lawmaker said, addressing the prime minister who was not present at today’s session.

India has made us appear responsible for terrorism before the whole world, the lawmaker lamented. “The US is already their ally. They have already started making bases there. Afghanistan is already blaming us,” she continued. “You have no interests in common with the super powers,” she said.

“Who is defending Pakistan? Our parliament is doing it. Our Army is fighting the largest inland war against terrorism in the world today and nobody knows about it,” she said. “This is a failure of your diplomacy,” she added to applause from the PPP benches.

“The military should always be the last line of defence. The first line is the foreign ministry, the foreign minister and its ambassadors.

“The military’s job is to be standing there in the trenches. Do not make them do your job for you,” she warned the government, “Because that’s what they are being forced to do.”

“They have to give speeches, they have to take positions, they have to take journalists to the Line of Control for briefings. What have you done?” she asked the government.

“You held a traditional ‘All Parties Conference’. You didn’t even do a DGMO briefing. What are you afraid of? What will happen? Where is a vacuum, someone always fills it,” she warned.

Rehman also touched upon Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to suspend Indus Waters Commission talks after the Uri attack.

“On the Indus Waters Treaty, India touched that which hadn’t been touched in three wars. And this treaty is not a fair or just treaty with Pakistan. India has built dam upon dam.

“India has weaponised water. What answer did you give?” she asked.

Senator Rehman Malik also addressed the session, terming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “chief terrorist”, held India responsible for “exporting terrorism to Pakistan”.

Rehman Malik urged lawmakers not to isolate the Kashmir issue from CPEC. “What is happening right now is because of CPEC ─ certain world powers don’t want it to be successful,” he claimed.

Resolution on Kashmir
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz presented a resolution on Kashmir in the assembly which was unanimously endorsed by lawmakers in attendance.

The resolution highlighted Indian atrocities in Kashmir, calling for implementation of UNSC resolutions, rejected Indian accusations of Pakistani involvement in the Uri attack and condemned Indian sponsorship of subversive activity in Pakistan. It also took notice of India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan diplomatically.

Senator Taj Haider addressing parliament earlier had said, “We should not move back even one millimetre from our point of view.”

He added, “We have to voice very clearly that plebiscite in Kashmir is the only solution. We have to find a method to hold free and fair plebiscite without any pressure on Kashmir.”

The senator raised concerns of smaller provinces over the CPEC, echoing the stance PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan took during yesterday’s joint session.

Fata MNA Dr G.G. Jamal pointed out that a large number of the armed forces were deployed to the western border for Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

“The world should know that India, indirectly, does not want Zarb-i-Azb to finish. Indirectly, they don’t want terrorism to end, they are helping it,” he claimed.

Jamal said that India is diverting the world’s attention towards war so that state terrorism in Kashmir is forgotten.

Senator Kamil Ali Agha, during the session said: “We have to see that the UN resolutions are in place, the Kashmiris are sacrificing so where are we lacking? Why is the world not paying attention?”

Agha also raised questions about CPEC. “Why has Gilgit-Baltistan been left out of CPEC?” and asserted that GB carries the potential to generate electricity.

“The corridor cannot be completed without investment in Gilgit-Baltistan,” he maintained.

During yesterday’s session, PPP and PML-N lawmakers clashed over Panamagate and allegations of corruption in the house just days after political leaders announced they were united on the Kashmir issue following an ‘All Parties Conference’.

The upper and lower houses together also unanimously approved the anti-honour killing and anti-rape bills during Thursday’s session.

People outraged as Karachi authorities poison at least 700 stray dogs

Pakistanis are shaming Karachi authorities over their poisoning of at least 700 stray dogs. City officials counter that the canines bite thousands of people yearly, and there is no other way to curb the problem.

The poisoning of dogs got a fierce reaction from social network users, with most of them being outraged at the authorities’ actions.
“Just bloody horrible”, “Spread the word. Shame on Karachi authorities!”, “No more cruelty” were just a few among the angry messages.
Dog corpses were lying along the streets of the 20-million city, and the city employees have been disposing of them.

“At least 700 dogs have been killed only in two areas of Karachi’s south in the last couple of days,” Sattar Javed, a spokesman for the municipal authority, confirmed to Reuters.

Here’s how the authorities kill the strays: they hide poison tablets in chicken meat, and give the meat to the animals.
The Pakistani animal rights activists have spoken out against the practice, but the city authorities said there is no other way to cope with the growing population of dogs, which attack the locals.

According to stats, last year, Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital treated 6,500 people bitten by dogs, and this year saw about 3,700 incidents, according to Dr Seemin Jamali, head of the emergency room, as quoted by Reuters.

Officials don’t have the exact estimates of the total number of strays killed at the moment. However, they say that thousands should be culled in total

‘Pakistan Has Never Had a Functioning Democracy’

Nafisa Hoodbhoy, the first female reporter in Pakistan, talks about the country’s ties with China, civil-military relations, terrorism and much more.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy is a senior Pakistani journalist and author based in the US. She recently authored Aboard the Democracy Train: Pakistan Tracks the Threat Within, a book about politics and journalism in Pakistan. As the only female reporter working for Dawn during Gen Zia ul Haq’s rule, she wrote news reports and articles that coincided with the transition from military to civilian rule.

What do you mean by Aboard the Democracy Train?

Well, I thought that this would be a captivating title because of the fact that when I came back (to Pakistan in 1984), [I] was appointed given the fact that I was the only women reporter. So, my editor asked me to accompany Benazir Bhutto when she made a bid to become Pakistan’s first and only female prime minister. That is why I travelled with her on the train.

When we passed through different cities and towns in the interior Sindh, I thought that the people were deprived of food, clothing and shelter. And the way they responded to Benazir Bhutto gave me the idea that Pakistan was waiting for true and representative democracy. Later on, that idea or image was so powerful in my mind because, of course, the history of Pakistan has been the history of deprivation of the rights of people.

Consequently, I made it the cover of my book.

What is the prime objective of your book?

I think that I have had a great opportunity not only as a reporter in Pakistan, but also having gone to the United States and doing radio programmes from there after 9/11. I have been able to see how the United States interacts with Pakistan; Pakistan’s foreign policy plays a huge role in the way that the transformation has occurred in the last few years.

Being given this unique opportunity to observe things at a very close level, I thought that I should share my experiences and observations, and turn them into readable accounts which is what inspired me to write this book.

In your book, you write that in Pakistan “the military establishment has infiltrated ethnic, religious and political parties to bend the situation in their favor”. Could you please explain this?

Anybody who has lived through the history of Pakistan will tell you that we have never had a functioning democracy in this country. As a reporter who covered elections regularly, I had the opportunity not only to be closed to politicians, but also to observe how elections were rigged. It is not something that one arrives in one day; it is rather through consistent reporting and observation I was, for example, able to see that how the Muttahida Quami Movment (MQM) was created.

In those days, MQM was infiltrated by the military which wanted to see the Mahajirs (refugees) channel there in such a way that it could be used by the military to prevent the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from grabbing the power at the Centre.

I was witness in those days that not only the military, but also Nawaz Sharif, as he was a businessman and chosen by the military. In many cases, the combined opposition to former Benazir Bhutto was headed by Nawaz Sharif, too. That is why I got a very close look the way the military manipulated ethnic, religious and political parties in order to prevent people’s rule in the country.

In your estimate, what are the motives behind military coups in Pakistan?

It is an extremely complex situation but the fact is that the politicians are unable to deliver. And why are politicians unable to deliver? In my opinion, one of the reasons behind is this that the military does not allow freedom for institutions to develop. For example, in Pakistan, the judiciary has been curbed; the media has been curbed. These are cornerstones of any functioning democracy.

The present reform system has been controlled. However, we need to have a better education system; we need to allow institutions to grow. So, when this does not happen, and the politicians who are ruling the country during the same time, they fail. Because there is not enough planning at all levels. In this context, when politicians fail, the military takes over the control by saying that the political establishment is unable to bring about democracy in the country.

What has been the US’s role in undermining democracy in Pakistan?

I have to explain this one thing, which is that the United States does not go around trying to destabilise the nations around the world. What it does is it follows its own national interests because countries do not have emotions. They neither have friends nor enemies. In fact, they have only interests. For example, America’s interest was to get Pakistan as an ally in order to crush the Taliban and other militant forces, like al-Qaeda there. They did so to ensure that the people like Osama Bin Ladin never find sanctuaries.

It is not right to say that America is out to sabotage democracy around the world. However, it is too easy for us to say that America is against democracy and looks only for its own interests. As for interests, there is no doubt that every nation looks for its own interests. But the only difference they have the power and we do not have the power.

On the other hand, I would say that the foreign interventions in these regions are also important. Ever since the 9/11, America intervened. It opened a Pandora’s box in this country. Two things went out of control because of Pakistan’s history of shielding the Taliban. The fact is that if Pakistan wanted to get US aid and, of course, Pakistan does want to continue the US assistance. That is why it had to say yes to the United States. But implicitly it went against a policy of no interference in Afghanistan, which complicated things and brought terrorism to a boiling point in this country.

When the US interferes, there is often no understanding of how this can open up sectarian class and all types of differences which exist in lawless society like Pakistan.

What challenges did you face as the first female reporter during General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime?

I came at a time when women had actually disappeared from public view and the concept of chadar aur chardivari (the veil and the four walls) was very strong. Women who had protested against laws of evidence had been tear-gassed in 1981. So, I came only a few years later.

Interestingly, when I would go to public functions, the male reporters would start looking at me as though I was doing something wrong. Also, when I would go to events, I would even be asked whether I would be feeling strange because I was the first female reporter in Pakistan’s traditionally patriarchal society.

Besides myself working as a journalist, it was interesting that in 1981 Women Action Forum was formed and it was actually formed as a reaction to General Zia-ul-Haq’s rule, because he had enacted laws against women, including the Hudood ordinance, laws of evidence, etc. These laws were enacted in order to push the women back to their homes.

How did Pakistan transform politically and religiously under Zia?

It was [a] very, very transformational period for Pakistan. The major reason was the guns were coming in for the Afghan war. Karachi, the former capital of Pakistan, was transformed into the centre – guns would be sent from there to Peshawar for Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Zia had also banned the political parties. Consequently, the people were splitting up into ethnic groups. One of its examples is the MQM, which rose during Zia’s time. On the other hand, the religious parties also started gaining power. This is what happens when you do not have democracy.

In a nutshell, there were no ideological parties. Following Zia, there were also not ideological parties and democracy in true sense, including Benazir Bhutto’s PPP.

However, the religious and political transformation during Zia’s time was very deep, as well as it went on at every level in the society.

How do you view the current civil-military relations in Pakistan?

In the last 70 years, so much has happened in Pakistan. I think now the military has started to recognise that the people are fed up of martial laws. So there is no longer the acceptance of military rule, because we have already had two long military rules by General Zia and General Parvez Musharraf.

Even if former President Asif Ali Zardari was not a competent ruler, the military allowed him to continue his rule because they realised there was no appetite of democracy for dictatorship. But I would say that when elections were held in 2013, there was an understanding by military that it could not be business as usual.

As I write in the last chapter of my book, the way this present government came in, then Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan came in a very curious way in the sense that the establishment used the Taliban to attack the parties which were secular, including: ANP, MQM and PPP. Therefore, the two parties Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were facilitated by them.

I think Imran Khan rode the wave because he understood that the Taliban were a big force at the time. He showed closeness to the Taliban, while the army decided to use him. So he was allowed to gain power by stopping them from attacking his rallies, etc.

In a very devious way, Imran Khan and Nawaz, both of them, I would say, are parties of the establishment, which were ushered by the Taliban.

Even now there are many, many games being played. It is not like establishment or military’s sympathies toward any groups. Its primary goal is to control them or use political parties.

In Pakistan, politicians are nothing. In fact, they are people to be dispensed with. Remember, political parties are a creation of the establishment. For example, we do not have a defence minister in the country right now because the army makes all the decisions. There is no pretense of having a political figure or defence secretary or defence minister because there is no need for all that stuff. Everybody knows that the army makes all the decisions.

It is not just foreign affairs; the army is now making decisions in every, every aspect of life.

Why is ideological politics non-existent in Pakistan?

Because the political space has not been provided to them, and it should be provided to political parties to groom and train younger people. If there is no history of democracy, what is the role model? What can you look to the past, if all the politicians are mere creations of the establishment? Then, there is not much scope for grooming political parties, is there?

Following the attack on the Army Public School, what change do you perceive in Pakistan’s internal and external policies?

In 2014, the operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched. Already, the military had started clamping down, and before that the Karachi operation was launched. But the APC was another big jolt for them, and the people with whom the army had had contacts, in the past, like Fazlullah. It is my belief that they let Fazlullah escape from Swat by letting him go to Afghanistan. In fact, there is quite evidence on that discourse.

When those people returned to kill innocent children, it shook things up in this country. As a result, the army did react very promptly by intensifying Zarb-i-Azb. After that, there is specific targeting of militant[s] across the country, where they knew they were hiding in Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Kyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In a nutshell, it renewed the anger in the army that these people are still present despite frequent bombardments in the aforementioned areas.

Following the attack, the army has been able to raise its head little bit. The reason is: Pakistan had been consumed by terrorism prior to that. Therefore, they managed to clean up quite a bit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where there used to be routine bomb attacks in the past. For example, before 2014, there were usual bomb attacks there.

As for Balochistan, hundreds of Hazaras would be slaughtered at one time. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which is active in Mastung, Balochistan, they were chased out. Malik Ishaque, the head of LeJ, was killed in an encounter. Besides him, some of his finances were killed.

After these all, the military used intelligence; it tracked all the political and sectarian groups that had been committing terrorist acts. In this regard, Altaf Hussian himself was tracked. Also, for the first time, the army said a very interesting thing that MQM is basically a terrorist organisation with a political mandate instead of the other way around. It redefined MQM. So, having treated it as terrorist then, of course, what follows after that. And it is continued to follow after that.

Yes. There have been major changes in internal policies.

Externally, what they did: it raised Pakistan’s profile in the outside world. I think that Pakistan army’s capability has been recognised in the outside world. It has allowed Pakistan’s status in that sense to be lifted a little bit higher that it was able to control terrorism.

Of course, terrorism has not ended now, and we do not know what the future of terrorism is in the country. Certainly, I believe that not unless you bring sweeping changes, giving the people the right to understand that what the hell is going on inside the country. Just, blindly accepting military rule is not a cure. And military courts can never be a substitute for the rule of law; the way the state narrative continues can never be a substitute for real debate and understanding for critical analysis, for which we really need to project what is going on and understand things better. So, I think that is the way our country is headed right now.

Is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif creating a space for the military establishment?

I think that he has a better understanding of the military establishment than the other parties or chairpersons. In history, he came at a time when the military was much more in a position to recognize that unless it combated the enemy within, nothing could be done.

In 2013, it was a turning point for Pakistan, and the military recognised that the businessman who they turned into a politician was perhaps the only one who could have the smartness to work with them in such a way that he keeps his mouth shut, he often does not speak the truth when he goes out of the country. So, they need a man like that because they do not need a man who is rabble-rouser, and who gathers crowd. They need someone who can toe the line, and I think he is delivering very well for that.

How has militancy strained Pakistan’s ties with its neighboring countries?

This is true that even at a time in Pakistan’s history when it has succeeded fighting militancy. It’s past history with its neighbours, and I will not go beyond 2011, has made it extremely unpopular. Today, we are at a very low point in our relationship with our neighbours. For example, Afghanistan is blaming us for supporting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network in order to destabilise the Afghan government. India is convinced that we are still sheltering Kashmiri separatists, and militant groups, like JuD [Jamaat-ud-Dawa] which openly has processions and shuts down roads and markets. In this context, the people like Hafiz Saeed, etc, are roaming free. That is why they are very vocal about Pakistan’s support toward terrorism.

As far as China is concerned, she is looking the other way because she needs Pakistan for its economic interests.

Between Iran and Pakistan, on the other hand, are also problems due to Sunni elements who use Balochistan border to inflict attacks on Iran. Anyway, that is a separate issue.

On the other hand, Pakistan is close to Saudi Arabia also makes more tense the relations with Iran.

What about the US?

With the United States, I would say that relationship is still uneasy one. Right now, the US itself is in a state of transition due to elections. And the Congress has a lot of people who say that Pakistan should be cut off, so much so, sometimes they are very loud by saying that 15 years on Pakistan refuses to stop supporting the Haqqani network.

Worryingly, Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a drone attack in Balochistan. In fact, Balochistan still continues to be the hub of Quetta Shura. Therefore, these things are making Pakistan’s relations unpopular with America and rest of the world.

Is China still complainant about Uighurs’ safe sanctuaries on Pakistan’s soil?

To my knowledge and understanding, Pakistan has done a wonderful job to rid of foreign militants, like Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens and Uighurs. It’s Taliban that creates problem.

With Uighurs, in recent times, there are no complaints from China.

Does Pakistan still differentiate between the good and bad Taliban?

Well, Pakistan keeps saying, especially from 2014, that it does not differentiate any more between the good and bad Taliban. But if you talk to senior government officials inside Afghanistan, they will say that Pakistan still differentiates between good and bad Taliban.

The only thing which I think has happened is that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has gone to Afghanistan and many of its leaders, who are disillusioned with Pakistan, are now joining the Islamic State. That is why Afghanistan is accusing Pakistan of supporting IS inside Afghanistan.

We know for the fact that the great game is going on and Pakistan does need a strategy for pursuing its policies of strategic depth inside Afghanistan. So, as long as that happens, it will continue to differentiate between the good and bad Taliban.

What are your thoughts on the Gwadar port project and security situation in Balochistan?

If the Gwadar port project is going to be a project of the federal government without input from the Balochistan government, then it is headed for a major showdown. In this context, the questions arise: How can you come as a foreign invader in your own country? How can you support the interests of a foreign country in your own country and support your own military restrict without recognising that this is in a province where people have suffered from generations of neglect? So, if they are committing this blunder, then they will have to pay for it because this is an opportunity for Pakistan to enhance itself in order to enrich itself by bringing people to mainstream, educational opportunities.

I still think that the control over the Gwadar port project is so strong that even the officials of Gwadar recognise that their jobs are very precarious that if they detract from the policies of the federal government, then they can lose their jobs.

However, it is very significant now for the democratic forces in Balochistan in particular and in Pakistan in general to demand that to be given a say in the Gawadar port. Otherwise, this is also going out of their hands.

The federal government and the military have provided something like 10,000 security personnel to secure Chinese nationals, who will be coming in. And they are treating the Baloch as a problem, instead of taking them along with themselves.

As long as they continue to treat them as a problem rather than the people of the soil, the security situation will never improve. However, the people are people, and they feel affronted by these people coming in and behaving like foreign powers by simply enriching themselves only.

So, that is my prognosis that until people, intellectuals, different people who have a vested interest in seeing the economic situation improve and the participation of the people, I think they really need to speak out and write to have an impact. If you do not speak up, then you are dead meat.

Is CPEC [China–Pakistan Economic Corridor] really a game changer for Pakistan in general and Balochistan in particular?

Supposedly, China is now really rushing and their officials are coming to Islamabad. In a nutshell, they are very anxious to build this project because China is an emerging power. But politics inside Pakistan keeps postponing, which prevents things from happening. However, in my estimate, Chinese are pushing for greater economic transformation. The reason is: they have their own interest. But politics in Pakistan is getting in the way.

As for the question, it can be a game changer but it depends on how it is approached.

The government of Pakistan has lots of work on its hands. It really needs to get its house in order, and yes of course promote industry and also promote power by allowing your good to start competing. Once Chinese goods reach Pakistan and they are sold at cheaper rate than Pakistani goods. Then, I can see the problems growing for Pakistan.

Once non-Baloch are inducted into Gwadar port, and they start working in Gwadar. Then, I can also see problems growing for the local people.

So, there is a need to make provisions to plan, plan, and plan. Unless you do that it cannot be a game changer.

How much is Pakistan benefiting from its all-weather friend China?

China is now quite involved in Pakistan; as much as I know, it is giving much more assistance than America to Pakistan. China, on the other hand, is in Pakistan’s neighborhood, and it unlike America leaving Pakistan. Remember, if America is eight thousand miles away and can get involved in Pakistan primarily due to Afghanistan. So, why not China?

China has quite invested in Pakistan’s infrastructure, which is a good thing. And I do think that China tends to support Pakistan at international levels and issues. So, many things for which there are objections, for example, India is getting into the nuclear club and if Pakistan wishes to do the same it has few friends other than China that will support it at a UN level. For that, I think China is a very good partner for Pakistan at the international level.

On the other hand, they are willing to negotiate in Afghanistan, and that is a plus for Pakistan. As a neutral country, they are willing to sit and negotiate a deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

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Brothers Among 3 Brussels Suicide Attackers

Brothers in crime (Credit: rt.com)
Brothers in crime
(Credit: rt.com)

BRUSSELS, March 23 — The Brussels suicide bombers included two Belgium-born brothers with a violent criminal past and suspected links to plotters of the Islamic State’s Paris attacks last November, the authorities said on Wednesday, raising new alarms about Europe’s leaky defenses against a militant organization that has terrorized two European capitals with seeming impunity.

One of the brothers was deported by Turkey back to Europe less than a year ago, Turkey’s president said, suspected of being a terrorist fighter intent on entering Syria, where the Islamic State is based. Despite that statement, Belgian officials said neither brother had been under suspicion for terrorism until recently, an indication of the Islamic State’s ability to remain steps ahead of European intelligence and security monitors.

At least 31 people as well as the suicide bombers died on Tuesday in the blasts — two at the Brussels international airport departure terminal from homemade bombs hidden in luggage, and one at a subway station about seven miles away in the heart of Brussels. The number of wounded climbed to 300 from 270 on Wednesday as the area slowly sought to recover from one of the deadliest peacetime assaults in Belgium’s history.

“The European values of democracy and of freedom are what was savagely assaulted by these tragic attacks,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said after meeting with his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, who said, “Our two peoples are united in this hardship.”

Many Belgians attended memorials and others stayed home from work. Subway service was reduced and the airport, now a crime scene, was to remain closed at least through Thursday. And new evidence emerged of how the magnitude of the attacks could have been far worse.

The authorities recovered two undetonated bombs at the airport that had been constructed with 20 to 40 pounds of a volatile compound known as TATP — an explosive also used in the Paris attacks — combined with ammonium nitrate and metal bolts and nails, according to an American official who had reviewed intelligence shared by Belgium. The official said they also recovered what the Belgians called a suicide belt at the site, and found two more bombs concealed in suitcases, similar to those recovered at the airport, at the residence where the bombers hailed a taxi before Tuesday morning’s attacks.

As of Wednesday evening, the police were still hunting for at least one other member of the Brussels bombing ring, a man in a white coat and dark hat seen pushing a luggage cart in an airport surveillance photo, who was believed to have escaped before the explosions. They were also trying to determine if the other suicide bomber at the airport was Najim Laachraoui, 24, a Belgian believed to be a bomb maker, who has been linked to the Paris attacks.

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There were indications that the Brussels bombers may have acted out of urgency because they feared discovery after the arrest on Friday in Belgium of the only remaining survivor among the Paris attackers, Salah Abdeslam, who is said to be cooperating with the authorities.

The Belgian prosecutor said the authorities found a recently composed will — which was possibly a suicide note — of the elder brother involved in the Brussels bombing, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 29, on a discarded computer in a garbage can. The will expressed his fear of being caught and ending up in a prison cell.

Mr. Bakraoui and the unidentified bomber blew themselves up at the Brussels airport at 7:58 a.m. Tuesday, in two explosions nine seconds apart. At 9:11 a.m., his younger brother, Khalid el-Bakraoui, 27, carried out the suicide attack at the Maelbeek subway station.

While the Belgian authorities have been credited with acting quickly in the aftermath of the assaults, there were growing questions about whether they had also suffered an enormous intelligence lapse.

The most prominent question arose from assertions by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that his government had detained Ibrahim el-Bakraoui near the Syrian border on June 14, alerted the Belgian government that he “was a foreign terrorist fighter,” and then deported him to the Netherlands.

“Despite our warnings that this person was a foreign terrorist fighter, the Belgian authorities could not identify a link to terrorism,” Mr. Erdogan said at a news conference in Ankara.

Justice Minister Koen Geens of Belgium acknowledged that Mr. Bakraoui had been deported to Europe last year, but he told the VRT broadcasting service that he was not known to the Belgian authorities for terrorism but was a common criminal who had been given conditional release from prison.

In his own news conference, Frédéric Van Leeuw, the Belgian federal prosecutor, described the trail that led investigators to identify the brothers.

After the attacks, a taxi driver who suspected that he may have driven the bombers to the airport approached the police and led them to a house on Rue Max Roos, in the Schaerbeek neighborhood of Brussels, where he said he had picked up three men, according to Mr. Van Leeuw. There, the prosecutor said, the authorities found about 33 pounds of TATP, considered a large amount.

At the apartment in Schaerbeek, investigators also found nearly 40 gallons of acetone and nearly eight gallons of hydrogen peroxide. Acetone, a solvent in nail polish remover, and hydrogen peroxide, found in hair bleach, are among the ingredients used to make TATP. The investigators also found detonators, a suitcase full of nails and screws, and other materials that could be used to make explosive devices.

On Wednesday, the Belgian police raided a building in the Anderlecht neighborhood of Brussels. Officers in protective clothing carted out files and plastic boxes as masked officers stood guard outside. Two police officers in the neighborhood said an arrest had been made, but the identity of that person was not clear.

Several Belgian news outlets reported last week that the Bakraoui brothers, who grew up in the working-class Laeken neighborhood, were wanted for questioning in connection with a March 15 raid on an apartment in the Brussels suburb of Forest, which had been linked to the Paris attacks. It was not clear why the authorities did not formally ask the public to help find them.

Ibrahim el-Bakraoui was sentenced in 2010 to nine years in prison for shooting at police officers after a robbery attempt at a currency exchange office. It was not clear when or why he was released, or how he ended up in Turkey.

In 2011, Khalid el-Bakraoui was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted carjacking; when arrested, he was in possession of assault rifles. Interpol issued a warrant for him in August after he violated his parole. He is believed to have used a false name to rent a safe house in Charleroi, Belgium, and the apartment in Forest. Fingerprints belonging to two of the Paris attackers, Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Bilal Hadfi, were found in the Charleroi house on Dec. 9, and Mr. Abdeslam’s prints were found in the Forest apartment.

Speaking on Belgian radio on Wednesday morning, Interior Minister Jan Jambon said that the police raids would continue, and that the threat status would remain at its highest, Level, 4. “There are many hypotheses to put on the table,” he said. “It’s up to investigators to sort out fact from fiction.”

Speaking later to RTL radio, Mr. Jambon said it was also unlikely that the attacks could have been avoided even if Belgium had been at the highest threat level instead of Level 3, which was imposed after the Paris attacks.

He said Belgium had “everything possible in place to avoid a catastrophe like what happened yesterday, like other countries.”

Areas like the Brussels airport departure hall are particularly vulnerable because, as at most Western airports, bags are not searched until after check-in. That allows a would-be attacker to pack a bomb into a suitcase that could have far more space than an explosive vest and therefore be far more lethal.

In terrorism-plagued countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, and across the Middle East, bags are put through scanners when travelers enter the airport.

ATDT Website Completes One Year in September 2012

This website completes one year on September 11, 2012. That coincides with the 11th anniversary of the biggest terrorist attacks on US soil – and which have also turned into America’s longest serving war.

The 9/11 attacks fetched me an offer by a US based publishing giant to write a book on Pakistan. For me, the motivation to write a book was always present. However, to write a book through the prism of how the West sees Pakistan or to pander to stereotypes of how emancipated I felt as a woman emerging from a Muslim society… would have defeated my original motivation.

And so, ‘Aboard the Democracy Train,’ is a nuanced book that seeks to both educate and inform global audiences about Pakistan’s inside story. Doubtless, the Western reader today is far more informed about the Pak-Afghan region than before it went to war in Afghanistan. However, even while Pakistan’s geography has been critical to its destiny, the country is so much more than an epicenter for the 9/11 attacks or a conduit for bringing the Taliban to power in neighboring Afghanistan

This website has brought Pakistanis and Americans (and readers from some 60 countries around the world)  to catch up on the region’s current affairs. That is a testimony to openness among individuals, ready to go beyond the mainstream media to non traditional internet resources. As someone invested on both sides of the Atlantic, I see the website as a means of promoting greater understanding between people around the globe.

Eleven years to date, the US is now focused on bringing the troops back home and rebuilding its stressed economy. A badly battered Pakistan seeks to foster trade ties with its neighbors. With the world community involved in the US’s longest war, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the longer the war, the greater its toll. In particular, the three nations most involved, the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan have the greatest to lose. If greater numbers of US soldiers returning from war are committing suicide or suffer post traumatic stress disorder, the war has shattered the lives of millions of Pak-Afghan people for generations to come.

But as nations turn inward to pursue their policies of self interest, its absolutely critical that people don’t scapegoat peoples of other ethnicities, nationalities or faith, in tribal vendetta or failed policies of their governments. This is where education safeguards against agent provocateurs who use religion to drive a wedge between people.  Submitting to such provocateurs, as is happening in the Middle East, only  breeds terrorism, wars and a state of perpetual conflict. Despite its advanced state of evolution, if humanity continuously engages in this type of behavior,  it will only drive its own kind of species toward extinction.

This is where the internet and constructive websites bring people across the globe to understand the “other.”