TTP and the Perils of Inertia

TTP spokespersons (Credit:
TTP spokespersons

IT is our war. It is America’s war. Thousands of Pakistanis have perished in this war. And all we do is take part in this debate. We do nothing to end it.

If one could put it down to a simple lack of will or spine it would have been bad enough. That a fair bit of the discourse on terrorism represents ideologically motivated obfuscation is unforgivable, particularly given how many compatriots have had to sacrifice so much.

The dominant argument is that Pakistan’s support to the US-led war in Afghanistan and the CIA’s drone attacks are the only drivers of terrorism in the country. Ergo, this support to the US is not just blamed for terrorism but also advanced as a justification for the mass murder of our people.

Refusal to accept this view in its entirety is immediately pounced upon as being tantamount to condoning or worse still supporting the drone attacks that mostly kill our civilians, women and children, and occasionally the militant in the tribal areas.

God help you if you happen to have doubts about talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP): “Amreeka key agent media mein bethey huey hein jo amn ke khilaf hein” (There are American agents in the media opposed to peace), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan said in his ‘first’ televised interview since his election campaign accident.

His utter contempt for anyone holding a view different to his own is always a bit upsetting but, on this occasion, it was reassuring because it established the PTI leader had been restored to good health and his former self.

Therefore, it wasn’t surprising to hear him say that if the US can facilitate the opening of an Afghan Taliban office in Doha and initiate a dialogue with them why couldn’t Pakistan do the same in case of the TTP.

Let me be open and admit that I have a soft corner for the great Khan. He gave me and countless others one of the finest moments of our lives by leading Pakistan to its only Cricket World Cup triumph. That is why we all forgave him for his “In the twilight of my career…” speech.

That the well-meaning, born-again Muslim then went on to a greater triumph in setting up and successfully running the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital for specialised cancer care in memory of his mother who, like mine, died at the cruel hands of cancer was awe-inspiring.

So yes, I disagree with him but won’t call him Taliban Khan; even if he finds ideological compassion for the TTP and understanding for the atrocities committed by the group against thousands of Pakistanis.

He is free to call me an American agent or by whatever name he wishes because I oppose talks with the TTP. I do so because there is no parallel between that and the US starting a dialogue with the Afghan Taliban.

The US is now keen to get out of Afghanistan, a foreign country it invaded with UN approval and possibly a just cause, after the Taliban administration refused to hand over the mostly Saudi suspected perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on US soil.

It went into the country seeking retribution. This retribution wasn’t possible without regime change. It did what it thought necessary. It may even have attained its main objective of attacking Al Qaeda in its sanctuary and denuding it of its capacity to attack the US on its soil again.

But a democracy it remains and its war-weary voting public is wary of continuing a bloody conflict which, they understand, cannot be won. So, the US has now embarked on its plan to shrink its giant footprint in that foreign country.

However, it also doesn’t wish a return of the pre-invasion situation in Afghanistan where Islamic militants from around the world found a safe haven and training ground to serve as a launching pad for their global jihad.

It wants guarantees that only the Taliban can give. It isn’t clear if, in line with ISI belief, the Taliban can return to their pre-war glory and rule over Kabul as well but it is clear to the US they’ll have large swathes of the country under their control as they do even now; hence, the talks.

If the admittedly imperfect Afghan democracy collapses post-US withdrawal so be it as long as the new power structures can guarantee no sanctuaries for global jihadis. The US doesn’t seem interested in ‘nation building’ any more. It’ll retain its drone programme, and possibly some residual air and special operations capability so nothing’s left to chance. We have our democracy to lose. Unless, that is, we actually believe that once the US has pulled out of Afghanistan or we have pulled out of the ‘US war’ all will be hunky-dory. We’ll need to forget the TTP is committed to their brand of Sharia in the country and beyond.

They find democracy, diversity of opinion and faith against their ideological beliefs. Groups of mass murderers such as the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi are either TTP allies or franchises. The TTP continues to offer sanctuaries to foreign fighters with global ambitions.

Thousands of soldiers have died clearing the bulk of the tribal areas of these militants. The TTP remains ensconced in its remaining stronghold of North Waziristan. That is where the serpent’s head is.

One would have said carry on with your obfuscation, talk about talks, do deals like in the past, if it wasn’t so dangerous. All this wasted time means wasted opportunities. The TTP gets bolder and bolder in its attacks; its ranks appear swollen by zealots; who knows what fear can do to people.

What if one day, battered by TTP’s bombings and filled with despair by the inertia of the state, more people turn to its ideology if only to find some respite, save themselves? What a horrifying thought. I’d rather be labelled an American agent and strive to salvage whatever is left of my Pakistan.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Why Pakistan Is a Bigger Threat to Israel than Iran

While the United States and Israel incessantly obsess with the possibility of a future nuclear Iran, they barely ever raise such concerns about Iran’s next door Islamic neighbour Pakistan that brandishes its nuclear weapons with Islamic zeal and barely concealed contempt for the “kufaar” — Jews, Christians, Hindus, atheists and other non-Muslims.

But there are others inside Pakistan who do not share America and Israel’s myopia. The country’s leading anti-nuclear activist, physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy in his book Confronting the Bomb, has this to say about Pakistan’s nukes:

“The fear of loose [nuclear] weapons comes from the fact that Pakistan’s armed forces harbour a hidden enemy within their ranks. Those wearing the cloak of religion freely walk in and out of top security nuclear installations every day … The fear of the insider is ubiquitous and well-founded.”

Prof. Hoodbhoy is able to see through the complexity of his country’s nuclear arsenal that both the White House and Jerusalem either choose to overlook or are grossly ignorant about. Hoodbhoy maintains that there are two Pakistani armies. One led by General Pervez Ashraf Kayani and the other by Allah. “It is difficult to find another example where the defence apparatus of a modern state has been rendered so vulnerable by the threat posed by military insiders.” Even non-fundamentalist elements are “soft Islamists,” he says. Hoodbhoy describes the Pakistani army as “a heavily Islamicised rank-and-file brimming with seditious thoughts.”

As a friend of the Jewish people as well as the Arabs, the thought of a nuclear devise exploding over Israel gives me the jitters. The fact is, millions of Arabs too will be eviscerated in a nuclear attack on the Jewish State.

In meeting with leading Jewish intellectuals and academia in North America and some in Israel itself, I am struck by the lack of knowledge they have about Pakistan, let alone its nuclear program. Few write about the internal dynamics of Pakistan that has emerged as the world’s number one source of jihadi suicide bombers and ground zero for the training of Islamic terrorists.

Pakistan is not an easy subject. It is a multi-ethnic country with a multi-lingual population dominated by Punjab; a civil war in Balochistan; a disputed border with Afghanistan; hundreds of thousands of troops on war footing at the Kashmir Line of Control against India; a slow slaughter of the country’s Shia population and China’s strategic interests at the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz.

All of this makes the study of Pakistan a daunting task for any outsider. Even Britain and the USA who helped create the country to install a buffer state between the advancing USSR and India after the Second World War, have not been able to read the tea leaves with any degree of accuracy.

As I write this essay, Pakistan produces more nuclear bombs than any other nuclear power while developing longer-range missiles. On paper, these nuclear warheads and missiles are India-centric and pointed towards the east. However, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not at a static location and the warheads as well as missiles are constantly on the move, and if there is one country that the Pakistan’s politicians, both on the right as well as the left, hate more than India, it is Israel.

Are Israelis aware of the vulnerabilities in Pakistan’s nuclear program that make it possible for non-state jihadi actors to strike at the Jewish State? I doubt it.

Pakistan is a society based on the hatred of the “other.” Since its creation, the Hindu and the Jew, (“Hanood wa Yahood” in the popular street lexicon of the Urdu language) has been cultivated as the enemy of the country and Islam.

In a culture of violence, three million fellow Muslims were killed in genocide in 1971 in Bangladesh. With the liquidation of the Hindu population and the total absence of Jews, the addiction to killing the “other” is now consuming the Pakistanis from within.

Just in the three years leading up to the 2011 capture and death of Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan, there were 225 suicide bombings in the country killing over 3,900 people, and all of them in politically motivated attacks by Sunni Muslim jihadis. All the victims — from Ahmadi Muslims to Shia Muslims — are accused of serving the Zionist cause and thus eliminated.

Shia vs. Sunni

The irony is that while Israel considers Shia Iran as its primary enemy and nurtures a cold peace with Jordan and Egypt, the Shias of Iran are often branded as a secret Jewish sect by Sunni Muslim clerics in both Egypt and Jordan. Jews around the world seem to oblivious to this fact as they read about the slaughter of Shias in Pakistan and the open hostility towards them from places as far apart as Indonesia to Indiana (home to America’s Islamist organisation ISNA ).

If one were to study the sources of Jew-hatred, they are invariably rooted in Pakistan and the Arab World. If it comes to terrorist attacks carried out around the globe, almost all of them have either originated in Pakistan, were carried out by young men of Pakistani ancestry or by jihadi terrorists who were trained on Pakistani soil. Else, they were planned and executed by Islamabad’s intelligence agency, the ISI and its sponsored terrorist organizations. Yet, in the eyes of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora, it is Iran that is the anti-Semitic capital of the world, hell-bent on destroying the Jewish State.

Let me catalogue the role Pakistan has played in international terrorism, long before its territory was used by Osama Bin Laden and Khaled Sheikh Mohammed to plan and execute the 9/11 attack on the United States.

International Terrorism linked to Pakistan

  1. September 1986: Armed men attempt to hijack a Pan Am jet on the tarmac of Karachi airport in which 20 people died. Among the arrested were five Palestinians belonging to the Abu Nidal group and seven Pakistanis.
  2. January 1993: The CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia is attacked, killing two CIA employees and wounding three others. The perpetrator is a Pakistani, Ajmal Kansi. Four years later in 1997 he is captured by FBI agents in rendered back to the United States to stand trial and was executed by lethal injection in 2002.
  3. February 1993: The World Trade Centre is attacked using a truck bomb. The mastermind of the attack, Ramzi Yousef is later arrested in 1995 in Islamabad, Pakistan.
  4. August 1998: American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are bombed, killing 223 people and wounding over 4,000 others. One of the planners of this terror attack,Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is arrested in 2004 in Gujrat, Pakistan.
  5. October 2000: Jihadi terrorists carry out a suicide attack on the United States Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole while it is harboured and being refuelled in the Yemen port of Aden. Seventeen American sailors are killed, and 39 injured. The Saudi mastermind behind this attack, Walid Bin Attash is later captured on April 29, 2003 in Karachi, Pakistan.
  6. May 2002: A suicide bomber kills 11 French naval engineers outside The Sheraton Hotel in Karachi, Pakistan. Three years later the bomb maker, Mufti Muhammad Sabir is arrested 2005 in Karachi, Pakistan.
  7. October 2002: Jihadi terrorists attack the Indonesian tourist resort of Bali killing 202 people and injuring another 240. Nine years later, the chief suspect in the bombing, Umar Patek of the militant group Jemaah Islamiah is arrested in 2011 in Abbotabad, Pakistan.
  8. July 2005: Jihadi terrorists carry out the now infamous 7/7 suicide bombings in London, UK, killing 52 people and injuring 700 others. Three of the four suicide bombers are of Pakistani ancestry. In January 2009, one of the planners of the London 7/7 bombings, Saudi national Zabi uk-Taifi is arrested in a village just outside Peshawar, Pakistan.
  9. December 2008: Pakistani jihadi terrorists carry out a sea-borne suicide attack on Mumbai, India, killing 166 people including a rabbi and his pregnant wife at a Jewish Centre, and injuring 308 others. The mastermind of the Mumbai attack was the Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley (born Daud Sayed Gilani). His alleged Pakistani-Canadian accomplice, Muhammad Tahwwar Rana, was acquitted in the Mumbai attacks but convicted of working for the terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), long suspected of being supported by Pakistan’s ISI.
  10. May 2010: A bombing at New York Times Square is foiled when street vendors discover smoke coming from a vehicle and alert an NYPD patrolman. The bomb had ignited, but failed to explode, and was disarmed before it caused any casualties. Two days later federal agents arrest a man at John F. Kennedy International Airport after he tries to board an Emirate Airlines flight to Dubai. He is Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American.

In addition to the above list of international jihadi terror attacks associated with Pakistan, the country has been home to most of the Al-Qaeda leadership, including Osama Bin Laden. They include the following five:

  • Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi citizen currently held in U.S. custody, was arrested in March 2002 in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
  • Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni citizen being held by the United States as an enemy combatant detainee at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He was captured in September 2002, in Karachi, Pakistan.
  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is currently in U.S. military custody in Guantánamo Bay for acts of terrorism, including mass murder of civilians, as he has been identified as “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks”. He was captured in March 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
  • Abu Faraj al-Libbi is the nom de guerre of a Libyan who is a senior member of al-Qaeda. [His real name is thought to be Mustafa al-‘Uzayti.] Al-Labibi was arrested in May 2005 in Mardan, Pakistan.
  • Mustafa Nasar, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri is a Syrian-born leader of al-Qaeda who holds Spanish citizenship. He is wanted in Spain for the 1985 El Descanso bombing that killed 18 people, and in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings. Nasar too ended up in Pakistan where he was captured in October 2005 in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Not to mention the fact that the only time Britons have been involved in a suicide bombing attack inside Israel, it has involved men of Pakistan ancestry. In May 2003 a suicide bomber and his accomplice murdered three people and wounded scores at a Tel Aviv bar. The 21-year-old bomber, Asif Mohammed Hanif died in the attack while his accomplice as Omar Khan Sharif failed to detonate his bomb. Both were born to Pakistani parents in the U.K.

Hanif was not the first Pakistani-Briton to commit terror against Jews. In 2002, Omar Saeed Sheikh of London masterminded the kidnap and murder of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.

Compared to the acts of international terror that have a Pakistani link, terrorism that originates in Iran is few and far between.

The first international atrocity that can be traced back to Iran was committed in 1994 when the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish Centre in Buenos Aires, Argentinewas bombed, killing 85 people and wounding 300 more. There is little doubt that senior Iranian officials were behind the attack and that their Lebanese-based Hezbollah allies carried out the attack.

The only other major act of Iranian international terror was in February 2012 when a bomb explosion targeted an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi, India.

Why Iran? Why not Pakistan?

Why then is Israel so obsessed with Iran, but not Pakistan? One of the reasons may be the presence in Israel of an influential Persian Jewish community with roots in Iran, and who have a particularly nasty experience with the regime of the Ayatollahs compared to the era when a close relationship between Israel and Iran existed during the reign of The Shah until 1979.

Iranian Jews in Israel are estimated to be 200,000 to 250,000 strong and have a far greater role in the country’s public policy making then their numbers suggest. From Dan Halutz , the former chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to the now disgraced former president of the country Moshe Katsav, Iranian Jews in Israel pull more than their weight in the affairs of the country.

Today the former Israeli Minister of Transport Shaul Mofaz, leads the Kadima Party while Michael Ben-Ari and Mordechai Zar are members of the Knesset.

Compared to Iranian Jews in Israel, Pakistani Jews do not exceed 2,000 in number, and their claim to fame is restricted to the introduction of cricket inside Israel. They mostly live in the city of Ramla and do not have any prominent figure in the Israeli political discourse. Few of these Pakistanis have any links or even memories of Pakistan and unlike their Iranian counterparts, lack any insight into the current political nature of their former homeland.

While Israel Radio runs a daily Farsi language service since the 1950s, it has no such broadcast in Punjabi, Urdu, Balochi, Puhstu, or Sindhi, the languages of Pakistan. It is no wonder that in Israel there is such a dearth of scholarship on Pakistan and that country’s involvement in international jihadi terrorism.

While the 180-million population of Pakistan and its diaspora is almost universally anti-Semitic and hostile to Israel, the ordinary Iranian is neither obsessed with Jew hatred nor seeped in convoluted theories of Jewish conspiracies that are ubiquitous among its next door Pakistani neighbours.

Israelis are justifiably worried with the rabid rhetoric that emanates from the Iranian ayatollahs. However, they need to recognise that it is Pakistan that has 100 nuclear warheads and missiles that can reach Israel, not Iran.

Obsessing with Iran while shrugging off the threats posed by Pakistan and its jihadi sponsor Saudi Arabia, may be a mistake that Jerusalem can still correct while it has a chance.

Already there are reports that Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal is in support of cooperating secretly with Pakistan in developing a Saudi-based nuclear program. This initiative has the backing of the current director of Saudi intelligence agency, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan.

srael needs to realize that Iran and Syria may be the dogs that bark, but it is Saudi Arabia and Pakistan who are the ones most likely to bite.

Militants kill 9 foreign tourists, 1 Pakistani at base of one of world’s highest mountains

Nanga Parbat base camp (Credit:
Nanga Parbat base camp
ISLAMABAD, June 23 — Islamic militants wearing police uniforms shot to death nine foreign tourists and one Pakistani before dawn Sunday as they were visiting one of the world’s highest mountains in a remote area of northern Pakistan, officials said.

The foreigners who were killed included five Ukrainians, three Chinese and one Russian, said Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. One Chinese tourist was wounded in the attack and was rescued, he said.

The local branch of the Taliban took responsibility for the killings, saying it was to avenge the death of a leader killed in a drone strike.

The shooting is likely to damage the country’s struggling tourism industry. Pakistan’s mountainous north — considered until now relatively safe — is one of the main attractions in a country beset with insurgency and other political instability.

The attack took place at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet). Nanga Parbat is notoriously difficult to climb and is known as the “killer mountain” because of numerous mountaineering deaths in the past. It’s unclear if the tourists were planning to climb the mountain or were just visiting the base camp, which is located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

The gunmen were wearing uniforms used by the Gilgit Scouts, a paramilitary police force that patrols the area, said the interior minister. The attackers abducted two local guides to find their way to the remote base camp. One of the guides was killed in the shooting, and the other has been detained and is being questioned, said Khan.

“The government will take all measures to ensure the safety of foreign tourists,” said the interior minister in a speech in the National Assembly, which passed a resolution condemning the incident.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack, saying their Jundul Hafsa group carried out the shooting as retaliation for the death of the Taliban’s deputy leader, Waliur Rehman, in a U.S. drone attack on May 29.

“By killing foreigners, we wanted to give a message to the world to play their role in bringing an end to the drone attacks,” Ahsan told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The attackers beat up the Pakistanis who were accompanying the tourists, took their money and tied them up, said a senior local government official. They checked the identities of the Pakistanis and shot to death one of them, possibly because he was a minority Shiite Muslim, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Although Gilgit-Baltistan is a relatively peaceful area, it has experienced attacks by radical Sunni Muslims on Shiites in recent years.

The attackers took the money and passports from the foreigners and then gunned them down, said the official. It’s unclear how the Chinese tourist who was rescued managed to avoid being killed.

Local police chief Barkat Ali said they first learned of the attack when one of the local guides called the police station around 1 a.m. on Sunday.

The Pakistani government condemned the shooting in a statement sent to reporters.

“The government of Pakistan expresses its deep sense of shock and grief on this brutal act of terrorism, and extends its sympathy to the families of the victims,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry. “Those who have committed this heinous crime seem to be attempting to disrupt the growing relations of Pakistan with China and other friendly countries.”

Pakistan has very close ties with neighboring China and is very sensitive to an issue that could harm the relationship. Pakistani officials have reached out to representatives from China and Ukraine to convey their sympathies, the Foreign Ministry said.

Many foreign tourists stay away from Pakistan because of the perceived danger of visiting a country that is home to a large number of Islamic militant groups, such as the Taliban and al-Qaida, which mostly reside in the northwest near the Afghan border. But a relatively small number of intrepid foreigners visit Gilgit-Baltistan during the summer to marvel at the peaks of the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, including K2, the second highest mountain in the world.

Syed Mehdi Shah, the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, condemned the attack and expressed fear that it would seriously damage the region’s tourism industry.

“A lot of tourists come to this area in the summer, and our local people work to earn money from these people,” said Shah. “This will not only affect our area, but will adversely affect all of Pakistan.”

Shah said authorities are still trying to get more information about exactly what happened to the tourists. The area where the attack occurred, Bunar Nala, is only accessible by foot or on horseback, and communications can be difficult, said Shah. Bunar Nala is on one of three routes to reach Nanga Parbat, he said.

The area has been cordoned off by police and paramilitary soldiers, and a military helicopter is searching the area, said Shah. The military plans to airlift the bodies of the foreign tourists to Islamabad, he said.

“God willing we will find the perpetrators of this tragic incident,” said Shah.

The government suspended the top police chief in Gilgit-Baltistan following the attack and has ordered an inquiry into the incident, said Khan, the interior minister.


Associated Press writer Rasool Dawar contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Edhi in Critical Health due to Failing Kidneys

Maulana Abdus Sattar Edhi (
Maulana Abdus Sattar Edhi
KARACHI, June 25: Renowned philanthropist, Abdul Sattar Edhi, is suffering from kidney failure, Dr Adib Rizvi said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), Dr Rizvi said that both kidneys of Mr Edhi have “started failing”. He said that although a donor kidney has been requested, there were minimal chances of a successful transplant due to the frail health of Mr Edhi.

He added that in case a transplant is not conducted he (Edhi) will need daily dialysis to continue living.

Under treatment at SIUT for the past few days, the octogenarian sounded weak while speaking to over the telephone.

When asked about his condition, he said: “My son, Faisal, and wife Bilquis are taking care of everything. I have requested for a donor kidney. In any case if I deserve to live more years, then I’ll live.”

Considered one of Pakistan’s biggest philanthropists, octogenarian is the founder and head of the Edhi foundation.

The Edhi foundation operates a widespread ambulance service in Pakistan, said to be one of the biggest in the world.The foundation gets a large number of donations, thanks to the respect that Mr Edhi has earned from the public.

Apart from getting many nationally recognised awards, Mr Edhi was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the government in 2012.

Alternative Energy is Key to Ending Power Shortage – Nawaz

Solar panels in Thatta (Credit:
Solar panels in Thatta
ISLAMABAD, June 27: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said that Pakistan’s huge alternative energy potential holds the key to overcoming the acute energy crisis facing the country.

“All avenues need to be explored and every effort needs to be put in to tap in the alternative energy potential of the country,” the prime minister emphasised while speaking at a presentation given to him on solar energy resources in Pakistan and investment opportunities for a consortium of foreign and local companies. Nawaz expressed these views while speaking at a presentation given to him on solar energy resources in Pakistan and investment opportunities by a consortium of foreign and local companies.

The consortium showed confidence in the leadership of Nawaz Sharif and said that the pro-investor policies of the present government have attracted them towards investment opportunities in Pakistan. While addressing the meeting, the prime minister said that his government would go an extra mile to facilitate those companies and firms which transfer technology through their investments in the alternative energy sector in Pakistan.

The prime minister observed that Pakistan possesses huge potential of solar and wind energy and has a reservoir of coal and other fossil fuels to produce electricity which, if utilised optimally, would help improve people’s standards of living. Nawaz also took notice of non-provision of gas to thermal powerhouses and ordered that they be supplied the fuel on immediate basis and sought a report from the concerned authorities. It is noteworthy that electricity generation was affected due to the non-provision of gas to thermal powerhouses.

Nawaz Sharif will personally monitor the latest data on electricity, including availability and consumption. In this regard, the Ministry of Water and Power has installed equipment to provide latest data on electricity generation and its consumption at the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad. Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif has said that now the prime minister will personally monitor the latest electricity data and will issue directives in accordance with the situation. agencies

Multi-pronged attack in Balochistan kills 23

Jinnah's Ziarat residence burnt (Credit:
Jinnah’s Ziarat residence burnt
DAWN.COM | Syed Ali Shah

QUETTA/ISLAMABAD, June 15: At least 23 people, including 14 female students and the deputy commissioner Quetta, were killed Saturday in multiple bomb and gun attacks by militants in the capital of insurgency-hit Balochistan province.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters at a press conference that several parts of the Bolan Medical Complex, taken under siege by terrorists, have now been cleared by security forces.

An operation was being carried out by security personnel to free the Bolan Medical Complex from heavily armed militants who had taken over parts of the hospital and were reported to have taken several people hostage.

A large number of patients and doctors were trapped inside the complex when heavily armed militants took the hospital under siege.

According to security forces, parts of the hospital have been cleared while four gunmen are still believed to be inside the complex.

Nisar confirmed that 35 hostages had now been freed by security forces.

“According to our official reports, four terrorists have been killed in the operation while one suspect has been arrested from outside the hospital,” said the interior minister.

The interior minister said further details of the ongoing operation to clear the hospital would be announced later.

Condemning the earlier attack on Ziarat Residency, he said that orders have been issued to re-build the historic monument of the country. Chaudhry Nisar also revealed that outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has claimed responsibility of the rocket attacks in Ziarat.

Nisar said the total death toll from the attacks in Quetta has now risen to 22, including four terrorists, four Frontier Corps personnel, Deputy Commissioner Quetta Abdul Mansoor Khan and 14 female students of the Sardar Bahadar Khan Women’s University.

The female students were killed earlier when an improvised explosive device ripped through a bus inside the university campus.

“The bomb exploded just when female teachers and students gathered inside the bus around 3 pm to proceed for Quetta city from the university,” CCPO Mir Zubair Mehmood said.

The CCPO said that most of the victims were female teachers and students. He said the bus caught fire after the powerful blast.

The injured were shifted to the Bolan Medical Complex, where half an hour later sounds of explosions and gunfire spread panic and chaos among the patients and doctors.

Several people were trapped inside the complex for hours as security personnel engaged in a grueling operation against the militants.

Security forces have now cleared most of the complex and evacuated the civilians, although CCPO Mir Zubair Mehmood said it might take another three hours to confirm that the hospital was clear of all terrorists.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan government has officially announced to observe a “day of mourning” on Sunday.

Earlier Saturday, militants attacked the Quaid-e-Azam residency in Ziarat with hand grenades, destroying the historical monument where the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah spent his last days.

A policeman was killed in the attack on the Jinnah’s monumental residency.

Officials had confirmed that most of the old memorials inside the monument were destroyed, with historic photographs of the founder burnt to the ground in the resulting fire.

It was unclear if the attack on the Quaid’s residency in Ziarat was related to the later attacks in Quetta.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervez Rashid assured full support to the Balochistan Government in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Balochistan.

Speaking to media representatives in Islamabad, Rashid strongly condemned the attacks. He said that those involved in these terrorist acts were the enemies of Pakistan and Balochistan.

He said that the entire nation was with the people of Balochistan at this critical juncture.

U.S. Presses Taliban on Qatar Office in Bid to Save Talks


KABUL, Afghanistan — In a diplomatic scramble to keep alive the possibility of peace talks with the Taliban, American officials on Wednesday pressed the insurgents to backtrack on their effort to present themselves as essentially an alternative government at the office they opened Tuesday in Qatar, Afghan officials said.

The Afghan government, furious that assurances from the Americans that the Taliban would not use the Doha office for political or fund-raising purposes had been flouted, suspended bilateral security talks with the Americans earlier Wednesday and said they would not send their peace emissaries to Qatar to talk to the Taliban until there was a change.

American officials, worried that painstaking efforts to restart the peace process after 18 months of deadlock were crumbling right at a breakthrough moment, moved quickly to try to resolve the Afghan government’s objections to what increasingly appeared to be a publicity coup by the Taliban.

Afghans of nearly every political stripe expressed outrage and concern at widely broadcast news images of insurgent envoys raising the white Taliban flag from their days in power and speaking as if they had set up an embassy for a government in exile — including raising a sign that described the office as the political office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the formal name of the old Taliban government. Qatari-based news organizations, including Al Jazeera, later broadcast several interviews with the envoys making their case for international attention.

Hours after President Hamid Karzai canceled talks with the Americans over a post-2014 security agreement, accusing the Americans of saying one thing and doing another, and then boycotting the Qatar peace talks, his spokesman said that he had received assurances from Secretary of State John Kerry that the Taliban office would be curbed.

The State Department spokeswoman, Jennifer R. Psaki, confirmed that, saying that Mr. Kerry had spoken twice with Mr. Karzai, on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday.

Mr. Kerry told him that Qatar’s government had assured that the Taliban’s office in the capital, Doha, had removed the Islamic Emirate sign. “The office must not be treated as or represent itself as an embassy or other office representing the Afghan Taliban as an emirate government or sovereign,” she said.

However there was much to repair from the events of the last two days, and the Afghans said they felt betrayed by their American allies and by the Taliban.

In lashing out, Mr. Karzai again showed his willingness to unilaterally halt American initiatives when his allies displeased him, after reining in American detention operations and Special Operations missions earlier this year. It struck directly at two of the most critical parts of the Obama administration’s long-term vision for Afghanistan: entering peace talks with the Taliban to help dampen the insurgency as Western troops withdraw, and reaching an agreement to allow a lasting American military force past 2014.

At the same time, it became increasingly apparent that the Taliban, at little cost in binding promises or capital, were seizing the peace process as a stage for publicity.

The rapid-fire developments on Wednesday came a day after the American military formally handed over control of security in all of Afghanistan to Afghan forces, a development that was followed hours later with the three sides’ announcement that peace talks would begin in Doha.

The opening was hailed by American officials as a breakthrough after 18 months of stalled peace efforts, though they cautioned that a long road remained ahead.

Meanwhile, the Taliban played to the cameras.

Opening their Doha office with a lavish ceremony that included a ribbon-cutting and the playing of the Taliban anthem, insurgent officials said they intended to use the site to meet with representatives of the international community and the United Nations, interact with the news media, “improve relations with countries around the world” and, almost as an afterthought, meet “Afghans if there is a need.” They did not mention the Afghan government.

Some of the other language the Taliban used closely followed the American framework for peace talks. The insurgents seemed to agree to distance themselves from Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, saying the Taliban’s aims were only within Afghanistan and that they did not support the use of Afghan soil to plot international attacks.

In one move, showing a sudden and surprising willingness to open an office after months of resistance, the insurgents could appear to accede to an exhaustive international effort to start peace talks, even while using Qatari territory — and its globally reaching news outlets — in a new bid for acceptance as a political force.

“The way the Taliban office was opened in Qatar and the messages which were sent from it was in absolute contrast with all the guarantees that the United States of America had pledged,” said the statement from President Karzai’s office.

The statement also seemed to lump in Qatar, for its active role in facilitating the Taliban office, with the United States. “Recent developments showed that there are foreign hands behind the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar. Unless the peace process is led by Afghans, the High Peace Council will not participate in the Qatar negotiations,” the statement said, referring to a body Mr. Karzai established in 2010 during earlier peace efforts.

“The Taliban cannot call themselves an Islamic emirate,” said Aminuddin Mozafari, a member of the High Peace Council and a former mujahedeen commander who fought the Russians. “They are just a group of insurgents with no legal status.”

American officials said the Taliban overture was relatively sudden, initially signaled by Qatari officials toward the end of May. The timing, too, offered some surprise. Taliban forces in Afghanistan had been stepping up their attacks as summer neared, bloodying Afghan Army and police forces who have been taking the lead in security operations as American troops stepped back to a support role.

Almost as a reminder that the Taliban, too, could borrow a page from the “fight and talk” American road map for diplomacy in Afghanistan, insurgents struck within hours of the Doha office opening. Insurgents tripped a deadly ambush on an American convoy near the Bagram Air Base north of the Afghan capital, killing four American soldiers, Afghan officials said.

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Washington, and Sangar Rahimi, Sharifullah Sahak, and Habib Zahori from Kabul.

Pakistan’s first war-ready female fighter pilot wins battle of sexes

Ayesha Farooq (
Ayesha Farooq

MUSHAF AIR BASE, Pakistan: With an olive green head scarf poking out from her helmet, Ayesha Farooq flashes a cheeky grin when asked if it is lonely being the only war-ready female fighter pilot in the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

Farooq, from Punjab province’s historic city of Bahawalpur, is one of 19 women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade — there are five other female fighter pilots, but they have yet to take the final tests to qualify for combat.

“I don’t feel any different. We do the same activities, the same precision bombing,” the soft-spoken 26-year-old said of her male colleagues at Mushaf base in north Pakistan, where neatly piled warheads sit in sweltering 50 degree Celsius heat (122 F).

A growing number of women have joined Pakistan’s defence forces in recent years as attitudes towards women change.

“Because of terrorism and our geographical location it’s very important that we stay on our toes,” said Farooq, referring to Taliban militancy and a sharp rise in sectarian violence.

Deteriorating security in neighbouring Afghanistan, where US-led troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year, and an uneasy relationship with arch rival India to the east add to the mix.

Farooq, whose slim frame offers a study in contrast with her burly male colleagues, was at loggerheads with her widowed and uneducated mother seven years ago when she said she wanted to join the air force.

“In our society most girls don’t even think about doing such things as flying an aircraft,” she said.

Family pressure against the traditionally male domain of the armed forces dissuaded other women from taking the next step to become combat ready, air force officials said. They fly slower aircraft instead, ferrying troops and equipment around the nuclear-armed country of 180 million.

Less of a Taboo
Centuries-old rule in the tribal belt area along the border with Afghanistan, where rape, mutilation and the killing of women are ordered to mete out justice, underlines conservative Pakistan’s failures in protecting women’s rights.

But women are becoming more aware of those rights and signing up with the air force is about as empowering as it gets.

“More and more ladies are joining now,” said Nasim Abbas, Wing Commander of Squadron 20, made up of 25 pilots, including Farooq, who fly Chinese-made F-7PG fighter jets.

“It’s seen as less of a taboo. There’s been a shift in the nation’s, the society’s, way of thinking,” Abbas told Reuters on the base in Punjab’s Sargodha district, about 280 km (175 miles) east of the capital Islamabad, home base to many jets in the 1965 and 1971 wars with India.

There are now about 4,000 women in Pakistan’s armed forces, largely confined to desk jobs and medical work.

But over the last decade, women have became sky marshals, defending Pakistan’s commercial liners against insurgent attacks, and a select few are serving in the elite anti-terrorist force. Like most female soldiers in the world, Pakistani women are still banned from ground combat.

Pakistan now has 316 women in the air force compared to around 100 five years ago, Abbas said.

“In Pakistan, it’s very important to defend our front lines because of terrorism and it’s very important for everyone to be part of it,” said avionics engineer Anam Hassan, 24, as she set out for work on an F-16 fighter aircraft, her thick black hair tucked under a baseball cap.

“It just took a while for the air force to accept this.”

ATDT Next Stop – Hyderabad Sindh

Author addresses PPP leaders and senior media personnel in Karachi
Author addresses PPP leaders and senior media personnel in Karachi

After completing a successful launch in Karachi, Aboard the Democracy Train will launch its newly published Pakistan edition in Hyderabad on Feb 13 (Wednesday).

The event will be addressed by Urdu and Sindhi speaking intellectuals at the Hyderabad Press Club at 5 pm.

The program will be kept interactive in order to enable a free exchange of ideas on the history and politics of Sindh, as documented by the author in the 1980s when she worked as the only woman reporter in Dawn during the Zia era.

Pakistan’s Impossible Year: Elections, Army Intrigue, and More

Goodbye to 2012 (Credit:

Washington DC, Dec 29: On the brink of a new year, Pakistan faces an unstable future. Can the son of assassinated prime minister Benazir Bhutto break through the chaos?

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, stepped onto the national stage for the first time this week, to give a speech marking the fifth anniversary of Benazir’s murder. Still too young to run for office, the 24-year-old Bhutto’s coming out adds more drama to what will be a pivotal year for Pakistan. National elections, turnover at the top military position, and the denouement in the war in Afghanistan all promise to make 2013 a critical year for a country that is both under siege by terrorism and the center of the global jihadist movement.

Bilawal’s grandfather, uncles, and mother all were murdered in political violence. Zulfikar Bhutto was hung in 1979 by Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, his two uncles died in mysterious plots, and his mother was assassinated by al Qaeda and the Taliban. His family story resembles Pakistan’s reality. Pakistanis a country in the midst of a long and painful crisis. Since 2001, according to the government, 45,000 Pakistanis have died in terrorist-related violence, including 7,000 security personnel. Suicide bombings were unheard of before the 9/11 attacks; there have been 300 since then. The country’s biggest city,Karachi, is a battlefield. One measure of Pakistan’s instability is that the country now has between 300 and 500 private-security firms, employing 300,000 armed guards, most run by ex-generals. The American intelligence community’s new global estimate rates Pakistan among the most likely states in the world to fail by 2030.

wanted on America’s counter terrorism list live in Pakistan. The mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai massacre and head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed, make no effort to hide. He is feted by the army and the political elite, appears on television, and calls for the destruction of India frequently and jihad against America and Israel. The head of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, shuttles between Pakistan intelligence (ISI) safe houses in Quetta and Karachi. The emir of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is probably hiding in a villa not much different from the one his predecessor was living in with his wives and children in Abbottabad until May 2011.

Pakistan also has the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world, bigger than Great Britain’s. The nukes are in the hands of the generals; the civilian government has only nominal control. President Zardari has only nominal influence over the ISI as well; indeed it deliberately botched the security for Benazir to help get rid of her, and it has conspired for five years to get rid of him, too.

Against the odds, Zardari has survived. By next fall, he will have served five years, becoming the first elected civilian leader to complete a full term in office and pass power to another elected government. It will be a major milestone for Pakistani democracy. Zardari has served years in prison. He often has been called a criminal by many, including in his own family, and the national symbol of corruption. Yet as president he presided over an major transfer of power from the presidency to the prime minister’s office, even the titular National Command Authority over the nukes, to ensure the country is more democratic and stable.

The parliamentary election in the spring will be a replay of every Pakistani election since 1988, pitting Nawaz Sharif’s party against the Bhuttos. Needless to say, many Pakistanis are sick of the same old stale choices. But the odds favor the old parties. Both Sharif and Zardari are committed to cautiously improving relations with India and trying to reform the Pakistani economy. Both have troubled relations with the Army.

If Sharif returns to the prime minister’s job for a third time, it will be a remarkable next turn in his own odyssey. Sharif was removed from the office in 1999 in an illegal coup and barely escaped alive to go into exile in Saudi Arabia. His decision to withdraw Pakistan’s troops in 1999 during the Kargil War prompted his fall from power, but it also may have saved the world from nuclear destruction. It was a brave move. I remember talking to him and his family in the White House the day after he made the decision to pull back. You could see in his eyes that he knew the Army would defame him, but he knew he was in the right.

But many Pakistanis want a new face to lead their country. Out of desperation, some are turning to cricket star Imran Khan to save Pakistan. The ISI is probably helping his campaign behind the scenes to stir up trouble for the others. He is a long shot at best. He is much more anti-American, anti-drone, and ready to make deals with the Taliban to stop the terror at home. Yet he understands well that Pakistanis a country urgently in need of new thinking.

Whoever wins will inherit an economy and government that is in deep trouble. Two thirds of the 185 million Pakistanis are under 30; 40 million of the 70 million ages 5 to 19 years old are not in school. Fewer than 1 million Pakistanis paid taxes last year. Power blackouts are endemic. Clean water is increasingly scarce, even as catastrophic floods are more common. Growth is 3 percent, too little to keep up with population demand.

It is no wonder that the generals prefer to have the civilians responsible for managing the unmanageable while they guard their prerogatives and decide national-security issues.

So it is no wonder that the generals prefer to have the civilians responsible for managing the unmanageable while they guard their prerogatives and decide national-security issues. As important as the elections next spring will be, the far more important issue is who will be the next chief of Army staff.

The incumbent, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was given an unprecedented three-year extension in 2010. He is the epitome of the Pakistani officer corps and the so-called deep state. Pervez Musharraf made him director general of the ISI in 2004. On his watch, the Afghan Taliban recovered and regrouped inQuetta, Osama bin Laden built his hideout 800 yards outside Kayani’s alma mater—the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad—in 2005, and planning began for the 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai. His term expires in September.

The history of civilians choosing chiefs of Army staff is not encouraging. Zulfikar Bhutto chose Zia ul-Haq, whom he called his “monkey general” because he thought he was apolitical. Zia staged his own coup and then hanged Zulfi. Nawaz Sharif picked Pervez Musharraf, quarreled over the Kargil War, and fired Pervez, who then staged his coup. No wonder Zardari just rolled over Kayani for another three years in 2010. It was the easy way out.

The next COAS will come from the shadowy group of a dozen corps commanders who run the Army. They do not advertise their political views as a rule. By next summer, a consensus will probably emerge in the inner circle on who should succeed Kayani, and the whole world will try to decipher the implications of the choice.

Washington will be watching all of this carefully. U.S.-Pakistan relations are at a low point and may get worse. It is in Afghanistan that the relationship will be most tested in 2013. This past September, the Taliban attacked a base called Camp Bastion, destroying eight U.S. Marine jet aircraft and killing two Marines. The interrogation of the surviving Taliban fighter indicated the attack was planned at an ISI safe haven in Pakistan with Pakistani army expertise. Then in December, the head of Afghan intelligence, Asadullah Khalid, was almost assassinated by a terrorist who the Afghans say came from Pakistan and was sent by the ISI. Incidents like these promise to make 2013 another year of strained relations in the U.S.-Pakistan deadly embrace.