Thursday, January 9, 2014
Russian security forces have launched an anti-terrorism sweep in response to the discovery of an explosive device and an unexplained series of deaths across a southern province near Sochi, which is hosting the Winter Olympics next month. A source in the Stavropol Territory government told RIA Novosti late Wednesday that anti-terrorism operations are underway in two districts in the province. The Interior Ministry said that a car containing the body of an unidentified individual exploded as police approached it during one incident Wednesday in Stavropol Territory. The bodies of three men and explosive material were discovered in a car in the same area Thursday, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Thursday. A further two bodies were discovered Wednesday in other vehicles in the Stavropol Territory. Tabloid website LifeNews, which has close links to Russia’s security services, identified Anzor Margushev, 33; Vadim Shogenov, 25; and Artur Margushev, 24, as chief suspects behind the series of killings. All three suspects are from the Russian North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, according to LifeNews. An anonymous security source said that two taxi drivers and a furniture fitter were among the dead. The precise circumstances of the deaths were unclear, but officials suggested that all five men had been murdered. A series of terrorist attacks in the southern city of Volgograd, which is about 900 kilometers drive from Sochi, have frayed nerves among security officials in recent months as Russia prepares to host the high-profile Winter Games due to begin on February 7. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Volgograd, but they are believed to be the work of Islamic militants from Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region. Doku Umarov, a figurehead for Islamic militancy in the North Caucasus wanted on terrorism charges by both Russia and the United States, called on his followers to target the Sochi Games in an address last year. A large operation involving over 30,000 security officials was initiated Tuesday to protect the area around the Olympic sites in Sochi.
سابق صدرآصف علی زرداری نے کہا ہے کہ چوہدری اسلم بہادر افسر تھے،چوہدری اسلم اور ان کے ساتھیوں نے ایک مقصد کے لیے اپنی جان دی۔ سابق صدر کا کہنا تھا کہ چوہدری اسلم اور ان کے ساتھیوں کوقوم سلام پیش کرتی ہے۔آصف زرداری نے سندھ حکومت کوہدایت کی کہ واقعے میں شہید ہونے والے اہل کاروں کے اہل خانہ کا خیال رکھیں۔
Sectarian violence According to Mr Bangish, people in the area would like to see the government give Aitzaz an award to recognise his bravery, and compared him with celebrated Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai - a comparison being echoed across social media. On Twitter, users are paying tribute to Aitzaz using the hashtags #onemillionaitzaz and #AitzazBraveheart echoing the language used online around figures such as Malala and the Delhi rape victim, whose death galvanised Indian public opinion and prompted changes in rape laws there. Former Pakistani ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman tweeted: "Hangu's shaheed Aitzaz Hasan is #Pakistan's pride. Give him a medal at least. Another young one with heartstopping courage #AitzazBraveheart." Hangu is close to Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal regions, which have a strong Taliban and al-Qaeda presence and the area is also known for sectarian violence against Shia Muslims. Mr Bangish said the region's residents are "patriotic people" but have to contend with difficult conditions. He he added that in order to cope with such conditions and tackle the "fights and blast ... needs courage like Aitzaz has. We salute his bravery".
A suicide attacker in Karachi on Thursday killed one of Pakistan's best-known police commanders, famed for his fearless work tackling militants in the city. Chaudhry Aslam, who had survived numerous assassination attempts in the past, died along with two other officers when a bomber targeted a police convoy on an expressway in eastern Karachi. The sprawling port city is Pakistan's largest conurbation and economic heart but has been plagued for years by brutal ethnic, political, sectarian and Islamist violence. The bomber smashed his vehicle into Aslam's convoy and he and two other policemen were killed, Iqbal Mehmood, a senior officer with the criminal investigation department, told AFP. Aslam had been receiving threats from the Pakistani Taliban, which tried to kill him in September 2011 in a huge explosion that tore off the front of his house in a smart area of the city. After that attack he made a defiant appearance before the media, saying: "I will give my life but I won't bow to terrorists." Earlier on Thursday Aslam had claimed the killing of three suspected members of the Pakistani Taliban in an encounter in the city. Police are currently involved in an operation aimed at clearing Karachi of militants and hardcore criminals including hired killers, gun runners and drug peddlers.
Robert Gates, the former U.S. Defence Secretary who was the strongest supporter of Pakistan, believes that Islamabad is not an ally of America and it will not give up its policy of supporting terrorists.“Although I would defend them in front of Congress and to the press to keep the relationship from getting worse -- and endangering our supply line from Karachi -- I knew they were really no ally at all,” Mr. Gates writes in his forthcoming book titled ‘Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War’. Referring to his visit in January 2010 -- his second and the last one to Pakistan -- wherein he met the then President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Mr. Gates writes that he returned convinced that Islamabad would not give up its policy of supporting terrorists.
“No administration in my entire career devoted more time and energy to working the Pakistanis than did President (Barack) Obama and all his senior team,” Mr. Gates, who was the defence secretary from December 2006 to July 2011, writes. “My message was consistent: we were committed to a long-term strategic partnership; we needed to work together against the ‘syndicate of terror’ placing Afghanistan, Pakistan and India at risk; we needed to remove safe havens on both side of the border; Pakistan needed to better control anti-Americanism and harassment of Americans; and the Pakistani army’s ‘extra-judicial killings’ (executions) were putting our relationship at risk,” Mr. Gates writes in his memoir. The book is scheduled to be released next week. “The visit was for naught,” Mr. Gates writes referring to his meetings with the Pakistani leaders on January 21-22, 2010. “I returned convinced that Pakistan would work with the U.S. in some ways -- such as providing supply lines through Pakistan, which were also highly profitable -- while at the same time providing sanctuary for the Taliban and other extremists, so that no matter who came out on top in Afghanistan, Pakistan would have influence. If there was to be any reconciliation, the Pakistanis intended to control it,” Mr. Gates said. In his memoir running into more than 600 pages, Mr. Gates says weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Obama asked him to travel to Chicago to attend a meeting of his transition’s national security team, which among others was attended by Ms. Hillary Clinton and Mr. Joe Biden. The meeting, held in December, spent nearly an hour discussing on Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Mr. Gates writes. “Pakistan was described as the biggest, most dangerous situation,” he writes. In Mach 2009, Mr. Gates writes, Mr. Obama held a series of meetings on his Af-Pak to discuss report of Bruce Riedel, who was appointed by the President. One of those Friday, he writes, they reviewed the final Riedel report.
This “recommended disrupting the terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan, promoting a more effective government in Afghanistan, developing the Afghan security forces, ending Pakistan’s support for terrorist and insurgent groups, enhancing civilian control in Pakistan, and using US diplomatic, military, and intelligence channels to reduce enmity and distrust between Pakistan and India. It was breathtaking in its ambition,” Mr. Gates writes. When Obama announced his Af-Pak strategy, Mr. Gates said he had reservations on Pakistan’s co-operation. “I also doubted we could persuade the Pakistanis to change their ‘calculus’ and go after the Afghan and other extremists on their side of the border. When a Pakistani Taliban offensive that spring reached within sixty miles of Islamabad the Pakistani army went after them in the border provinces of Swat and South Waziristan for their own protection. “Their continuing toleration of the Afghan Taliban, including harbouring their leaders in Quetta was a hedging strategy based on their lack of trust in us, given unwillingness to stay engaged in Afghanistan in the early 1990s,” he writes. Such was his distrust of Pakistan that, he writes, when they were planning for Osama bin Laden raid, he was worried that the ISI was aware of the al-Qaeda chief’s whereabouts. “I worried that Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence was aware of where Bin Laden was and that there might be rings of security around the compound that we knew nothing about or, at minimum, that 1ST might have more eyes on the compound than we could know,” he wrote. The worst-case scenario was that the Pakistanis could get a number of troops to the compound quickly, prevent extraction of our team and take them prisoner, he writes. When he asked his Vice Admiral William McRaven what he planned to do if the Pakistani military showed up during the operation, he said the team would just hunker down and wait for a “diplomatic extraction.” “They would wait inside the compound and not shoot any Pakistanis. I then asked what they would do if the Pakistanis breached the walls: ‘Do you shoot or surrender?’ Our team couldn’t surrender, I said. If the Pakistani military showed up, our team needed to be prepared to do whatever was necessary to escape,” Mr. Gates writes. “After considerable discussion, there was broad agreement to this, and as a result, additional MH-47 helicopters and forces were assigned to the mission,” he says. Mr. Gates writes that ahead of the Abbottabad raid no one inside the administration talked about seeking Pakistani help in killing bin Laden. “No one thought we should ask the Pakistanis for help or permission. In every instance when we had provided a heads-up to the Pakistan military or intelligence services, the target was forewarned and fled, or the Pakistanis went after the target unilaterally, prematurely and unsuccessfully,” he says. The successful bin Laden raid, he writes, was humiliating for the Pakistan Army.
Perhaps the only way a parent can deal with the loss of a child is to believe that it was for a cause. This is how Aitizaz Hasan’s parents console themselves: reminding each other, their family and friends that their child is a martyr and he died saving hundreds of lives. Aitizaz reached school late on Monday morning and was not allowed to attend the morning assembly as punishment. He was standing outside the gate with two other schoolmates when a man aged 20-25 years approached the Government High School Ibrahimzai in Hangu and said he was there to take admission, said Aitizaz’s elder brother, Mujtaba.
It was during this conversation that one of the students spotted a detonator and Aitizaz’s schoolmates ran inside. But Aitizaz stood his ground and got hold of the bomber who then detonated his vest. “I had never thought that my brother would die such a great death. He sacrificed his life to save humanity,” Mujtaba said in an interview with The Express Tribune on Wednesday. The school is the only one in Ibrahimzai, a Shia-dominated area in Hangu. There were nearly 2,000 students in the school at the time the attack occurred. Later in the day, the bombing, which was the first suicide attack at a school, was claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Aitizaz was the second of his siblings and had two sisters. He was a friend to many, respected and loved in his village, where the news of his death spread rapidly. His father Mujahid Ali works in the UAE. He says he has not come back home to mourn his son’s death, but to celebrate his life. “My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children.”
“I am ready to sacrifice my second son for Pakistan as well,” Ali added. “There are a handful of people in the world who are martyrs; I am now one of those proud fathers whose son is amongst them.” The government should announce a civilian award, Tamgha-i-Shujaat or Nishan-e-Haider, for his bravery, Mujtaba added. Government officials had not visited the family until Wednesday night and neither had officials made their typical announcements of ‘compensation’. Teachers and students say they are still in shock. The principal of the school, Lal Baz, said he is at a loss for words to express Aitizaz’s bravery. “The attack targeted education and I am surprised neither the federal nor the provincial government functionary has visited the family. Their silence is condemnable.” A student, Atif Hussain, said the vacuum left by his death may never be filled. “Aitizaz died for education and no one can snatch this right from us.”
Six people have been killed ruthlessly in Karachi at the shrine of Ayub Shah Bukhari. Three of the victims were employed at the shrine while the others were frequent visitors. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has taken responsibility for the gruesome act in which they slit the throats of the victims. The killers left a message for other shrine visitors, warning them to shun visiting shrines otherwise they too would meet the same fate. Though shrines have been attacked previously by TTP, the brutality with which these people have been killed is certainly new and speaks volumes of the inhumanity and barbaric nature of these groups. That they think their mantle of religiosity permits them to brutalize people in order to ‘cleanse’ Islam is enough to suggest that they cannot be negotiatiated with and deserve to be put down down with force.
Sufi Islam through its message of humanism and love has been historically instrumental in connecting people from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds into a single entity. In the history of the subcontinent, saints, shrines and the Sufi ideology has played a significant role in not only spreading Islam but in galvanizing Muslims divided into different denominations and sects towards the centrality of Islamic teaching: respect for human rights and tolerance for others. However, the Taliban and their Salafi brothers are bent upon disfiguring this positive message with their own narrow, literalist, rigid and fanatical interpretation of Islam. Their modus operandi is not to win hearts and minds, it is to terrorise people into acquiescence. Shrines are part of Pakistan’s culture. Their religious symbolism is enshrined in the lives of those buried there. Desecrating their places of burial is disrespecting their efforts to spread Islam’s true message. It is no service to Islam to go around brutally killing people who disagree with you and desecrate the tombs of saints, especially in the name of Islam, inherently a religion of peace and harmony. This is a crisis of religious values that would decimate the basic texture of ‘religion’, a theology that teaches violence and intolerance towards others.
It is time the government gets hold of these fanatics and punishes them for their misdeeds. A large segment of people in Pakistan connect themselves to shrines and those buried there. Frankly speaking, these saplings of hatred are of our own making. Their terrorism is the payback for the jihadist movement that we nourished so fondly. Therefore it is for us only to reverse this wrong path taken.
Pakistan's Ahmadi Muslims:The case of Masood Ahmad reveals how blasphemy laws in Pakistan are used to persecute minorities
http://rationalist.org.uk/Masood Ahmad is 72. A British-Pakistani dual national, he returned to his native Pakistan in 1982 after working in London for some years to pay his children’s school fees. On his return, he opened a pharmacy and homeopathic clinic in the large eastern city of Lahore. Last month, two men visited his clinic, posing as patients. They questioned him about his faith, and used their mobile phones to secretly record him reading a verse from the Qur’an. Soon afterwards, he was arrested on charges of blasphemy. Dr Ahmad, a quiet, reserved widower who still has family in the UK, is a member of the minority Ahmadi sect. In 1974, they were declared non-Muslims, and banned from 'posing as Muslims'. This comes down to a theological dispute. Ahmadis believe that the Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded their movement in 1889, was a prophet. This contradicts the mainstream Islamic belief that Muhammad was the final prophet of God. Ahmadis, who define themselves as Muslim and view the Qur’an as their Holy Book, are technically breaking the law every time they practice their faith. This community of around 4 million refuses to vote: doing so would be tacit acceptance that they are not Muslim. Last year, in the run up to Pakistan’s historic general election in May, I met with one of the Ahmadi community’s figureheads. Saleem Uddin, a softly spoken man who prefers not to be photographed, normally resides in the community’s headquarters, the city of Rabwah, where 90 per cent of Ahmadis live. (Conservative religious leaders have twice sought to have the whole city arrested for holding religious celebrations). I met Uddin in Islamabad. After a discussion of the vote boycott, he handed me a thick report detailing every incident against Ahmadis that year. It made sobering reading. Page after page described vigilantes breaking into Ahmadis’ houses and forcibly removing Arabic inscriptions of Qur’anic verses. There were never any ramifications; sometimes this was the work of the police themselves. Across the country, Ahmadi places of worship had faced legal challenges from local councils and residents. Translations from the Urdu-language press demonstrated the constant drip-feed of hatred (One example, from the Daily Khabrain: “Apostates must be killed. To declare Qadianis [a derogatory name for Ahamdis] as a non-Muslim minority was an act of generosity for them”). There are currently upwards of 280 legal cases registered against Ahmadis for “impersonating Muslims”. Those carrying out more violent crimes – such as the extremists who desecrated more than 100 Ahmadi graves in Lahore in 2012, or those who killed more than 90 in a bombing at an Ahmadi mosque in the city in 2010 – know that they need not worry about ramifications. This reflects a wider pattern in Pakistan where the formalised persecution of minorities provides space for sectarian violence to grow. Similar trends can be seen in the treatment of the Christian and Hindu communities (who have been subject to bomb attacks and smaller vigilante attacks after blasphemy charges against individuals). For improvement, Uddin said, “Religion must stop being the dominant force in politics.” Sadly, in today’s Pakistan, the opposite trend is evident, as mainstream politicians, terrified by the extremist threat, are allowing such groups to dictate the national conversation. Attempts to reform the country’s repressive blasphemy laws in 2009-10 were shelved after two of the ministers driving the process were assassinated. Three years later, the situation for religious minorities is worse than ever. Dr Ahmad and his family are appealing to the British High Commission for help but as yet, no statement has been made. Blasphemy cases attract high levels of public emotion, with mob violence often resulting in deaths before cases have even been heard. Crowds have been gathered outside the jail where the elderly doctor is being held, chanting anti-Ahmadi slogans. “I used to read about minorities being targeted in the newspapers,” Dr Ahmad told the BBC. “Now I’m in the news.” http://rationalist.org.uk/articles/4526/the-case-of-masood-ahmad-reveals-how-blasphemy-laws-in-pakistan-are-used-to-persecute-minorities
Former president Asif Ali Zardari appeared before the accountability court Thursday but could not be indicted in Polo Ground reference case, Geo News reported. Accountability court Judge Muhammad Bashir heard the case. Zardari’s counsel Farooq H. Naek told the media men that his client could not be indicted in today’s hearing and the proceedings were deferred till January 18. Assistant lawyer Amjad Iqbal Advocate told that arguments will be presented in the next hearing with the reference to Zardari’s indictment. The former president arrived at the accountability court here today amid strict security to defend allegations leveled against him in five references including Polo Ground, SGS, Ursus tractors deal, Cotecna and ARY Gold cases It was earlier expected that Asif Ali Zardari would be indicted in Polo Ground reference today. It may be mentioned that the accountability court had reopened five references against former President Asif Ali Zardari. The references against Zardari were deferred earlier as he enjoyed immunity during his tenure as the President of Pakistan. The court had earlier released several of the co-accused in the references against Asif Ali Zardari.