Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ukraine's Own Worst Enemy

This summer I received an official letter informing me that I had been called up for service in the Ukrainian Army, and that in a few weeks I would be deployed to the east, where our soldiers are fighting Russian-backed separatists.
I care deeply about my country and I want to defend it. But I was facing a dilemma: Should I go to war knowing that I will have to pay more than $2,000 out of my own pocket to get the military equipment that could save my life because official corruption has left the Ministry of Defense without enough adequate supplies to issue to new recruits? Or should I pay a $2,000 bribe to obtain papers falsely testifying that I am medically unfit and should thus be taken off the conscript list?
I’ve always been deeply opposed to corruption, a major problem in my country, not least for our soldiers fighting the insurgency. My brother, who is serving in the east, wasn’t issued anything but an old-fashioned AK-47 when he joined the army. My family, like too many others, had to spend their own money to buy what he needed: We found a secondhand NATO uniform, body armor, a helmet, a gun sight for his weapon, and kneepads and boots, all for roughly $2,400, including winter gear.
We were fortunate to have the money. The median monthly salary in Ukraine is about $260, which means that it’s impossible for the average family to equip their sons and brothers for war. The salary of a conscripted soldier varies from $185 to $417, depending on rank and specialty. In times of peace, corruption hurts people indirectly. In times of war, corruption can be as deadly as a bullet.
Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists came suddenly and caught the government unprepared. In Soviet times the military was relatively well equipped, but in the decades since that era ended our forces have deteriorated as defense spending has shrunk. In recent times, the Defense Ministry’s processes of procurement have usually been kept secret — specifications for body armor, for example, aren’t published. This means that the government can get away with purchasing low-quality gear. And it usually does.
The Office of the General Prosecutor recently announced that it is bringing charges against several former Defense Ministry officials who purchased substandard body armor for the army. They are accused of spending $5.6 million to buy 17,080 pieces of low-quality body armor, which, according to reports in the Ukrainian media, have led to dozens of casualties and deaths during military operations in the east. The armor was apparently incapable of withstanding a direct hit from a bullet.
In August, President Petro O. Poroshenko fired two Defense Ministry procurement directors for corruption. According to media reports, they will be charged with misuse of public funds, but not with manslaughter.
New procurement procedures were supposed to prevent corrupt practices that put our soldiers at even greater risk. In 2013, the Defense Ministry said that its Department of Internal Audit and Financial Control was starting a special investigation on behalf of the army under the direction of the then-minister of defense, Pavlo Lebedyev. Previously, it was relatively easy for bureaucrats in the ministry to jeopardize the integrity of an investigation. But last June, representatives from the internal audit department were excluded from procurement committees and lost their mandate to check army contracts. The military’s official explanation was that in times of war the army leadership needs the authority and flexibility to conduct its own purchases in order to supply troops as quickly as possible.
My brother says he was recently told he should buy his own winter equipment because the army couldn’t guarantee supplies. If they’ve changed the procurement system to make it faster, why are they still telling soldiers that they must fend for themselves?
Tetyana Chornovil, a former journalist who was put in charge of the new government’s anticorruption policy, recently resigned her post. “There is no political will in Ukraine for an uncompromising, wide-scale war on corruption,” she said in a newspaper interview.
Ordinary people in Ukraine want to help their soldiers. They buy special bracelets to support the troops and donate their time to volunteer organizations. But there have been reports that some initiatives are simply get-rich-quick schemes. I’ve heard of one organization whose members collected donations from the public to buy military equipment for the troops, then actually tried to sell it to soldiers.
There is a will to reform among the Ukrainian people and among our more forward-looking political leaders, but the momentum has slowed since the protests that helped rid the nation of President Viktor F. Yanukovych last winter. Now, amid the tensions with Russia and the unrest in the east, many of us are worried that the fight against corruption will be lost. If reforms don’t come now, they probably will never come.
As part of my job as a liaison officer with NATO, I was recently sent to Britain to research anticorruption programs with Transparency International. Their work is very important, tackling transparency issues in military enterprises and governments around the globe. But for Ukraine, these efforts aren’t enough; to “cure” the country all layers of society need to be involved. The political will to fight must also be in place.
As of now, the fighting in the east has quieted down and I may not have to be deployed after all. In any case, if it flares up again and it turns out that I am called to service, I have decided not to bribe my way out of the army. After all, I am 33 years old, and fit and able to serve. But if I am called to fight for my country, I want to be properly equipped to be able to defend myself. If I put my life on the line, I want to know that my government is committed to giving me the best protection it can afford. At this moment, I cannot be so sure. And I fear for my brother, who is still at the front.
Aleksandr Lapko is a senior specialist-assistant in the NATO Liaison Office in Ukraine.

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Afghan President Ghani's First Week in Office

A week into office, President Ashraf Ghani and the National Unity Government have showed serious commitment in fighting corruption in the country.
In his first few days, the president reopened the controversial Kabul Bank case of embezzlement and in his first meeting with the cabinet, the president gave the ministers 15 days to report to the Presidential Palace about the employments of non-military, political posts and contracted employees according to gender, level of education and years of the service.
Ghani added that all governors are now "acting governors" until the employment of new substitutes, stressing that the acting governors do not have the authority to appoint or dismiss any employees.
The president's initiatives have been welcomed around the country. A number of MPs have stated that the fight against corruption will also contribute to tackling other social challenges.
"Although it is too early to judge, the president has sent a serious message in the fight against corruption," MP Nahid Farid said. "He will finish the incomplete fight."
His second day at office, the president allowed for the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to be signed with the United States. The BSA provides a legal framework for the presence of American troops in Afghanistan post-2014.
Security and negotiations with the armed opposition have also been on top of the new government's priorities. Since inauguration, Ghani has called on the Taliban to join the peace process.
President Ghani took the oath to protect and preserve the Afghan Constitution last Monday, becoming the nation's first president to take office from his predecessor through a democratic transition.
The inauguration ceremony took place September 29 at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. With the participation of 1,400 national and international guests, the ceremony began with President Hamid Karzai saluting the army and bidding farewell to them followed by the recitation of the Quran and the national anthem.

How Not to Defeat Radical Islamists

By Atia Abawi & Conor M. Powell
For more than a decade, world leaders have searched for and failed to find military and diplomatic solutions to end the fighting in Afghanistan. Now these same leaders are searching for answers to quell the chaos and bloodshed in Iraq and Syria.
While the situation in Iraq and Syria is not the same as in Afghanistan, depressing and dangerous similarities exist. Yet instead of heeding the lessons learned from the international community’s experience in Afghanistan, Washington and its allies appear to be repeating them in the war to defeat ISIS.
The Taliban began as a local movement in southern Afghanistan during the height of the Afghan civil war of the 1990s. Within months of its creation, thousands of ethnic Pashtun madrassa students from neighboring Pakistan joined their ranks, bringing weapons and support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). Pakistan’s secular and moderately Islamic leaders believed the extreme religious students were Islamabad’s best hope to maintain influence and control in Afghanistan and in their own Pashtun communities.
The Taliban that welcomed al-Qaeda and continues to destabilize Afghanistan today exists only with the help of Pakistan. Taliban fighters continue to find refuge and training in Pakistan’s tribal areas. And the ISI still acts as a go-between for the group and any organization and government that wants to deal with them.
Despite countless pleas from dozens of U.S. officials, Pakistan provides both military and financial support to the Afghan Taliban. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen even testified before Congress that the Haqqani network, the most powerful and violent Taliban faction, remains a “veritable arm of the ISI.”
As in Afghanistan, extremism in Syria and Iraq is fueled from outside actors. In Syria, American allies Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia openly send weapons and money to the so-called “good” Syrian rebels. And, not very secretly, they maintain close ties with Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. Current chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey testified before Congress recently that America’s Arab allies have funded and continue to fund ISIS, both directly and indirectly. Though America’s allies deny this claim, weapons and cash know no distinctions between “good” and “bad” rebels — support often bleeds across these groups as fighters shift allegiances.
As Pakistan did with the Taliban, Turkey and America’s Gulf allies accept Islamic extremism as a cost of doing business. And, as is true in Afghanistan, America’s unwillingness to confront its allies’ support of extremist groups in Syria will continue to undermine American goals in the Middle East. As long as outside actors think extremists have a role to play in Iraq and Syria’s future, groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra will continue to wreak havoc across the Middle East.
During the 1980s, young Muslim men were encouraged to join the mujahideen in Afghanistan to defeat the Soviet Union. These fighters came from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and many other Arab countries, convinced they were fighting a “jihad” to defend their faith.
Initially viewed as an asset by the United States in the fight against Communism, the loyalties of many of the fighters shifted as the Cold War came to an end. Some of these men, including Osama bin Laden, took their Western-backed war training and experiences in Afghanistan and created a new group known as al-Qaeda.
The Syrian civil war started out as a battle between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and anti-government activists. America’s Turkish and Arab allies quickly threw their support behind any group willing to oppose Assad, and encouraged young Muslim men to once again flock to the battlefield. Distinctions between the anti-Assad rebel groups were ignored.
With the influx of foreign fighters joining their ranks, many of the so-called “good” Syrian rebels have radicalized and welcomed groups like ISIS. Moderate rebels, tacitly backed by the West and their allies, have metastasized into violent extremists — just as they did in Afghanistan.
Preventing foreign fighters from joining the Syrian opposition may hurt the fight against Assad and his regime. But unless Turkey and other Sunni Arab states halt the flow of fighters into Syria and Iraq, there is little reason to think the battle against ISIS will end any differently from the one against the Taliban.
Afghanistan’s experience with Islamic extremism is a relatively new phenomenon. In the 1970s, as the world witnessed Arab militants hijacking planes and carrying out other terrorist activities, Afghanistan was culturally conservative but welcoming to outsiders. The arrival of Wahhabist teachings changed that and spawned the Taliban.
Wahhabism arose in the 18th century in what is now Saudi Arabia. It is a rigid and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. For more than a century, it had few followers. But with the support and backing of the Gulf Arab monarchs, particularly in Saudi Arabia, it has spread.
In places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Wahhabis created and still fund madrassas, or Islamic schools, for impoverished children, offering incentives such as free room and board and even money. In these schools, extreme interpretations of the Koran are taught to vulnerable and uneducated children, indoctrinating them and fueling extremism.
And now Wahhabism has seeped into some mosques and communities in the West. For many years, Saudi Arabia has been donating free copies of the Koran, with a radical interpretation, to mosques around the world — including ones in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
The problem is that the interpretations printed by the House of Saud are injected with inflammatory words instilling hatred toward non-Muslims and Muslims who do not follow their extreme path. This ideology is the foundation for groups like the Taliban, ISIS, and al-Qaeda.
With the dissemination of these books, Muslim youth, particularly those already feeling disenfranchised by their communities, are being radicalized from afar — fueling an increase in foreign fighters joining ISIS.
The U.S. State Department has repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia for promoting its extreme version of Islam, to no avail. These teachings have already radically transformed Afghanistan and will likely do the same in Syria and Iraq — both countries that traditionally have not practiced extreme versions of their religions.
Analysts and generals alike say that ISIS cannot be defeated by military might alone. Bullets and bombs can wound the movement, but to finish it off, more needs to be done off the battlefield. If Afghanistan has taught us anything, it is that you cannot just kill your way out of these problems; you have to deal with the underlying issues that created and fuel them. And many more lessons can be taken — including but not limited to addressing the legitimate concerns of minority groups, empowering local government forces, and supplying the proper form of aid and assistance.
But, sadly, it appears history continues to repeat itself.

A bright future for Afghanistan is on the horizon

By Jordan Brunner
Making up is always a precarious process: Trust must be re-built, partners’ egos need stroking, and there are always naysayers who are overly pessimistic, always thinking that the relationship will crash and burn and hurt everyone involved. But, given enough time and support, the makeup process will help a relationship blossom into a strong bond, and create a peaceful and happy environment.
The makeup process that the national unity government in Afghanistan between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah is engaged in at present is no different. The unity government was created by the brokering efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry due to a lack of trust between both parties in response to election fraud. A need for flattered egos led to stronger position for the loser, Abdullah. This new arrangement definitely has many naysayers.
Its critics have called it nearly another “puppet” regime of the U.S. to serve our interests there. Others say that it might not be able to stand up to the threats facing Afghanistan from the outside by terrorists and insurgent networks. These critics say that even if the new government does manage to survive the many threats that faces it from the outside, it will probably collapse from the inside due to the lack of trust that developed as a result of election fraud on both sides.
I must admit, these critics’ fears are not unfounded. The relationship between Ghani and Abdullah definitely has its flaws, and certainly has the potential to explode and rip the country apart. In fact, before the elections results had even been fully determined, Abdullah was prepared to take over the government – or at least create a parallel one – in the event that he was unsatisfied with the results. Even after the unity government terms were agreed upon, he still threatened to boycott the inauguration, putting the entire deal in jeopardy.
But despite all of the mistrust and terrorist activity that is existent in Afghanistan, I believe that the country has a bright future ahead. How could I have such an optimistic view of the situation? Well, history (and multiple theories in comparative politics) teaches us that in a country where there has rarely been a peaceful transfer of power, how the loser reacts is often more important for a country’s future than who wins the election. Often the losers will take up arms either to launch a coup or to plunge the country into civil war.
But as of late, it seems that Abdullah has reconciled himself to holding the position of Chief Executive Officer and is cooperating fully. His cooperation provides stability, and helps unite the entire country by catering to the two main ethnic groups in Afghanistan: Pashtuns and Tajiks. Ghani is a Pashtun, and Abdullah is a Tajik with Pashtun background. Abdullah would lose face and be forever dishonored in the sight of the Afghan people if he were to back out of the government now. Ghani, on the other hand, would seem arrogant and power-hungry if he tried to provoke Abdullah.
Therefore, both sides have a vested interest in making sure that this arrangement works, hence the reason why I believe that Afghanistan has a bright future. With the continued assistance of the U.S., the U.K., India and other countries, Afghanistan’s horizon is looking brighter and brighter. Sure, the new government is untested, fragmented and potentially explosive. Even so, I really don’t see what critics can offer as an alternative. Kerry brilliantly used the resources he had available to him to make the best of a very unstable situation.
I believe that instead of criticizing and being doomsday prophets, we should instead keep looking to how we can stabilize this country which is so vital to U.S. interests’ in the region. That is the only way things can get better.

Pakistan : Former President Zardari advises Imran to get experience in politics

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari has advised PTI Chief Imran Khan to get experience in politics, Geo News reported.
Addressing party workers of district Narowal here Tuesday, Zardari said: “No one becomes politician by establishing a hospital. There are More than 20 persons in Pakistan who have set up big hospitals.”
The former president advised Khan to be patient and get experience in politics.

Pakistan: US drone strike kills six in NWA

Missiles from a U.S. drone on Tuesday slammed into a suspected militant training camp in northwest Pakistan, killing six, intelligence officials said, in the third such strike in as many days.
Three missiles from the unmanned aircraft hit the camp in the Shawal area of South Waziristan just after midday, two intelligence officials told Reuters. Nine suspected militants were reported injured, they said.
The United States halted drone strikes for the first six months of 2014 while the government engaged in ultimately fruitless peace talks with the Taliban insurgency.
But the strikes restarted in June, just days before the military announced an anti-Taliban offensive, and their pace stepped up this month. Five suspected militants were killed in a strike in Shawal on Monday, and another five killed in a strike in the same area on Sunday.
The Shawal valley is a thickly forested, mountainous area where many of the militants who fled the anti-Taliban offensive are believed to be hiding.
Pakistan’s government routinely publicly protests the strikes as an infringement of its national sovereignty. But former President Pervez Musharraf admitted strikes during his term were approved- Reuters
- See more at: http://arynews.tv/en/us-drone-strike-kills-six-in-nwa/#sthash.pWZkBVm0.dpuf

Pakistani Talban’s support to ISIS spreads fear among religious minorities

The Tehrik-E-Taliban Pakistan has vowed and declared its support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and ordered its Islamists across the region to unite against the "Enemy" and to forget their own rivalries.
Recently reportedly the supporters of IS have wall-chalked with the praising slogan in the favour of this group and against the Founder of Pakistan-Qauid-E-Azam Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah and they also distributed the pamphlets with the same praising slogans in the favour of the group in the region of Northwestern Pakistani city Peshawar.
"It is very common slogan and wish of every Muslim that Islam should dominate the whole world and they wish to act and to support those who have same vision to act for fulfilling their this vision.It is considerable that this slogan is the worst and main cause of threat to religious liberty mission for which we, Human Rights Activists, are working tirelessly," said Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill,Human Rights Defender, who heads LEAD.
That's why they reportedly said in the statement that the Global Muslim Community would stand with the IS in these tough times and they help them with what they can, he further added.
In Pakistan, we try and struggle to hold seminars and meetings for the promotion of inter-faith harmony among Pakistani but the majority thinks it useless exercise and do not bother to strengthen this strategy to mitigate religious extremist mind set and try to create tolerance of differences of faith and values amongst us. The same mind set will show their interests in this strategy of inter-faith harmony when they reside among the majority of other faith than Islam for their benefits but deny to adopt it in Pakistan.
The religious liberty and its enjoyment is a dream for Pakistani Christians including other religious minorities and they are being affected by the mind set of those extremists. It is notable that the religious liberty is just a dream in whole Islamic world for other minorities because they have promulgated and formed such laws whose base is on discrimination and these laws are major cause of persecution for Christians.
It is said that Pakistan is such a country which came into being on the basis of difference of faith, culture and values. It is also said that it is the fortress of Islam without thinking and pondering the standpoint of other religious minorities who are citizens of this country.
Now the time to think and to strengthen the agenda and point of views of PCC and to stand with Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti's real true demand for separate province for Pakistani Christians for the enjoyment of religious liberty because without it the series of Christian persecution will not be ended and without the fulfilment of this demand Christians of Pakistan will not enjoy equal rights. It is inevitable fact to demand separate province where they ,Pakistani Christian, may enjoy at least religious liberty because the majority is not willing to tolerate other faith than Islam.
We Pakistani Christians have to learn the lesson from Iraqi and Syrian Christians where they are being beheaded and forced to convert to Islam and where their girls were rapped by the hands of the IS. Unfortunately if this will be started in Pakistan what we should do to defend ourselves against the militants.
It’s true that Pakistan has a strong army and it already have taken steps to eradicate militancy from Pakistan for this they are doing military operation against the militants but the fear which we feel is that in whole Pakistan the militants have their bases and their supporters who misuse the laws whose basis are on faith and religious discrimination.
Our appeal to Pakistani Christian leadership and to western brethren to stand on one agenda and sit together to take this issue and statement of TTP seriously and to ask western brotherhood for support to end this mind set which creates the hurdles in the way of religious liberty mission whose we are supporters.


By Anurag Tripathi
On September 25, 2014, Police recovered three mutilated bodies from the Rakhshan Nadi and Washbud areas of Panjgur District in South Balochistan. According to reports, all victims had received multiple bullet injuries. The victims remain unidentified.
On September 23, 2014, Balochistan Levies personnel found two bullet-riddled bodies in the Pidark area of Turbat District in South Balochistan. The victims remain unidentified.
These are the latest in an endless chain of ‘disappearances’ and political killings in the troubled Province. Sources in the Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Department indicate that in 2014, so far, 53 mutilated bodies have been found in Khuzdar, Turbat, Panjgur (South Balochistan), and Quetta (North Balochistan) Districts, and other troubled areas, mostly in the Southern part of the Province.
More alarmingly, a July 2104 report disclosed that at least 803 bodies had been found in Balochistan over the preceding three-and-a-half years, most of them in South Balochistan and Quetta. Sources stated that 466 victims were identified as ethnic Baloch, 123 as Pashtuns, and 107 from other ethnicities. 107 bodies remained unidentified. Of the 466 Baloch killed in the Province, most were political workers, while the remaining lost their lives in incidents of targeted killings, tribal disputes, and criminal and domestic violence. Responding to the report, Baloch nationalist leader, Dr Hayee Baloch, observed, “This is an alarming situation. Baloch political workers were still being picked up from various parts of the Province to suppress their voice.”
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Province has recorded at least 3,248 civilian fatalities since 2004. Of these, 305 civilian killings (182 in the South and 123 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations. The Islamist and sectarian extremist formations, primarily Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India), claimed responsibility for the killing of another 502 civilians, all in the North, mostly in and around Quetta. The remaining 2,441 civilian fatalities – 1,511 in the South and 930 in the North – remain ‘unattributed’. A large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by state agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan).
According to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) as on February 7, 2014, up to 18,500 people have been missing in Balochistan since 2000. VBMP claimed that, during the Pervez Musharraf era (1999-2007), 4,000 Baloch went missing. The number increased to 18,500 during the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Government (2008-13) and the present Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) government. The VBMP stated that the data on 14,000 of the ‘disappeared’ had been documented by the organisation, and had been shared with the courts and United Nation agencies. Significantly, the Supreme Court has been hearing the Balochistan missing persons case since 2012 and has already reprimanded the Government for its failure to comply with its orders on several occasions. At times, the Government has pleaded helplessness in the matter. Significantly, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, on December 10, 2013, hearing a case pertaining to missing persons, had ordered that all the missing persons be recovered or accounted for by December 19, 2013, and made the Federal and Balochistan Governments responsible for execution of its directive. On January 30, 2014, having failed to implement the order, the Balochistan Government conceded before the Supreme Court that it was handicapped in recovering missing Baloch persons, because it had no effective control over the Frontier Corps, which was accused of ‘detaining’ these persons.
Significantly, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch on September 27, 2014, admitted, “The missing persons issue was still a big challenge… However, it is not possible to resolve all the issues of the Province through available resources.”
In the recent past, Baloch separatist insurgent groups such as the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT), United Baloch Front (UBF), United Baloch Army (UBA), Baloch United Liberation Front (BULF) and Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), have extended their networks into Northern Balochistan, particularly in Quetta, the provincial capital, which lies deep in the North. Significantly, on October 1, 2014, the UBF claimed responsibility for an attack, in which at least four persons including two teenage boys were killed, and another ten were injured, when unidentified militants hurled a hand grenade at a barber shop near the Sirki Kalan area on Double Road in Quetta (Quetta District). The explosion was followed by firing. Nevertheless, as SAIR has noted earlier, Baloch insurgent groups dominate the South.
It is, consequently, not surprising that Islamabad is targeting Southern Balochistan. On the other hand, despite clear signs of a deteriorating situation in North Balochistan, Islamabad has demonstrated very little urgency in addressing the problem. North Balochistan is dominated by Islamist terrorist groups and Sunni sectarian formations such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which have flourished under the aegis of the military mullah combine, though the latter has now gone renegade and directs much of its terrorist activity against the Army and political establishment in Islamabad.
Interestingly, the Balochistan Government on Dec 30, 2013, evolved a “smart and effective security policy”. Under the new policy, operations would commence against Baloch militant formations, such as BRA, BLA, BLT and UBA, BULF and BLF. Significantly, Islamist terrorist formations find no mention in this listing, though they are responsible for the greater proportion of attributable attacks and killings in the Province.
Alarmingly for the Baloch nationalist groups, terrorist outfits that share their ideology with the TTP are spreading their influence in the Province. In the recent past, they have extended their networks into the Makran Division, including Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar Districts, which lie deep in South Balochistan. Significantly, the region has witnessed attacks on private schools with the extremists professing abhorrence for western and girls’ education. Among such recent attacks, on May 21, 2014, at least six persons, including a Government school teacher identified as Master Hameed, were shot dead when terrorists entered his residence and opened fire, killing him and five of his relatives in the Dasht area of Turbat District. The attack came in the wake of threatening letters sent to private schools by a newly surfaced terrorist group, Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan (Organisation of Islam and the Right Standard) in Panjgur District, warning the people to completely shut down girls’ education or to prepare themselves for “the worst consequences as prescribed in the Quran”.
Earlier, on May 13, 2014, four armed TIF terrorists, wearing headbands with Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is Great) imprinted on them, set ablaze the vehicle of Major (Retired) Hussain Ali, owner of The Oasis School, in the same District, while he was driving girls to school. The masked terrorists asked him and the girls to de-board the vehicle, before setting it ablaze. Such attacks are indices of the penetration of the Taliban ideology of intolerance and religious bigotry into the Southern regions of Balochistan, which had, thus far, escaped the influence of TTP and its likes.
The new developments come amidst continuing neglect of the Province and the relentless campaign of ‘disappearances’ inflicted on Baloch dissidents by the state’s Forces and covert agencies, and appear to have provoked the recent spate of attacks in North Balochistan by Baloch separatist formations. Though such incidents have not reached an alarming level, they are a disturbing indication of a change in trends. Meanwhile, both the Provincial and Federal Governments continue to ignore the ground realities of the Province. Islamabad’s strategy of supporting armed Islamist extremist formations and other violent proxies and suppressing the genuine demands of the Baloch, even as the most basic issues, including the urgent crisis of extra judicial killings, continue to be ignored. Such a strategy, long embedded in Islamabad’s approach to this restive Province – the most impoverished and backward in the country – is bound to bring more chaos in the already destabilized region.

Pakistan: The Allure of ISIS

Ahmed Rashid
It is now official. The Pakistani Taliban, a jihadist group that has concentrated its efforts in the tribal areas of Pakistan, has announced its support for ISIS in Iraq and Syria, thousands of miles away. “Oh our brothers [of ISIS], we are proud of you in your victories,” Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told the international media over the weekend. “All Muslims in the world have great expectations of you…we are with you, we will provide you with Mujahideen [fighters] and with every possible support,” he added.
For now, the statement—issued as Muslims worldwide celebrated the Eid holidays and just hours after ISIS announced the beheading of another Western aid worker—seems mostly symbolic. The Pakistani Taliban have not merged with ISIS, nor have they accepted ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as their Caliph. On Monday, the group’s spokesman clarified that it was not a declaration of allegiance to ISIS. But the move by the Pakistani group is a startling indication of how much ISIS’s brutality and ability to control a large swath of territory are changing the jihadist landscape—not only in the Middle East but also in South Asia. For a younger generation of Islamic militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially, it suggests a readiness to bring ISIS-style tactics to their own campaigns at home.
Numerous Pakistani fighters have gone to fight in Afghanistan, Central Asia, Bosnia, and the Middle East in the past. And in recent years, some factions of the Pakistani Taliban that are based in the mountainous tribal badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan, have offered protection to al-Qaeda and its leaders, and helped train foreign militants to carry out bombings in the West. But until now, fighters seeking to take part in international jihad have tended to join al-Qaeda, while the Taliban’s own members—who are dominated by Pashtun tribesmen—have been primarily committed to setting up a shariah state in Pakistan and helping their Afghan brothers do the same in Afghanistan.
Over the past few months, however, the stunning military successes of ISIS in Iraq and Syria has inspired the Pakistani Taliban to show an interest in a wider jihad. A new generation of militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan—younger, more radicalized, better educated, and deeply committed to war and sacrifice—feel let down by their own militant leaders, who they see as having gone too far to compromise with the existing states and governments. For example, efforts by the Afghan Taliban leaders to enter a dialogue with the US over the last few years and to set up a Taliban office for mediation in Qatar has angered some younger Afghan militants.
Likewise younger radicals in Pakistani groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the Mumbai bombings and attacks in 2008, and the anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, think their leaders have compromised too much with the Pakistani military and in political deals designed to offer them protection.
In contrast, this younger generation sees ISIS as a force that refuses to compromise with anyone—including even fellow Islamist groups. Young Pakistani fighters have also been impressed by ISIS because of its military success, its unilateral declaration of a caliphate, and its commitment to killing Shias and other minorities.
This growing support for ISIS has raised new concerns for the Pakistan-based leadership of al-Qaeda, which worries that ISIS is increasingly supplanting it among international jihadist groups. Last month, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, speaking from his hideout in the tribal areas, announced the establishment of a new South Asian branch of al-Qaeda, headed by Indian national Asim Umar, presumably, in part, as a counterweight to ISIS.
For now, the ability of the Pakistan Taliban to contribute to ISIS is limited. The Pakistan army is pursuing a major offensive against the group in their heartland of North Waziristan. Hundreds of Pakistani Taliban have fled into Afghanistan to avoid the military’s bombing of their bases, and one million Pashtuns from North Waziristan have fled and are now refugees further south. Furthermore, the Pakistani Taliban leadership is badly divided and many fighters do not trust their current leader, Mullah Fazlullah, who resides in Afghanistan and has been unable to win the loyalty of all the tribal factions that make up the hard core of the Pakistani Taliban.
The Afghan Taliban, by contrast, are much more united under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Omar and they have not yet issued any statement of support for ISIS. In their decade-long fight with US forces, the Afghan Taliban have become a nationalist-religious group and have shown less interest in promoting global jihad. They remain consistent in their aim of ousting the present Afghan government in order to impose their own version of Islamic rule on Afghanistan. Their distance from international jihad may in part be a result of their disastrous association with foreigners such as Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, which—following the 9/11 attacks launched from Afghanistan—led to the overthrow of the Taliban government in Kabul by US forces.
With US and NATO troops scheduled to withdrawal and new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani having just been sworn in, the Taliban are convinced that they can quickly undermine the Afghan government. The Afghan army has so far proved to be weak and Ghani’s own job—which requires sharing power with his main electoral rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has become chief executive officer—is politically precarious. Both men have signed on to a long-term agreement with the US which will allow some 10,000 US troops and another several thousand NATO forces to stay to train the Afghan army for a limited time—next year US troops will be reduced by half.
However, after a summer of intense fighting, the Afghan Taliban are on the verge of capturing the southern province of Helmand—the center of the country’s valuable heroin production. If that happens, several provinces in the south of the country could quickly fall to the Taliban. Meanwhile, large parts of the countryside in provinces around Kabul and in the north around the city of Kunduz are also under Taliban influence. A major test for the new government will be to see if it can hold onto these areas for the remaining weeks before winter sets in.
If the war in Afghanistan drags on without a decisive victory or a political solution, the danger grows that younger Taliban will become more attracted to ISIS. And the possibility of ISIS wielding growing influence among the Pakistani or Afghan Taliban is heightened by the generational shift taking place among the Taliban themselves.
Unless Pakistan and Afghanistan are able to quickly end the extremism by Taliban groups that has plagued them for years they are likely to find themselves facing a far more militarized, radicalized, and extremist youth movement. The danger then is that these countries could find themselves ceding major territory to extremist groups, in a repeat of what ISIS has done in Iraq and Syria.

India and Pakistan Trade Blame in Kashmir Deaths

At least five Indian civilians and four Pakistani civilians were killed by overnight shelling along the disputed Indian-Pakistani border, both countries said on Monday, in fighting that brought an end to a monthlong lull in cross-border fire.
Three men and two women were killed and more than 20 people hospitalized with injuries after a night of heavy mortar fire, said Devender Singh, the police chief in a district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes Arnia, a village that was hit in the shelling.
The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that two children and a woman in the village of Dharmala, as well as a man in Tulsipur, had been killed. Six other people were said to have been wounded in what Pakistan called “unprovoked firing” and a violation of a cease-fire agreement.
Each side blamed the other for the shooting. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said that Islamabad had “lodged strong protest” to India through diplomatic channels.
The Indian Army released a statement saying that there had been no casualties among its troops and that “equal effective response of unprovoked firing was given.” Arun Jaitley, the Indian defense minister, blamed Pakistan for the violence.
“Pakistan must realize that the kind of environment it is generating between the two countries is certainly not going to help in normalizing the relations,” he said. “The onus of creating a positive environment is on Pakistan, which is utterly failing to do so.”
India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed neighbors, have fought three wars over the disputed border and maintain fragile diplomatic relations. A cease-fire had mainly remained in place at the border since 2003.
For much of August, there were heavy exchanges of gunfire and shelling between border posts, causing thousands of people to flee to safer areas. At the time, D. K. Pathak, India’s chief of border security, described the crossfire as the biggest since the war the two countries fought in 1971.
India suspended official talks with Pakistan this summer after Pakistan’s ambassador met with separatist leaders from the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir. Since then, cease-fire violations and reports of infiltration attempts have gone up.
On Sept. 26, Gen. Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani Army chief, visited troops deployed near the city of Jhelum along the Line of Control, as the de facto border is known, where he was briefed by local commanders, according to a statement by the Pakistani military. General Sharif “reiterated that any provocation along the Line of Control will be responded effectively,” the statement said.
Rajnath Singh, India’s home minister, said Monday that the Indian side, now under the leadership of a new government, would have a tough response. “Pakistan should stop cease-fire violations and should understand the reality that times have changed in India,” he said.
On Monday, Mr. Pathak toured forward posts on the Indian side, telling reporters that “there has been equal or more volume of fire from our side also.”