Tag Archive | "Swat"

Kayani asks US to stop drone attacks

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on Friday again demanded from US to stop drone attacks and provide drone technology to Pakistan.

Sources said that the Chief of the Army Staff expressed these views during his meeting with the US advisor on National Security, James Jones on Friday at the GHQ.

A host of issues came under discussion like Pak-US Defense ties, the war against terrorism, situation in Afghanistan, internal and regional security and others.

During the meeting, the COAS briefed James Jones about the ongoing operation in South Waziristan. He expressed his concern on eliminating check posts at the Afghan side on the Pakistani border.

Pakistan, he said, has paid a heavy price in the war against terrorism, adding that the drone attacks must be halted immediately.

The issues relating to the new Afghan government and others were discussed with James Jones.

James Jones said that US will keep on cooperating with Pakistan thick and thin, urging that the ongoing SWA Operation is of utmost importance, adding that the National Security is most vital.

(News Sourced from: Regional Times)

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SAWAL YEH HAI with Dr. Danish on ARY: OCT 24

What kind of ‘Great Game’ is being played in South Waziristan; Is US betraying Pakistan? Parliament’s ambivilance to security situation. Balochistan crisis and the ‘Great Game’. Guests: Zaid Hamid (Defense Analyst); Zafar Hilaly (Ex-Amb to US), Maria Sultan (Security Analyst)

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No Time to Exhale 
for Pakistan Yet — Faryal Leghari

By Faryal Leghari

These are critical times for Pakistan. Days before the launch of a massive ground operation in the epicentre of Pakistan’s Taleban insurgency, the rugged and indomitable Waziristan agency adjoining the Afghan border, terror attacks have been unleashed across the country.

From the military headquarters in Rawalpindi to the UN World Food Programme offices in Islamabad, from the Frontier — where a series of suicide attacks and bombings have wreaked havoc in Peshawar, Bannu, Kohat and Swat — to Punjab’s capital Lahore, these attacks have targeted the security establishment including the military and police institutions and personnel.

While terror is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan given the series of extremist attacks over the past few years, these recent attacks are notable in their nature and pattern. Especially, since these attacks occurred after the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan considered responsible for the spiralling violence and suicide attacks, including Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in December 2007.

The TTP, having claimed responsibility for the recent attacks had been issuing warnings against the Waziristan operation, and now seems to be delivering on its word. In retrospect, it was wrong to presume that the insurgency would lose its lethal capability after Baitullah.

So far these attacks have not targeted soft (civilian) targets, though this may change sooner than supposed. The main purpose behind the attacks is to trigger adverse public opinion against the Waziristan operation and to deter political backing for the military strategy. Though the government has vowed not to back down, its determination to continue the military initiative will depend on its ability to cope with the rapidly unravelling security situation.

With the army poised to launch a full-scale operation in the already besieged Waziristan and air strikes already targeting suspected hideouts and insurgent strongholds, the operation critically needs public support, just as in Swat. The reason for success of the last operation in Swat was because of concurrence of political and military strategy and popular support. The military plans to wedge Waziristan and dry outside support has obviously irked the insurgents. Drawing on their ties with extremist groups in Punjab, the TTP has successfully initiated a pre Waziristan-launch terror campaign.

A few distinguishing features of these recent attacks throw light on the evolving doctrine of terror. First is the involvement of women. The reported involvement of at least three women in the multiple coordinated attacks on police training centres in Lahore on October 15 is very disturbing. A day later a woman in burqa reportedly carried out one of the two coordinated suicide attacks targeting a police investigation cell in Peshawar that killed at least 
13 people. More disturbing is the news that a 13-year old boy was used to carry out last week’s lethal suicide attack in Shangla, Swat that killed more than 
40 people.

The use of teenagers in carrying out terror attacks, though not new, is extremely abhorrent and is obviously continuing. Second is the choice of targets; in choosing the high profile and high security targets—the Federal Investigation Agency’s regional headquarters in Lahore, the Manawa and the elite police training centres on Bedian road— the terrorists have made a significant point.

As for the October 10 attack on the GHQ, the attackers have demonstrated their capability, successfully infiltrating the high security area and holding more than 40 people hostage in a 22-hour siege. In the process, scores of army personnel including two high-ranking officers were killed.

The attackers, of whom nine were killed, are believed to have received direct training from Al Qaeda. The involvement of Al Qaeda in high calibre terror attack is not new as it has been previously involved in several major attacks but does speak volumes for the terrorist group’s strong ties with local terror outfits.

The fact that sympathisers within the military may have facilitated the attackers has only fed the hawkish lobbies in the West that have been clamouring for control of Pakistan’s strategic assets under the pretext of these falling in hands of extremists.

While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quick to arrest a rekindling of the above debate and expressed confidence in the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the episode is bound to generate embarrassment for the country’s security agencies. The big question being asked by just about everyone is how such unacceptable security lapse occurred?

This brings us to a third factor, that is, the failure of the intelligence agencies in preventing these attacks. Apparently, the GHQ attackers had been residing in a house nearby for some time from where they finalised the operation. Similarly, the attacks in Lahore against previously hit high level targets only further undermine public confidence in the state’s security apparatus. These attacks have undermined the human intelligence factor that is left reeling under the onslaught of systematic and well-coordinated attacks.

While suicide attacks are extremely difficult to prevent even in places barricaded with the highest level of security, the issue here is why intelligence and security were not beefed up? Especially when the state has seen disproportionate violence in recent past and has been warned of such attacks on the brink of a massive counterinsurgency operation.

The security threat is bad enough with the fallout from the war in Afghanistan and the ensuing internal militancy that poses a huge challenge. For this reason Pakistan’s security forces need unhindered internal and external support. Undermining the confidence of the security forces by exploiting differences with the political establishment will only deteriorate the situation and perpetuate instability.

This is only going to hinder international efforts in fighting terrorism. As for Pakistan’s security establishment, efforts to boost its intelligence capabilities and deploying immediate deterrence measures should be the top priority right now, for it would impact the looming challenge of flushing out the insurgents from Waziristan and other restive areas.

- Faryal Leghari is KT’s Assistant Editor and can be reached at [email protected]

{Source: Khaleej Times}

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Pakistan Joins the American Raj

By Eric S Margolis

Official Washington watches in mounting alarm and confusion as Pakistan spins out of control. The US-led war in Afghanistan has now poured over into Pakistan, bringing that strategic nation of 167 million close to all-out civil war.

Bombings and shootings are rocking the Pakistan’s northwest regions, including a brazen attack on army HQ in Rawalpindi and repeated bombings of Lahore and Peshawar. Pakistan’s army is readying a major offensive against rebellious Pashtun tribes in South Waziristan.

Meanwhile, the weak, deeply unpopular government of President Asif Ali Zardari that was engineered into power by the US faces an increasingly rancorous confrontation with 
its own military.

Like the proverbial bull in the China shop, the Obama administration and US Congress chose this explosive time to try to impose yet another layer of American control over Pakistan—just as Nobel Peace prize winner Barack Obama appears likely to send thousands of more US troops to Afghanistan.

Tragically, US policy in the Muslim world continues to be driven by imperial arrogance, profound ignorance, and special interest groups. 
The current Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill is ham-fisted dollar diplomacy at its worst. Pakistan, bankrupted by corruption and feudal landlords, is being offered $7.5 billion over five years. Washington claims there are no 
strings attached.

Except, of course, that the US wants to build a mammoth new embassy for 1,000 personnel in Islamabad, the second largest after its giant fortress-embassy in Baghdad. New diplomatic personnel are needed, claims Washington, to monitor the $7.5 billion in aid. So a small army of US mercenaries is being brought in to protect US ‘interests.’ New US military bases will open. Most of the billions in new aid will go right into the pockets of the pro-Western ruling establishment, about 1 per cent of the population.

Washington has been also demanding veto power over promotions in Pakistan’s armed forces and intelligence agency, ISI. This crude attempt to take control of Pakistan’s proud, 617,000-man military and intelligence service has enraged its armed forces.

It’s all part of Washington’s ‘Afpak’ strategy to clamp tighter control over restive Pakistan and make use of its armed forces and intelligence agents in Afghanistan. The other key US objective is seizing control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the cornerstone of its national defense against much more powerful India. Welcome, Pakistan, to the American Raj.

However, 90 per cent of Pakistanis oppose the US-led war in Afghanistan, and see Taleban and its allies as national resistance to Western occupation.

Alarmingly, violent attacks on Pakistan’s government are coming not only from once autonomous Pashtun tribes (wrongly called ‘Taleban’) in Northwest Frontier Province, but, increasingly, in the biggest province, Punjab.

Recently, the US ambassador in Islamabad, in a fit of imperial arrogance, actually called for air attacks on Pashtun leaders in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.

Washington does not even bother to ask Islamabad’s permission to launch air attacks inside Pakistan, only informing it afterward.

The Kerry-Lugar-Berman Big Bribe comes as many irate Pakistanis accuse President Zardari’s government of being American hirelings. Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto, has been dogged for decades by corruption charges.

Washington seems unaware of the fury its crude, counter-productive policies have whipped up in Pakistan. The Obama administration keeps listening to Washington-based pro-Israel neoconservatives, military hawks, and ‘experts’ like Ahmed Rashid who tell it just what it wants to hear, not 
the facts.

Pakistan’s military, the nation’s premier institution, is being pushed to the point of revolt. Against the backdrop of bombings and shootings come rumours the heads of Pakistan’s armed forces and intelligence may be replaced.

Pakistanis are calling for the removal of the Zardari regime’s strongman, Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Many clamour for the head of Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, my old friend Hussain Haqqani, who is seen as too close to the Americans.

I’ve long suspected that Washington has its eye on the very intelligent, wily Haqqani as a possible candidate for Pakistan’s next president.

The possibility of a military coup against the discredited Zardari regime grows. But Pakistan is dependent on US money, and fears India. Can its generals afford to break with 
patron Washington?

(Eric S Margolis is a veteran US journalist who has reported from the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan for several years)

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US threatens airstrikes in Balochistan

PKonweb Report

The United States is threatening to launch airstrikes on the Taliban leadership it says is holed up in Quetta. The US has told Pakistan that it may start launching drone attacks against the Taliban leadership in the city of Quetta in a major escalation of its operations in the country, The Telegraph reported today.

Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, said the US had so far been unable to provide detailed intelligence to target the Quetta Shura. He said: “We need real-time intelligence. The Americans have never told us any location.”

US State department and intelligence officials delivered the ultimatum to Asif Ali Zardari, last week as he visited the US for the United Nations’ security council sessions and the G20 economic summit.

According to the Guardian, Islamabad government has argued that the Quetta Shura, led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, does not harm Pakistan. It has said that dealing with other militants such as those in the Swat valley was a higher priority, Daily Telegraph reported.

But last week Anne Patterson, America’s ambassador to Islamabad, told the Daily Telegraph that the offensive in Swat was not targeting the insurgents posing the greatest danger to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The threat from Washington comes amid growing divisions in the US capital about whether to send more troops to Afghanistanor reduce them and start targeting the terrorists.

In a leaked strategic assessment of the war, top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal warned that he needed reinforcements within a year to avert the risk of failure.

Although no figure was given, he is believed to be seeking up to 45,000 troops by the end of this year.

Last week McChrystal denied any rift with the administration, saying “a policy debate is warranted”.

The Biden (US VP) camp argues that attacks by unmanned drones on Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, where many Al Qaeda leaders are thought to be hiding, have been successful.

Sending more troops to Afghanistan has only inflamed tensions.

The Times story quoted “senior Pakistani officials in New York” as saying that the US had asked to extend the drone attacks to areas of Balochistan, including Quetta.

There has been tacit cooperation over the use of drones although publicly Islamabad denounces their use.

Some British officials told the Times that drone attacks on Quetta would be “unthinkable”.

Western intelligence officers have alleged that Taliban sympathisers have helped some of the insurgency’s leaders to move to Karachi, where it would be impossible to strike with Drones due to populace density and political sensitivity.

Observers are of the view the US already have tacit approval from Islamabad on Drone strikes inside Pakistan on ‘actionable intelligence’ based high value targets. Islamabad denies such agreement exists.

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MERAY MUTABIQ with Dr Shahid Masood: SEP 26

Details unravel of conditions-filled Kerry-Lugar bill for $1.5B aid to Pakistan. Guests: Shamshad Ahmed Khan (Former Foreign Secy), Azeem M. Mian (Jang correspondent NY), Shaheen Sehbai (Washington-based The News, Jang, Geo Group Editor)

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With $1.5B aid Islamabad to enter Waziristans

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

NEW YORK - United States President Barack Obama, co-chairing with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown the first summit meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, on Thursday announced that the US Senate had unanimously passed the Kerry-Lugar bill, authorizing US$1.5 billion in economic assistance for Pakistan annually over five years.

This amount, which is triple of what Pakistan has been receiving, is in addition to the several billions of dollars Pakistan receives annually in other military and non-military aid.

In response, it appears that Pakistan’s political leaders have consented to military operations against militants and al-Qaeda in the North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

Although the military has recently conducted successful operations in other trouble spots in the tribal areas, such as Swat, Islamabad has been reluctant to commit fully to engagement in the Waziristans, where the Pakistan Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies have a strong foothold and from where militants fuel the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi, flanked by Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Britain’s special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, gave a briefing after the summit meeting.

He said the gathering, which included 26 countries and international organizations, had unanimously declared military operations against the Taliban in the Malakand area a success, adding that Pakistan would follow a similar model in the tribal areas - a clear hint that the government had agreed to send armed forces into the Waziristans.

While Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is ostensibly in New York for the United Nations General Assembly gathering, on the sidelines and in other interaction he has been well feted by the Obama administration as the person who can best further US interests in Pakistan and Afghanistan - as much as Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani does and former president General Pervez Musharraf did.

Zardari will also be pleased with the Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting, at which members acknowledged Pakistan’s economic difficulties and institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank vowed to immediately undertake water and energy related projects for the country.

“If you go through the history of US aid, you would not find a parallel of such an aid package as the Kerry-Lugar bill,” Holbrooke said, saying it was “a very important step forward”. The bill points to Pakistan as a critical friend and ally and notes the profound sacrifices it has made in the “war on terror”. The money provided by the bill will be used to fund a wide range of development projects, from schools and infrastructure to the judicial system.

The language of the version that was approved in the senate - it is now to go before the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives where it is expected to pass easily - was less stringent than the original. Specific references to India as well as to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, were eliminated.

The earlier version had wanted to make Pakistan give access to Khan and other scientists involved in nuclear proliferation. It also had urged Pakistan to coordinate its activities against terrorism with India. In the revised version, it only wants Pakistan to liaise with neighboring countries.

Earlier, General Stanley McChrystal, the top US military commander for Afghanistan, said in a report that India’s political and economic influence was increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment.

The report said the Afghan government was perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. “While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter-measures in Afghanistan or India,” said the report.

The bill also contains a waiver for every condition that is imposed on Pakistan, but now this can be granted by the secretary of state, not the president as earlier proposed. None of the conditions can set in motion automatic sanctions.

The bill underlines the importance of supporting Pakistan’s national security needs in its ongoing counter-insurgency battle and in improving its border security, while requiring the government to demonstrate a sustained effort to combat extremist groups and show progress towards defeating them.

Foreign Minister Qureshi told Asia Times Online that a detailed package for the capacity enhancement of the Pakistani armed forces had been agreed on. However, he clarified that it only involved modern counter-insurgency equipment and training programs.

Pakistan has got what it wanted. The onus now rests with Zardari to deliver. This will be the most difficult and dangerous part, to take on the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan in a struggle in which there are no guarantees of success.

(Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Cinema in Swat opens after three years

ISLAMABAD: Much to the delight of the young and old, a cinema house has started screening movies in Swat after a gap of three long years.

The advent of the Taliban meant that slowly, but surely enough, music and all other forms arts were banished forever in the green valley. But on this Eid, the valley opened its doors to a huge crowd that was so overwhelmed that the police were called in to control them.

The security measures, however, were still as strict and the staff searched all the visitors at the entrance of the theatre.

{Source: APP}

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Special epsode of Live with Talat on situation in Swat; Taliban phenomenon and results of military offensive.

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Huge cache of weapons recovered in Karachi

PKonweb Monitor

SEP 15 - Police in Karachi Tuesday recovered a huge cache of weapons, including rocket launchers, and anti-tank mortars, foiling an apparent bid to carry out terror attacks in this port city.

Most US and NATO supplies to Afghanistan pass thorugh this city. The port and shipping minister Babar Ghori said that Karachi’s oil terminal supplies the whole country. “This facility is a storage area, which supplies oil to the entire country and the incident could be a failed attempt to attack the terminal,” he said.

The police recovered 17 hand grenades, nine rocket launchers, five anti-tank mortars, nine Kalashnikovs, and two jackets used in suicide bombings from a drain near Saeedabad police training center Tuesday morning, Online news agency reported. Saeedabad sits on the road to the insurgency-ridden province of Baluchistan.

According to the police, an official noticed the bags in the drain and informed the authorities concerned, which took the bags in possession and recovered the said weapons.

The bomb disposal squad was also summoned to the spot, which neutralized the hand grenades and mortars.

The police believe that the recovered weapons belong to the terrorists, who Monday night tried to attack Kemari oil terminal.

Three men wearing women’s burqa tried to enter the oil terminal in the city but were resisted by a security guard.

They shot dead the guard and fled when a police patrol team engaged them in a firefight, according to police.

Police seized 10 grenades, three Kalashnikovs and women’s purses crammed with bullets and cartridges.

The attackers, according to the police, planned to blow up the Kemari oil terminal, which is being used for fuel supplies to NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan.

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Jaish ‘building a huge base’ in Bahawalpur- Report

SEP 13 - A report filed by McClatchy Newspapers Pakistan-based special correspondent Saaed Shah claims that the banned militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), is setting up a huge new base in the outskirts of Bahawalpur.

“Pakistani authorities have turned a blind eye to the new base, in the far south of Punjab province, even though it is believed to have been built to serve as a radical madrassah - Islamic school - or some kind of training camp”, Saeed Shah reports in his latest dispatch datelined Bahawalpur.

According to Shah’s report, Jaish members, who were behind ‘a spectacular attempt’ to assassinate then-president Pervez Musharraf in 2004 were were also involved in training and commanding the Taliban guerrillas who overran the Swat valley.

The whole story:

Jaish-e-Mohammad (”army of Mohammad”), which is linked to a series of atrocities including an attack on the Indian parliament and the beheading of the American journalist Daniel Pearl, has walled off a 4.5 acre compound just outside the town of Bahawalpur.

Pakistani authorities have turned a blind eye to the new base, in the far south of Punjab province, even though it is believed to have been built to serve as a radical madrassah - Islamic school - or some kind of training camp.

British security sources believe Rauf helped organise the July 7 and 21 attacks in 2005. He was born in England to Pakistani parents and brought up in Birmingham where his father was a baker. It was in Bahawalpur that Rauf was arrested in 2006, before his mysterious and still unexplained escape from custody.

While world attention has been focused on the menace of the Taliban in the north west of Pakistan, the bases of Jaish and a string of other similar jihadist groups in southern Punjab have gone largely unnoticed.

Yet Punjabi extremist groups send thousands of recruits to fight British soldiers in Afghanistan.

Bahawalpur is a backwater, a dusty, dirt-poor town which is swelteringly hot in summer. Its isolation allows it to function quietly as a centre for ideological indoctrination and terrorist planning, a jihadist oasis surrounded by parched fields. Once mentally prepared, promising students are dispatched to camps for training jihadists in warfare, in the north west of the country.

Jaish members were behind a spectacular attempt to assassinate then-president Pervez Musharraf in 2004. They were also involved in training and commanding the Taliban guerrillas who overran Pakistan’s Swat valley.

The terrorist group was reputedly formed with help from Pakistan’s ISI military spy agency as a weapon to be used against their arch-enemy India, and the two organisations are understood to remain close.

Aside from Rauf, two other two other notorious British-Pakistani militants had connections with Jaish: Shehzad Tanweer, one of the 2005 bombers of the London transport system; and Omar Sheikh, who was found guilty in Pakistan of the murder of the American journalist, Daniel Pearl. It emerged last week that British intelligence believes that Rauf is still alive, despite claims that he died in a US missile attack in Pakistan’s tribal area in 2008.

Bahawalpur and the surrounding districts also serve as a safe resting place for jihadists battling in Afghanistan, including, it is believed, for British-born Muslims who go to fight there. They have respite from the threat of US spy planes that patrol the tribal area in the north west, killing militants with deadly missile strikes.

In Bahawalpur alone, there may be as many as 1,000 madrassas, many of which teach a violent version of Islam to children, who are mostly too poor to go to regular school.

Jaish has its headquarters in Bahawalpur and it openly runs a imposing madrassah in the centre of town, called Usman-o-Ali, where it teaches its extremist interpretation of Islam to hundreds of children every year.

The group was banned by Pakistan back in 2002 and designated by the US as a “foreign terrorist organisation”. The Sunday Telegraph was prevented from entering the madrassah, which also has a mosque that should be open to everyone.

Jaish’s new site, about 5km (3 miles) out of Bahawalpur at Chowk Azam, on the main road to Karachi, is much larger, with evidence that it could contain underground bunkers or tunnels. Surrounded by a high brick and mud wall, little can be seen from the road.

However, The Sunday Telegraph discovered that it has a fully-tiled swimming pool, stabling for over a dozen horses, an ornamental fountain and even swings and a slide for children – all belying claims by the group and Pakistani officials that the facility is simply a small farm to keep cattle. There were signs of construction activity.

A man at the site, who gave his name as Abdul Jabbar, who wore a visible ammunition vest under his shirt, would not allow The Sunday Telegraph to enter, and suggested it was time for the newspaper to leave.

“We’re not hiding anything. Nothing happens here. We have just kept some cattle for our milk,” said Mr Jabbar, who sported the long hair that is typical for Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

A man on a motorbike followed as The Sunday Telegraph drove away.

The new facility is known to the regional administration and, with a hefty army cantonment in Bahawalpur, the military would also be aware.

It has deeply worried some Pakistani security personnel. One described it as a “second centre of terrorism”, to complement the existing Jaish madrassah in the middle of town.

The officer, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Jaish should never have been allowed to buy the land.

He said they initially acquired 4.5 acres, then they forced the adjacent landowner to sell them another 2 acres. “It’s big enough for training purposes,” he said.

On the inside walls, there are painted jihadist inscriptions, including a warning to “Hindus and Jews”, with a picture of Delhi’s historic Red Fort, suggesting they will conquer the city.

Bahawalpur was where Rashid Rauf fled in 2002, after being implicated in the murder of his uncle in the UK. His family friend Ghulam Mustafa, a radical imam, ran a madrassah, the Dar-ul-Uloom Medina.

He married Mr Mustafa’s daughter, and his wife and children are still believed to live there.

No-one was willing to talk about Rauf in Bahawalpur.

Attaur Rehman, the deputy head of the Dar-ul-Uloom Medina madrassah, which is run out of an unmarked building in a back street and is closely associated with Jaish, said: “We don’t say anything about this, I won’t talk to you. I’m fed up with you media people.”

Publicly, Pakistani officials insisted that the new compound is innocuous and even that there is no extremist threat in Bahawalpur.

Mushtaq Sukhera, the Regional Police Officer for Bahawalpur, the most senior police officer for the area, admitted that the Usman-o-Ali madrassah in the middle of Bahawalpur “belongs to “Jaish” . He said that Jaish also owned the facility out of town. “But there’s nothing over there except a few cows and horses,” he said.

“No militancy, no military training is being imparted to students (at Usman-o-Ali),” said Mr Sukhera. “There is no problem with militancy (in south Punjab), there’s no problem with Talibanisation. It’s just media hype.” Others tell a different story. Somewhere between 3,000 and 8,000 men from southern Punjab are currently fighting jihad in Afghanistan or Pakistan’s north western tribal area, according to independent estimates, said Ayesha Siddiqa, an analyst who has studied the area.

They are often known as the “Punjabi Taliban”, whereas the main Taliban forces are ethnic Pashtuns, the group that straddles north west Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“These guys [in Bahawalpur] aren’t connected with a war, they don’t have any ethnic affiliation with Afghanistan,” said Dr Siddiqa. “These guys are purely ideologically motivated. That makes it much more difficult to crack them during investigation or to break their will to fight.”

Story link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/6180118/Al-Qaeda-allies-build-huge-Pakistan-base.html

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Did army trick the Taliban spokesman to surrender?

PKonweb Monitor

SEP 12 - Did the army nab the Taliban spokesman and four of his accomplices by conning them into peace talks?  The elusive Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah claims that is so the case in his tape recorded message sent to the media.

The purported tape has surfaced amidst reports Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat chief Mullah Fazlullah has decided to surrender, a private TV channel quoted its sources as saying on Saturday. According to the channel, he had been wounded and was in hiding in a cave. The law enforcement agencies had cordoned off the area of his hideout, the channel added. Security forces had been told to complete the operation in Swat before Eid, the channel concluded.

Earlier reports said Fazlullah was either dead or too wounded to be effective any more. In fact, several weeks back security czar Rehman Malik had claimed he was “decommissioned - an eumiphism for death.

According to Khaleej Times report filed by its Islamabad based correspondent Afzal Khan, the army has rejected Taliban allegation that it tricked Taleban’s most wanted spokesman Muslim Khan and his four other colleagues on pretext of peace negotiations.

“There could be no talks with terrorists,” army spokesman Maj-Gen. Athar Abbas said while referring to the statement by acting spokesman of the Taleban Salman. “Those wanting to surrender should lay down arms before security forces or law-enforcement agencies,” he said.

Taleban’s acting spokesman Salman released to the media a taperecording purported to be that of Swat’s Taleban chief Maulana Fazlullah in which he accused the Pakistan army of arresting his spokesman Muslim Khan and four members of Shura (advisory council) of the Taleban after inviting them for peace negotiations.

In the message Fazlullah conceded that his organisation had been weakened as a result of the army operation but vowed to continue fighting for the cause of enforcement of Islamic Shariah (code) in the region and elsewhere.

“The Taleban movement is presently in a state of illness. When you are ill, your activities are curtailed. That is what has happened to Taleban organisation, but it would bounce back,” Fazlullah said. In his recorded message, Fazlullah spoke hurriedly in Pashto. At times, it was difficult to understand his words. It wasn’t easy to tell that the voice indeed was of Fazlullah even though it largely sounded familiar.

Fazlullah mentioned the Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) founder Baitullah Mehsud in his message and stressed that all Pakistani Taleban wished to die like him. “Like Baitullah Mehsud, all Taleban fighters want to embrace martyrdom. Getting arrested while fighting for a cause is no big deal for the Taleban,” he maintained. He said the Taleban in Swat and Malakand would continue their struggle for the enforcement of real Shariah and offer every sacrifice to achieve this goal.

According to Fazlullah, the Taleban still possessed ‘fidayee’ (suidie bombers) power and those in doubt should ask Russia, the US and Nato about the Taleban prowess.

The whereabouts of Fazlullah remain unknown. The army has been claiming that he was wounded in an earlier military action. There have also been reports that he was under siege in a mountainous area in Swat.

Fazlullah said he had lost confidence in the Pakistan Army after it allegedly invited his group for talks and arrested the five negotiators. He said a need may arise again for the government and the military to talk to the Taleban, but the Swat Taleban had decided never to hold any negotiations with the rulers.

Link to the KT story: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/international/2009/September/international_September615.xml§ion=international&col=

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Talk Shows

  • DO TOK with Mazhar Abbas on ARY: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 2:55 am

    History of corruption and political revenge, NRO, etc. Guests: Faisal Raza Abidi (PPP), Siddiq-ul-Farooq (PML-N), Khalid Ranjha (PML-Q) and Justice (R) Tariq Mahmood.

  • MERAY MUTABIQ with Dr. Shahid Masood: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 2:18 am

    A MUST WATCH: Govt publishes NRO beneficiary list as Nov 28 approaches when NRO will expire. Guests: Roedad Khan (Ex-Bureaucrat), Ansar Abbasi (Analyst), Md Saleh Zafir (Analyst)

  • SAWAL YEH HAI with Dr. Danish: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 1:47 am

    Govt published list of NRO beneficiaries. Guests: Syed Naveed Qamar (PPP), Haidar Abbas Rizvi (MQM), Mushahid ullah Khan (PML-N) and Marvi Memon (PML-Q)

  • DUNYA TODAY with Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 1:30 am

    A MUST WATCH: Dr Maleeha Lodhi’s interview on Gen James Jones (Natl Security Advisor to Obama) delivery of Obama’s special letter to President Zardari asking Pakistan to take on the Afghan Taliban who attack US forces inside Afghanistan from Pakistan’s tribal areas.

  • TONIGHT with Najam Sethi: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 1:19 am

    A MUST WATCH: Najam Sethi holds a no-holds-barred discussion with Gen. (R) Rashid Qureshi (Ex-DG ISPR) who later became spokesman of Gen (R) Musharraf until the end.

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