Pakistan’s War On Civilians

Pakistan’s War On Civilians

By Paul Rogers

29 May, 2009

The car-bombing in Lahore of a police station and the local headquarters of Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) agency on 27 May 2009 is more than the seventh major attack on the city since January 2008 – and the third since March 2009, when the Sri Lankan cricket team and a police academy were targeted. The bomb, which killed twenty-seven people and and injured over a hundred, is a further indication of the systemic, interrelated and deep- rooted nature of Pakistan’s internal-security troubles.

Lahore, after all, is Pakistan’s cultural centre, a sophisticated city that lies close to India and is a long way from the intense fighting currently being waged in the Swat valley in North West Frontier Province (NWFP). If it can be repeatedly attacked with apparent impunity, it tells its own story about how the different parts of the country are becoming implicated in an all-consuming conflict (see Ayesha Siddiqa, “Pakistan: a country on fire”, 24 September 2008).

The military machine

The exact link between the Lahore bombing – and the twin attacks that followed in Peshawar on 28 May that killed eleven people and injutred dozens more – and what is happening in Swat is not yet clear, but Islamist militants in western Pakistan had threatened attacks across the country in response to the army’s operations in the NWFP. What is clear, though, is that those operations are massive and sustained and are having huge human consequences, whatever the belief in Islamabad that they are necessary to counter the increasing power of the Taliban and other militias.

A United Nations source has estimated the flow of internal refugees since mid-May 2009 as 2.4 million people; by 29 May, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) calculated that the figure exceeded 3 million. There are few examples of such vast and sudden movements in recent history; the scale of what is happening recalls the traumatic events prior to the founding of Bangladesh in 1970-71, when many millions of people fled from the Pakistani army across the border into India.

Much of the destruction in Swat is because the Pakistani army is simply not constructed for counterinsurgency or counter-guerrilla warfare – and the conflict in Swat is a combination of this with an out-and-out civil war. Pakistan has a standing army of 550,000, equipped with nearly 2,500 main battle-tanks and over 4,000 artillery pieces, five times the size of the British army. That may be large by any standards; but the “threat” from India has long dominated the Pakistani military posture, and India commands well over a million troops, 4,000 tanks and more than 10,000 artillery pieces.

What is essentially a powerful land army geared to armoured battles and artillery bombardments on the plains of south Asia, is now engaged in a war against its own people in a bitter internal conflict that is being conducted under a blanket of tight media control. Because of this, every impression is being given of a successful campaign against weak opponents – the Taliban – who are being put to flight. Where foreign journalists can report at all, they do so under tight army control and the rare visits they are able to make are to towns that are firmly under the army’s control (see Shaun Gregory, “Pakistan and the ‘AfPak’ strategy”, 28 May 2009).

The civilian impact

Even so, two issues are emerging. One is that the assault will be prolonged and very violent. The army is readily using its huge firepower advantage, but the militias that it is trying to defeat are proving highly resilient. Even army sources now speak of “steady progress amid stiff resistance” and acknowledge that the war has some time to run (see Robert Birsel, “Bombs seen stiffening Pakistan resolve on militants, Reuters, 29 May 2009).

In the city of Mingora, for example, there has been intensive street-fighting, yet the government security forces have gained control of just one quarter of the urban area. More generally, the militias are now avoiding conflict in exposed places and are dispersing to towns and villages across the valley. The army in response is using helicopter gunships, strike-aircraft and artillery, whose main effect is widespread destruction including the wholesale flattening of villages.

The second issue follows: the serious humanitarian consequences (both short- and long-term) of the conflict. The United Nations estimates that $450 million is needed for immediate aid to respond to exceptional displacement of peoples. An indication of Washington’s concerns over the situation is the decision on 22 May to make an immediate commitment of $110 million in humanitarian aid. But this will barely touch the larger problem that many thousands of civilians are caught up in the fighting and prevented by a a Pakistani army curfew from escaping the conflict-zone.

Also on 22 May, the United Nations and several partner agencies launched an appeal for $543 million in aid; but by 28 May, the “humanitarian action plan” had reached only 21% of this total.

A leading Islamabad newspaper cites a report from Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, Brad Adams: “Reports of civilians killed in the crossfire continued to flood in…as people break the curfew in desperate bids to find food and water for their families, or try and escape the aerial and ground bombardments” (see “Trapped civilians face catastrophe in Swat”, Dawn, 26 May 2009).

The surge of over 2 million refugees who have fled from the area has overwhelmed the Pakistani government and agencies:

“The true dimensions of the refugee problem are apparent in Mardan, one of the primary destinations for civilians fleeing the battles in Swat and in neighbouring Buner and Dir. The city is studded with refugee camps consisting of endless rows of tan canvas tents that bake under the 110-degree skies. Schools are packed to capacity with families sleeping on concrete classroom floors, with each classroom housing 40 or more people” (see Griff Witte, “Pakistani Refugee Crisis Poses Peril”, Washington Post, 25 May 2009).

A small proportion only of these refugees – 20%, according to Save the Children – is housed in government camps. Most are living outside them; half of the displaced are children.

The signal of war

The inability to cope with a crisis caused by its own military action means that Pakistan’s government is ceding influence to others (radical groups in particular) that are quick to fill the vacuum:

“The army has warned that some Taliban fighters joined the fleeing residents and may have infiltrated the refugee camps… Outside the camps, radical Islamist agendas are rushing in to fill the void left by the paucity of government services. The Falah-e-Insaniyat foundation, the successor to a group known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, has established a major presence near Swat, feeding tens of thousands of displaced people and providing them with quality medical care” (see “Foundation provides food to 275,000 IDPs”, The News, 17 May 2009)

In the longer term there are indications that the physical damage done to settlements will take years to repair. Qamar Zaman Kaira, Pakistan’s information minister, said that the authorities had started “initial satellite surveys for the rehabilitation of homes, businesses and cultivable lands”. The very fact that the destruction demands satellite surveys gives some indication of the impact of the war after barely two weeks.

The war in northwest Pakistan may still be in its early stages, but it is already operating with an intensity that is not fully appreciated beyond the region. Pakistani army sources are presenting the operation as an extensive and determined effort to isolate a relatively small group of extremist militias. But three factors – the failure to cope with refugees, the ability of the militias to disperse, and the rapid provision of aid by radical movements – suggests that the long-term effects of the army’s campaign could be to intensify Pakistan’s divisions. The Lahore bombing and Peshawar attacks may be early signals of that.

This article is published by Paul Rogers, and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to Open Democracy. Commercial media must contact for permission and fees.

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001

IDPs threaten strike if supply of cooked food stopped

[Here is the gross human tragedy being created in Pakistan, in order to accomodate the American demands to wage war.  The play-acting charade that has displaced millions, claimed thousands of lives and totally ruined large sections of the Northwest could have been handled much differently.  The government could have found some accomodation with these armies of radical militants created to serve as proxy forces, short of the road it is now on.  Seeing the deteriorating situation in NWFP, knowing that the same circumstances are planned for FATA, it is getting harder to rationalize the Pakistani government decisions.  The Pakistani people will pay any price to continue the money flow into private bank accounts, in order to maintain the umbilical cord to Washington.  The people are being taken to hell to play America’s strategic games.  Now that they are in hell, why not pocket the money meant to feed them, as well?]

IDPs threaten strike if supply of cooked food stopped

By Akhtar Amin

MARDAN: The internally displaced persons (IDPs) lodging at Sheikh Shahzad and Sheikh Yaseen camps in Mardan on Saturday threatened to come on the roads if the government stopped the supply of cooked food to them.

During a visit to the camps, IDPs from Swat, Buner and Dir districts of Malakand Division told Daily Times that the camps in charges Friday evening announced that the government had decided not to supply cooked food to the IDPs.

The IDPs asked where had gone millions of dollars donated by the international community to Pakistan to provide food and shelter to them. They complained that about 90 percent of the IDPs were living outside camps having no access to the government’s relief package. They said the government’s decision to stop supply of cooked food to just 10 per cent of the IDPs living at the two camps in Mardan carried no logic. Najeebullah, who fled from the military operation against the Taliban in Mingora and took refuge at Sheikh Shahzad Camp, told Daily Times that the camp administration’s announcement had created panic among the IDPs.

He disclosed that almost all the IDPs living in the camps sold their monthly ration [two bags of wheat, 5 kg coking oil and 5 kg pulses] to meet their other basic needs, as they had no cash to meet their other requirements. He said the IDPs sold their ration because women could not cook food due to scorching heat at the camps.

Sultan Mohammad Deewana, 60, who is lodging with his family at camp number 5 of Sheik Shahzad Camp, said that the IDPs would be left with no option but to come on the roads if the government stopped the supply of cooked food (two time meal and one time tea) to the camps.

He said the camp administration made the announcement Friday evening but on Saturday they extended the deadline to another five days. The federal government was also criticized for not providing the announced Rs 25,000 relief package to the registered IDPs for fulfillment of their basic needs.

It was observed that about 90 percent tents had no gas stoves to cook food. Women were facing great hardship in using latrines, as these had been constructed side by side for both men and women.

Zulekha, 45, complained that the latrines were not cleaned and they carried no symbols to guide the users. She also complained that safe cold drinking water was not available to them.

‘US wants to make aid conditional to continuing war’

‘US wants to make aid conditional to continuing war’

LAHORE: The US wants to attach conditions with its aid to Pakistan to exert pressure on Pakistan regarding its nuclear programme and ensure that it continues the war against terror in a better way, former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency director Brig (r) Naeem Salik has said. Speaking on the programme ‘Najam Sethi Special’ on Dunya News channel on Saturday, Salik said US President Barack Obama was on the record saying that the US did not want to given a ‘blank cheque’ to Pakistan.

Taliban may target ulema, mashaikh

[This is not Islam.  Religious “holy warriors” would not target their own people.  Whatever they are teaching these “reglious students” in the madrassas is the opposite of “holy.”  Radical Islam, just like radical Christianity, is anti-religion.]

Taliban may target ulema, mashaikh

LAHORE: The Taliban may target ulema and mashaikh in major cities of Pakistan, a private TV channel quoted its sources as saying on Saturday. The Taliban are present in all the major cities, including Lahore and Islamabad, and could target the clerics any time, the channel said. Authorities have directed foolproof security for all cleric conventions in light of possible terror attacks, it added. daily times monitor

Is radical Islam normal Islam?

Is radical Islam normal Islam?

—by Khaled Ahmed

Radical Islam and International Security: Challenges and Responses;
edited by Hillel Frisch & Efraim Inbar;
Routledge 2008;
Pp227; Price £70;
Available at bookstores in Pakistan

Tibi shares Fukuyama’s view that Europe has become a battlefront of Islamism. To avoid misunderstandings, it is important to note that at issue is a small but highly active minority among the Islamic diaspora, not the entire diaspora itself

Bassam Tibi, professor of international relations at the University of Goettingen, and a visiting faculty member at Cornell University as the AD White Professor-at-large, has contributed significantly to this volume. As someone educated in Germany, he attributes extremism and radicalism among Muslims there “to the discrimination and denial of young Muslims to joining the German community”. He is from the ashrafia of Damascus and would have gone astray had not some Jewish teachers given him support. The label of ‘guest-worker’ turns people to radical thoughts. (p.29)

Tibi questions the term extremism (Arabic tatarruf) as applied to political Islam. Questioning the use of “extremism” is important in order to know that political Islam is not a fringe phenomenon of delinquency, but rather an ideology of political movements that represent the major oppositions in most countries of the world of Islam, particularly in the Middle East (e.g., the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt). Some of these movements of political Islam (e.g., Hizballah in Lebanon; SCIRI and the Mahdi Army in Iraq) already participate in power and governance. (p.11) Extremism is thus increasingly the characteristic of mainstream Islam.

After the ‘religionisation’ of a political conflict, issues become non-negotiable since the discourse of negotiation becomes absolutist. The formula Filastin Islamiyya versus Israel indicates an Islamisation of the conflict with non-negotiable claims. (p.12) Founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, later embraced by Hamas, Hasan Al Banna wrote Risalat al-Jihad in the early 20th century, which is used today as a basic reading for the indoctrination of the jihadist ideology. (p.13) This is the paper used by madrassas all over the world and in Western Europe in their policy of recruitment. They first teach jihadism, then create an appeal for action under it. This is the two-track strategy to deal with Islam and Islamism. (p.13) Without jihadism, radicalism will not march.

Scholars in Europe who refuse to include Islamism in security studies are fearful of the accusation of Islamophobia. This sentiment adds to the confusion between Islam and Islamism. (p.21) Important components of Islamist jihadism exist throughout Europe, Germany being a prominent case in point. The new German tolerance vis-à-vis Islamism is among the wrong lessons contemporary German scholars have drawn from their shameful past. (p.24)

Tibi shares Fukuyama’s view that Europe has become a battlefront of Islamism. To avoid misunderstandings, it is important to note that at issue is a small but highly active minority among the Islamic diaspora, not the entire diaspora itself. In the case of Germany there are approximately 100,000 Islamists among the diaspora community of 3.7 million. This figure varies from one country to another. The Islamists comprise 10 percent of the diaspora in the Netherlands. (p.26)

Rushda Siddiqi, an Associate Fellow with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi, has contributed her article, The Islamic Dimension of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, and thinks that Pakistan, created to safeguard the identity of a religion, is the realisation of a fundamentalist imagination. She thinks, “Pakistan has been one of the first states in contemporary history to employ non-state proxies to safeguard its interests in the region and in the international arena”. Initially, Pakistan benefited from its non-state actors and the mechanisms they employed. The government used its foreign office to support terrorist activities in Kashmir. “In the long run, however, the use of non-state actors backfired, increasing the state’s vulnerability to a backlash not only by the states affected by Pakistan’s terrorist proxies, but also by the non-state actors within Pakistan”. (p.153)

According to her, there are two institutions that play the main role, the madrassa and the ISI. A coordinated effort between the two has been responsible for the use of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy. The ISI has also created organisations that play a role in the domestic politics of target countries. The Taliban in Afghanistan and the Lashkar-e Tayba in India are two examples. The aim of having a controlled homegrown movement in Afghanistan ensured that Pakistan would not face hostility on the western border. And a friendly polity in Afghanistan would be an effective counter to the Shia government in Iran. Afghanistan could also provide Pakistan with strategic depth in its conflict with India. (p.158)

Arye L Hillman in his An economic perspective on radical Islam quotes the well known Muslim economist Timur Kuran who sees economic impediment in Islamic jurisprudence. He also looks askance at the practice of waqf or charity trust which came into being to avoid being bothered by the ruler and to avoid normal taxation in the name of charity. He points out that the Islamic legal system did not necessarily apply to Jews and Christians living under Islam, and, and in consequence, Jews and Christians came to dominate economic activity in Islamic societies. (p.55)

Barbara Crossette explains female genital mutilation and denial of sexual satisfaction of women as reflecting lack of trust of women by men. Lack of trust is also pressed into prohibitions on women being in the company of men, “which reduces income”. When social mobility and incomes are low, gender relations provide compensating benefits or “rents for males through polygamy”.

Hillman pursues Timur Kuran’s thesis about the Muslims, likening his work to that of Max Weber who first linked economics to religion, dividing Christianity into Catholicism with a weak work ethic and Protestantism of the ‘north’ with a strong work ethic. If Islamic economics doesn’t help, what explains its existence and popularity? Why would anyone believe that Islamic economics is capable of raising productivity, stimulating growth, or reducing inequality? These questions mask an essential, if paradoxical, fact: “the main purpose of Islamic economics is not to improve economic performance. Its purpose is to help prevent Muslims from assimilating into the emerging global culture whose core elements have a Western pedigree.” (p.59)

According to Kuran, the ‘supreme values’ of radical Islam deprioritise economic achievement and impose self-deprivation on their own population. “Theories of economic development presuppose that intended beneficiaries experience economic improvement. These theories lose applicability when ‘supreme values’ require economic self-deprivation and when ongoing life has no value.” (p.62) *

Predator Drones Could Face Legal Challenges From Human Rights Advocates

Predator Drones Could Face Legal Challenges From Human Rights Advocates

Human rights activists are turning their attention to the drone program in part because they say there’s no warning to innocent civilians who are in a targeted area.

By Megan Dumpe Kenworthy

Human rights activists at odds with President Obama over his recent national security decisions are indicating that they might legally challenge the U.S. military’s use of Predator drones, a weapon that intelligence officials say is their single most effective tool in combating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Predator spy planes are unmanned aerial vehicles that are virtually invisible when flying overhead. The Air Force uses them frequently in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they are able to track and hit targets from the air when mountainous terrain makes it notoriously hard to send troops.

“That’s the spooky thing about the Predator,” national

security and terrorism expert Neil Livingstone said. “Even if the Predator is directly overhead and you know it’s overheard, you still can’t see it or hear it. This is kind of like death out of the blue.”

Human rights activists are turning their attention to the drone program in part because they say there’s no warning to innocent civilians who are in a targeted area.

Gabor Rona, international legal director of Human Rights First, a U.S.-based group that advocates universal rights and freedom, said large number of civilians are being unintentionally hit, harmed and killed.

“This is not only a violation of the international laws of war,” he said. “It’s bad policy.”

Opponents of the drones say that the policy could be illegal. The laws of war allow individuals who are engaged in hostilities to be targeted in an armed conflict but strictly prohibit actions against those not engaged.

“Even when you’re attacking a legitimate military objective, you cannot cause civilian casualties that exceed the value of a legitimate military attack,” Rona says.

It’s undeniable that more civilians have been killed than actual Al Qaeda terrorists in the 16 Predator strikes this year. But there’s little chance that could change.

“So many of these guys surround themselves with collateral casualties,” Livingstone said, and large numbers of women and children are strategically placed around hotbeds of activity. Livingstone makes the point that even if high-value targets are killed in one of these drone attacks, Al Qaeda still can claim a “propaganda victory” because of the number of civilian casualties.

Two high-value Al Qaeda operatives were killed on New Year’s Day this year in northern Pakistan. Usama al Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan were wanted for their involvement in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. More than 200 people were killed in the embassy bombings, including 12 Americans. The men sought refuge in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

“Our military fighting in Afghanistan has got to be able to pursue high level (operatives) who flee across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan,” said Matt Bennett, a national security expert for a Washington-based think tank.

On the presidential campaign trail, Obama had said that if there was legitimate intelligence about high-level Al Qaeda personnel he would not hesitate to act. And although there’s no formal agreement between the U.S. and Pakistan when it comes to Predator drone attacks, Pakistan more or less looks the other way.

Even so, human rights advocates continue to grow more disillusioned by the president’s decisions on the Guantanamo military commissions and his refusal to release photos of alleged detainee abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other national security issues. The Predator program, which is a holdover from the Bush administration, could be the next legal battle.

“This is part of a broader campaign on the left to begin the drumbeat of withdrawal from Afghanistan and Pakistan generally to change the direction there and make it about only providing aid and not about military engagement,” Bennett said.

Taliban getting funds from abroad: PM

Taliban getting funds from abroad: PM

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Saturday the Taliban perpetrating heinous terrorism in Pakistan were being funded from abroad and the drug mafia was also involved in the funding. Gilani said he feared that an increase in the United States presence in Afghanistan might cause the Taliban to enter Pakistan again. The prime minister vowed to take “full care” of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), saying they would be offered financial assistance to rebuild their houses and the world community would be approached for the purpose.