Pakistan’s Total War Policy In FATA Flushed All of the Citizens and Demolished Their Homes

Displaced people in Peshawar

Pakistan’s military says it’s in the final phase of operations to clear militants from areas near the Afghanistan border, and the government plans to return those displaced by the fighting by the end of this year. But people who fled are reluctant to go home, saying that compensation offered by the government isn’t nearly enough to rebuild their lives.

More than 1.2 million people were displaced from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas after Pakistan’s military launched an offensive against militant groups in June 2014, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Most internally displaced people have already returned, but the government says nearly half a million remain in camps, mostly around the city of Peshawar.

The FATA are a cluster of federally administered “agencies” along Pakistan’s northwestern frontier with Afghanistan. Access to outsiders is strictly limited and the government exerts little control in many areas where armed groups have long been active.

The Ministry for States and Frontier Regions says it is working to return all remaining IDPs to FATA this year, and it plans to begin the next stage of resettlement this week.

“We are trying our best for these people to return to good conditions in their home region,” the minister, Qadir Baloch, told IRIN.

Those who have already returned said the government did little to rebuild their devastated communities.

Rehman Khan Afridi was provided with 25,000 rupees (about $240) when he went back to his home in the Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency last September. But that didn’t even come close to covering the cost of rebuilding his five-room house, which was completely destroyed.

“We literally had nowhere to live,” said Afridi. “The money I had been given was quickly used up on food, medicines for my wife and merely on survival.”

For two weeks, Afridi, his pregnant wife, their five children and his elderly father slept under a canvas sheet. Then the family decided to return to Peshawar.

After hearing stories like that, other families are debating whether to go home this week.

“We are told we will be given some cash support to meet our basic needs, but there is no news of what will be done to rebuild our demolished homes,” said Ahmed Khan, who was displaced with his family from South Waziristan last July.

‘The last battle’

In a statement released Sunday, the military said it was attacking remaining holdouts of militants in the Shawal Valley in neighbouring North Waziristan.

“The battle to clear (the) last pocket close to Pak-Afghan border continues,” said the statement, which included casualty figures of 252 militants and eight government soldiers killed in the past two months.

Heavy fighting over the past two years has also exacted a heavy toll on the civilian population. Not only have people been displaced; they have also been subject to abuses by the military, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

“In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the security forces are reported to have taken over private property of the locals with impunity,” the commission said in a statement yesterday. “Reports of the use of excessive force in some villages are harrowing, where no house has been left standing and the population has had to escape the onslaught.”

The commission called for investigations into the deaths of civilians in military custody, and said the plight of IDPs has been “all but forgotten” by the government.

“No efforts have been made to adopt a proactive policy or a long-term strategy to address the challenges associated with internal displacement,” said the commission.

In its statement, the military referred to a “master plan” for infrastructure development, although it gave little detail, saying only that 94 “projects of various natures have been completed”, while another 153 were under way.

Lack of funds

The FATA Disaster Management Authority is appealing for more money, but “funds to repatriate IDPs are limited”, said an official, speaking  on condition of anonymity since they were not authorised to talk to media.

Returnees who spoke to IRIN by phone also said there was little evidence of development.

Ayub Wazir went home to the South Waziristan town of Wana two weeks ago only to find that the local economy had been destroyed, along with homes and infrastructure. There was no sign of government efforts to rebuild or create jobs and business opportunities.

“There is literally nothing to do here,” said Wazir. “I can rebuild my home on my own, but I need more funds and a job to do so.”

Khawar Khan Afridi, a doctor who runs a clinic in the town of Bara in Khyber Agency, said the situation was the same there: “There is very little here now for people to come back to.”

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Obama and Saudi King Issue Joint Sanctions Against Pakistani Terrorist Entities

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Saudi Arabia's King Salman (R) at Erga Palace in Riyadh, January 27, 2015. Obama is stopping in Saudi Arabia on his way back to Washington from India to pay his condolences over the death of King Abdullah and to hold bilateral meetings with King Salman.   REUTERS/Jim Bourg     (SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: POLITICS ROYALS)

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman (R) at Erga Palace in Riyadh, January 27, 2015. Obama is stopping in Saudi Arabia on his way back to Washington from India to pay his condolences over the death of King Abdullah and to hold bilateral meetings with King Salman. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (SAUDI ARABIA – Tags: POLITICS ROYALS)

US, Saudi Arabia join hands to sanction Pakistani entities ahead of PM Modi’s visit to Riyadh

times of india

| TNN

WASHINGTON: The United States and Saudi Arabia joined hands on Thursday to sanction Pakistani individuals and terrorist entities, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), hours ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Riyadh.

In an unprecedented move, the US treasury department announced that Washington and Riyadh jointly taken action to disrupt the fundraising and support networks of al-Qaida, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT) by imposing sanctions on four individuals and two organizations with ties across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

“From terrorizing local populations to exploiting charities and religious institutions, al-Qaida, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba have a long history of inflicting violence on Americans and our allies throughout South Asia and the Middle East,” said Adam Szubin, acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Today’s action marks yet another step in Treasury’s efforts to financially cripple terrorist financiers and demonstrates the United States’ and Saudi Arabia’s shared resolve to target those who support terrorism.”

Among the individuals sanctioned are LeT operatives Naveed Qamar, Abdul Aziz Nuristani, and Mohammed Ejaz Safarash, the last of whom the treasury department said bankrolled Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, who India says was one of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack planners.

The announcement comes as a huge embarrassment for Pakistan, which is already under the gun for its dodgy nuclear weapons policy that is putting mini-nukes in the hands of field commanders, allowing the possibility of a battlefield heist by terrorists and rogue commanders. Islamabad has sent only a token representation to the ongoing nuclear security summit in Washington, as the civilian government there appears locked in a turf battle with the military establishment that is trying to portray India as fomenting terrorism in Baluchistan.

But the treasury notification unsparingly shines the light on the wide support that terrorists enjoy in Pakistan, including from its business community. In providing details about Naveed Qamar, an influential LeT leader who headed its student wing, periodical departments and also edited its Al Dawa magazine, Washington says in early 2013, Qamar led a group of Pakistani businessmen to an LeT training camp for an orientation program on LeT’s operations, after which they donated and pledged support of the group.

“As of early 2011, Qamar organized trips for businessmen to LeT training camps to show how their funds were used. In 2010, Qamar also organized and attended meetings with businessmen from Karachi, Pakistan, in order to collect funds and appeal for donations for LeT militant operations. In that same year, Qamar coordinated funds collected by senior members of Falah-e Insaniat Foundation (FIF) – a US and UN designated Lashkar-affiliated NGO – while organizing logistics and funding for mujahidin attack planning against Indian targets,” the treasury department notification reveals.

It now appears that Pakistan may have known of the impending designation while virtually boycotting the nuclear meet, citing the Lahore bombing as an excuse. Modi is scheduled to leave for Riyadh on Friday evening after the nuclear meet, having arrived in Washington after a stopover in Belgium for an India-Europe meet.

Pakistan’s song-and-dance about an alleged Indian spy in Balochistan also appears aimed at deflecting attention from the embarrassment of having its patron states call it out on terrorism.

obama and modi
At a Thursday evening dinner meeting ahead of the formal nuclear summit, Modi, seated next to Obama in a gathering of a score of world leaders, invoked the Brussels terrorist attack to call for a new approach to tackling an old scourge while identifying three “contemporary features of terrorism.”

“First, today’s terrorism uses extreme violence as theatre. Second, we are no longer looking for a man in a cave, but we are hunting for a terrorist in a city with a computer or a smart phone. Third, State actors working with nuclear traffickers and terrorists present the greatest risk,” he said.

“The reach and supply chains of terrorism are global; but genuine cooperation between nation states is not,” he added.  He made no mention of Pakistan. Didn’t need to.

Pakistan’s Hand in the Rise of International Jihad

The operation was certainly a serious endeavor — Taliban bases, torture chambers and ammunition dumps were busted, town bazaars were razed and over one million civilians were displaced.

But the militants were tipped off early, and hundreds escaped, tribesmen and Taliban fighters said. Many fled over the border to Afghanistan, just at the vulnerable moment when Afghanistan was assuming responsibility for its own security. Ninety foreign fighters with their families arrived in Paktika Province that summer, to the alarm of Afghan officials.

Further along the border in Paktika Province, Taliban fighters occupied abandoned C.I.A. bases and outposts. A legislator from the region warned me that they would use the positions to project attacks deeper into Afghanistan and even up to Kabul. Some of the most devastating suicide bomb attacks occurred in that province in the months that followed.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the Haqqani network, the most potent branch of the Taliban, moved from North Waziristan into the adjacent district of Kurram. From there it continues to enjoy safe haven and conduct its insurgency against American, international and Afghan targets.

Pakistan regards Afghanistan as its backyard. Determined not to let its archrival, India, gain influence there, and to ensure that Afghanistan remains in the Sunni Islamist camp, Pakistan has used the Taliban selectively, promoting those who further its agenda and cracking down on those who don’t. The same goes for Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters.

Even knowing this, it might come as a surprise that the region’s triumvirate of violent jihad is living openly in Pakistan.

First, there’s Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, and second in command of the Taliban. He moves freely around Pakistan, and has even visited the Pakistani intelligence headquarters of the Afghan campaign in Rawalpindi.

Then there is the new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who has openly assembled meetings of his military and leadership council near the Pakistani town of Quetta. Since he came to power last year, the Taliban has mounted some of its most ambitious offensives into Afghanistan, overrunning the northern town of Kunduz, and pushing to seize control of the opium-rich province of Helmand.

Finally, Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan — one recent report placed him in the southwestern corner of Baluchistan. He has been working to establish training camps in southern Afghanistan. In October, it took United States Special Operations forces several days of fighting and airstrikes to clear those camps. American commanders say the group they were fighting was Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a new franchise announced by Mr. Zawahri that has claimed responsibility for the killings of bloggers and activists in Karachi and Bangladesh, among other attacks.

Pakistan denies harboring the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and points out that it, too, is a victim of terrorism. But many analysts have detailed how the military has nurtured Islamist militant groups as an instrument to suppress nationalist movements, in particular among the Pashtun minority, at home and abroad.

Perhaps most troubling, there are reports that Pakistan had a role in the rise of the Islamic State.

Ahead of Pakistan’s 2014 operation in North Waziristan, scores, even hundreds, of foreign fighters left the tribal areas to fight against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Tribesmen and Taliban members from the area say fighters traveled to Quetta, and then flew to Qatar. There they received new passports and passage to Turkey, from where they could cross into Syria. Others traveled overland along well-worn smuggling routes from Pakistan through Iran and Iraq.

The fighters arrived just in time to boost the sweeping offensive by ISIS into Iraq and the creation of the Islamic State in the summer of 2014.

If these accounts are correct, Pakistan was cooperating with Qatar, and perhaps others, to move international Sunni jihadists (including 300 Pakistanis) from Pakistan’s tribal areas, where they were no longer needed, to new battlefields in Syria. It is just another reminder of Pakistan’s central involvement in creating and managing violent jihadist groups, one Pakistani politician, who spoke on the condition of anonymity when talking about intelligence affairs, told me.

This has been going on for more than 30 years. In 1990, I shared a bus ride with young Chinese Uighurs, Muslims from China’s restive northwest, who had spent months training in Pakistani madrasas, including a brief foray into Afghanistan to get a taste of battle. They were returning home, furnished with brand-new Pakistani passports, a gift of citizenship often offered to those who join the jihad.

Years later, just after Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan, I interviewed a guerrilla commander from the disputed region of Kashmir who had spent 15 years on the Pakistani military payroll, traveling to train and assist insurgents in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

In 2012 I came across several cases where young clerics, fresh graduates from the Haqqania madrasa in Pakistan, returned to their home villages in Afghanistan, flush with cash, and set about running mosques and recruiting and organizing a band of Taliban followers.

I visited that madrasa in 2013. It is the alma mater of the Afghan Taliban, where many of the leaders of the movement were trained. The clerics there remained adamant in their support for the Taliban. “It is a political fact that one day the Taliban will take power,” Syed Yousuf Shah, the madrasa spokesman, told me. “We are experts on the Taliban,” he said, and a majority of the Afghan people “still support them.”

The madrasa, a longtime instrument of Pakistani intelligence, has been training people from the ethnic minorities of northern Afghanistan alongside its standard clientele of Pashtuns. The aim is still to win control of northern Afghanistan through these young graduates. From there they have their eyes on Central Asia and western China. Pakistani clerics are educating and radicalizing Chinese Uighurs as well, along with Central Asians from the former Soviet republics.

No one has held Pakistan to account for this behavior. Why would Pakistan give it up now?

West is ‘dishonest,’ pursues policy detached from intl law

West is ‘dishonest,’ pursues policy detached from intl law – Assad

Russia-Today

 

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad © SANA
That the West can’t be trusted is the most important lesson Syria has learned during five years of civil war, Bashar Assad, Syrian president, said in an exclusive interview with Sputnik.

“The most important lesson we have learned, but I suppose we knew it all along, is that the West is not honest. Western countries are dishonest,” Assad stressed.

The US, EU and their allies “are pursuing a policy far removed from the principles of international law and the United Nations” and because of that “it is impossible to rely upon the West to solve any issue,” he said.

“We live in a world where there is no international law or morality in politics at present. Anything can happen anywhere on our planet,” the Syrian president added.

In such conditions, every leader “should be able to choose friendly states that will stand by him during crises,” Assad said, hinting at the support his country received from Russia.

He stressed that during the war Syria “endured inhumane suffering,” which he wouldn’t wish on any other state.

According to Assad, the country faced “terrorist aggression, which was accompanied by atrocities in their essence and form, unprecedented in recent decades, and maybe even in the past centuries.”

Syria’s president warned against fanaticism, saying that it should be avoided in building societies, for which not only the state, but all citizens must be responsible.

“What I want to say, based on our experience in Syria, is that, first of all, any manifestation of fanaticism, either religious, political, or obsession with any idea – is destructive for society,” he stressed.

READ MORE: Palmyra mass grave: Tortured women & children among dozens of ISIS victims unearthed by Syrian Army

The Syrian president said that in time of crisis every leader must realize that “the people are the country’s defenders.”

“And when choosing a plan of action to resolve the crisis it is necessary that it meets the customs and traditions of the nation, its history and its essential aspirations. The solution cannot come from overseas,” he stated.

“Friends can come to you from abroad to help, as it has happened today: from Russia and Iran. However, if there is no internal will and good relations between the people and the state, it is impossible to find a solution,” Assad added.

The Syrian president expressed confidence that after peace is achieved in the country Syrian will become “a key state in the region.”

“I think that if we are able to overcome this crisis, Syrian society will be improved from a social point of view. And Syria will be better able to play its historic role in this region.This role, open to the public, will influence other nations, because it is a single region, the same people with similar traditions. We influence each other as Arab states, as Islamic countries. In this regard, Syria should have a very important role [to play],” Assad said.

The civil war has been raging in Syria since 2011 as the government fought armed opposition and various terror groups, including Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and the Al-Nusra Front.

The conflict saw over 250,000 killed, over 6.5 million internally displaced and over 4.8 million fleeing the country, according to UN estimations.

A ceasefire was announced in Syria in late February after a five-month bombing campaign by Russia helped Syrian forces fight IS which occupied swaths of territories in the country.

The next round of intra-Syrian talks between the government and opposition is scheduled to take place in Geneva, Switzerland on April 9.