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This “Defence Day” Pakistan must stop militarizing the public and spreading hate.

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Every year on the 6th of September, Pakistan celebrates ‘Defence Day’ in which it commemorates its “victory” over India in the 1965 ‘Indo-Pak War’. The military takes out a parade in which it displays its latest armaments and missiles. A huge spectacle is created where there are songs sung in praise of the military. And this is even nationally televised.

The narrative of  India being the aggressor and that Pakistan had to defend their country from a “surprise Indian attack”, is all part of an elaborate scheme of the military to fool the public. Such false claims are also taught to children as part of their curriculum, as a result of which they grow up hating India. 

Although Pakistan had far less military and economic resources compared with India, the armed forces of Pakistan, filled with the spirit of jihad, forced an enemy many times bigger to face a humiliating defeat – a Pakistani textbook reads. 

But the fact is that, despite all such claims, Pakistan never won the war. 

The 1965 war was nothing short of a debacle for the Pakistani military. It began with Pak’s ‘Operation Gibraltar’ which was supposed to be a covert operation aimed at subverting Indian control over Kashmir. A key aspect of the plan was to supply the local population with arms in hopes that they would rise up in rebellion against the “tyrannical rule” of the Indians. But in reality, nothing of this sort happened. In fact, it was these locals that altered the Indian forces who clamped down on the Pakistani army, thus putting an end to any Pakistani military’s ambition. 

But this is something that has been conveniently hidden from the public. 

Every year, the Pakistan army uses this opportunity to further militarize the Pakistani public. Claiming such false victories has become an innate feature of the Pakistani military for whom it has become essential in order to maintain its legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Creating a sense of fear and hatred of its neighbor, shadows them from any criticism and allows them to take over a substantial chunk of the dwindling Pakistani economy.  

The Pakistani authorities have even gone to the extent of destroying pieces of literature which narrate anything other than the narrative prescribed by the military, so much so that it even restricted a book by its own top ranked general.

 In 2002, Gen. Mehmood Ahmed released a book titled ‘Illusion of Victory’, which gives an apt narration of the 1965 war which was a series of military misadventures by the Pak forces. One would not be able to find a single copy of this book in the public. Much like this, there are numerous other works by Pakistani scholars who have attempted to correct all misconceptions regarding the war, but have met with stiff resistance from the authorities who continue on to claim victory against India. 

Such accounts of the war enumerate the various blunders committed by Pakistani military’s top brass which led to its humiliating loss, but this, like other facts, has been kept from the public. What Pakistan has won is the hearts and minds of its gullible citizens who continue to believe this myth and celebrate it each year. 

If Pakistan aspires for peace internally and externally, it must stop propagating such lies and start questioning the Pakistan Army, its military adventurism and its militarization of Pakistan and the region. 

Should the ‘Laal Masjid’ glorification of the Afghan Taliban worry the world?

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Women & children of ‘Laal Masjid’ in Islamabad are openly supporting the Afghan Taliban. Why does this infamous mosque get away with such glorification of terrorists? Is the state complicit when it comes to such open support for terrorism? What is the history of the

We analyze in our latest report:

Can China trust Pakistan to keep it safe?

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Just last month, a Chinese national was shot and wounded in Karachi, when two men opened fire on the car that was carrying them. This attack comes just two weeks after the horrific bombing of a bus transporting Chinese engineers who were working at the Dasu hydropower project in the Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which led to the loss of nine Chinese lives. And in April this year a suicide bombing was carried out at a luxury hotel in Quetta, which was hosting the Chinese ambassador. 

There has been a growing number of such attacks against Chinese nationals in Pakistan in recent months, mostly linked to Islamist terrorism. And these attacks are not restricted to a specific region but spread across Pakistan.  

Despite consistent pressure from China to investigate and hold the culprits responsible, Pakistan has repeatedly faltered, blaming foreign forces behind these attacks, even though they are clearly the result of Pakistan’s own collusion with Islamist militancy.

Although China is Pakistan’s “great economic hope and its most trusted military partner”, Pakistan also has become a crucial partner for the Chinese. Pakistan is the epicentre of China’s power projection and its link to West Asia and beyond. It is hard to imagine either of them backing out of this relationship at this point of time, no matter how complex it may be. But the crucial question remains, can China really trust Pakistan to protect its interest in the region? 

Soon after the most recent attack where a Chinese national was shot at in Karachi, the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, Nong Rong paid a visit to the Pakistani president, Arif Alvi to discuss the matter. Much like the meeting that took place after the bus bombing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, China urged Pakistan to take appropriate actions. An enraged China even sent its own team to investigate this attack. 

This week, the Pakistani Foreign Office blamed Afghan and Indian agencies for these attacks, but will China believe such propaganda? It appears not. Since China has now reached out to the Afghan Taliban in a bid to perhaps deal with the Islamist threat it faces in the region directly.

Last month, China hosted a delegation of Taliban representatives to discuss their intentions. A meeting from which Pakistan was excluded despite being known to have connections with Taliban and despite having facilitated previous meetings between the two parties. 

Although the Taliban and China seem to have come to an agreement to peacefully coexist, one can never discount them for the future, given their closeness to groups that are anti-China, and which are gaining stronghold as the Afghan Taliban gain control of Afghanistan. 

If we were to take a closer look at the threats China faces in Pakistan from growing Islamist violence, we see several groups ranging from the Afghan Taliban, the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the ‘East Turkestan Islamic Movement’ (ETIM) . And all of them are closely connected with each other. 

Pakistan claims to have neutralized the TTP on its soil but several ground reports point to its resurgence in the country. The TTP’s recent attacks on the bus should be a wake up call for Beijing. The same group’s attack on a hotel in Quetta aimed at the Chinese ambassador, was already too close for comfort. There are several reports of the TTP affiliated Islamist groups gaining a stronghold in Gilgit Baltistan region, next to the Pakistan-China border.

But the biggest threat China will face in the coming days will be from ETIM, which may also regroup and resurge, given the rise of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in the region.

The ETIM or simply known as the Uighur militancy is especially close to home for the Chinese as all of this began in the Xinjiang province of China, where Beijing has intensified its persecution of the Uighur Muslims, and that can serve as a rallying call for the jihadists based in the region to unite and fight against China. In the past, Uighur militants have been using the Afghan-Pak border as its base. 

The ETIM is also being supported by the TTP which has issued statements against China condemning the persecution faced by Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. 

When the ETIM was first raised in 1993, China requested Pakistan to put an end to their activities. It took Islamabad nearly a decade (2003) to kill its leader Hasan Mahsum, while receiving economic assistance from China all along. 

Is a cash-strapped Pakistan doing the same once again? Is the threat against China growing so that Pakistan can get more aid and financial assistance from China and fill its coffers?

China has already invested money into creating and training a new Pakistani security force called the Special Security Divisions (SSDs). Two such outfits have been created with 15,000 troops each from the Pakistani Army.

But can China rely on Pakistan and trust it to provide the safety and security it seeks when operating in Pakistan? The case of the United States for one, tells us that Pakistan has betrayed its partners in the past. 

In the 1980s, the Americans got involved in the proxy war against the Soviet Union through Pakistan. The US supplied Pakistan with arms and ammunition and even with large sums of money to be used against the Soviets by training and arming jihadists in Pakistan and sending them to Afghanistan. But it later emerged that Pakistan inflated the costs of the Afghan war and used these resources in funding their jihadist agenda in Kashmir against India

Later, when the American and Western allies bombed Afghanistan to end the Taliban rule following 9/11, orchestrated by Al Qaeda that the Taliban were protecting, most of the Afghan militant leadership and its allies fled to Pakistani tribal area and Balochistan. Pakistan has been long accused of looking the other way, allowing the Afghan Taliban and their affiliates refuge in the country. But this is no longer just an accusation as it was even acknowledged by Pakistan’s current interior minister in an interview recently.

Beyond the threat from Islamic militancy that has linkages to the Pakistani state, the Chinese must also face the brunt of various rebel groups originating from the Balochistan province where China is heavily invested especially in the port city of Gwadar. The Gwadar port is an essential part of China’s ‘Maritime Silk Route’ (MSR), an initiative through which Beijing seeks to dominate the crucial Indian Ocean Region (IOR). 

But operating in Balochistan has had its risks. There has been growing discontent among the local population in the province as it remains severely under developed, despite being rich in natural resources.

Owing to this, the province has seen an insurgency that recently unified itself under the Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS). BRAS is an umbrella organization working towards the independence of Balochistan. Under this organization, there are various armed groups that operate, who view China and Pakistan as threats. While the groups typically work separately to achieve their aims, they have been known to band together to execute attacks. Of the multiple groups under BRAS, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) seems to be the biggest threat that China faces. In the last few years, the BLA has attacked Chinese interests several times. These include an attack on the Pearl continental Hotel in Gwadar, which is a destination for various Chinese delegations, the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, and the attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange.

With threats from the Baloch and the Islamists, China will face a difficult and tough time in the coming years achieving its strategic and economic objectives in Pakistan and beyond, given the rising violence in the region, especially with the imminent fall of Kabul, being predicted in the coming weeks.

The spillover effects of this violence are already being felt in Pakistan with Chinese interests coming under renewed terror attacks. Is mainland China next?

Is Pakistan Army trying to kill exiled Pakistani dissidents in the West?

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Following last month’s arrest of Muhammad Gohir Khan in London, who was charged with conspiring with other unknown individuals, to murder an exiled Pakistani blogger and political activist, Ahmad Waqas Goraya in Netherlands, the Metropolitan Police have warned other Pakistani dissidents living in the UK of plots against them aimed at committing serious harm. The Met police has reportedly told Pakistani exiles who have been criticizing Pakistan’s all-powerful military, that there is a credible threat to their lives. A comprehensive report published by the Guardian which enumerates the various episodes of attacks against Pakistani exiles in Europe, certainly has raised fresh concerns over authoritarian regimes targeting foreign dissidents. These factors point to the fact that Pakistan has now developed a ‘hit list’, targeting dissidents living in Europe.

Pakistan has had a long history of silencing its journalists who dared to speak against the military or the government. Although they had restricted themselves to journalists and activists living within Pakistan, a new trend has emerged of them seeking to silence its dissidents who are living abroad. The recent deaths of Pakistani dissidents Karima Baloch in Toronto, Canada, and her friend Sajid Hussain in Sweden, both under mysterious circumstances, had already raised the level of concern among Pakistani dissidents living abroad. Karima was a prominent Baloch activist who campaigned for an independent Balochistan. Similarly, Sajid Hussain was a journalist who had also been covering the extensive and brutal human rights violations committed by the Pakistani military in Balochistan. It is hard to rule out their deaths as mere accidents. Given the recent arrest of Gohir Khan, the possibility of foul play has once again come to the fore. It was only last year that a Pakistani government memo was leaked which accused several journalists living in Europe and the US of writing “anti-state content” for foreign media under pseudonyms, as per the report in the Guardian. Such memos show how committed Pakistan is in its attempts at silencing dissent of any form, virtually anywhere in the world.

However, the government in Islamabad has vehemently opposed the Guardian report, calling it “unsubstantiated allegations” and that these are part of the “blatant on-going misinformation campaign against Pakistan.”

But international human rights groups and media watchdogs disagree. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), there have been numerous cases where journalists have been threatened and that “it’s widely understood that these types of threats could only come from Pakistan’s military or intelligence service”.

In the Guardian report, Ayesha Siddiqa, a political scientist based in London has also claimed to have received an ‘Osman warning’ (Threat to Life Notice) from the Metropolitan Police.

She and many Pakistani intellectuals like her, had fled their homeland owing to the imminent threat to their lives and their loved ones in their home country. They continue to do their intellectual work in Europe and North America believing that they were now safe from the tyranny back home in Pakistan but it appears that is no longer the case. 

What is further worrying, is how there are reports of these Pakistani loyalists who have infiltrated the dissident community living abroad and sharing names and information back home. The mysterious deaths of Karima Baloch and Sajid Hussain could well be the doing of such infiltrators and Muhammad Gohir Khan could well be a part of such a network too. It has become hard to ascertain how many more Gohir Khans are out there, threatening the lives of the Pakistani dissidents in exile.

While speaking to the Guardian, former UK High Commissioner to Pakistan, Mark Lyall Grant, who was also UK’s former National Security Advisor said that, if there was definite proof that members of the Pakistani Military and its intelligence wing ISI, had been threatening exiles living in the UK, the matter would be taken seriously by the British government and appropriate actions would be taken. He said, “If there is illegal pressure, in particular on journalists in the UK, then I would expect the law enforcement agencies and the British government to take notice of that and to make an appropriate legal and/or diplomatic response.”

How to buy U.S. democracy? (The Pakistani way!)

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By South Asia Press Team

Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry, a resident of Maryland, was a well-known figure in diplomatic circles in the United States. He frequently interacted with think tanks and other institutes in Washington D.C. that shape U.S. foreign policy, organising roundtables and conferences on Pakistan with the contacts he cultivated in the U.S. and Pakistani officials. He often organized events at the United States Institute of Peace, a think tank funded by the U.S. Congress. His activities as head of the Pakistan-American League, he claimed, were solely educational in nature, and in no way affiliated with the Pakistani government.

But in 2018, Chaudhry was convicted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) for failing to disclose that he was an agent of the Pakistani government. The investigation into his activities revealed that for six years, between 2012 and 2018, he had influenced U.S. foreign policy in favour of Pakistan without ever disclosing it. He now faces a maximum of five years in prison.

Interestingly, there are no official Pakistani “foreign agents” or FARA registered lobbyists in the U.S., a position the Pakistani embassy’s media spokesperson maintained, speaking with a leading Pakistani daily, in April this year.

However, South Asia Press investigations found otherwise, and that there are many individuals who work to “influence operations” on behalf of the Pakistani government in the U.S., but are not declared agents.

Speaking with South Asia Press, a leading expert on Pakistan, Dr. Christine Fair said “These are also the most difficult to prove because Pakistan has been very effective at laundering the money through diasporans who then “donate” the money to think-tanks to conduct “research” and hold “conferences.”.

The role of the ISI in secret lobbying in the US

Pakistan has a long history of lobbying the United States government to influence their foreign policy in favour of Pakistan, and has for many years been hiring lobbying firms for their efforts in the US. This is legal only if the firm is registered appropriately under U.S. law. However, many individuals continue to work to influence U.S. foreign policy on behalf of the Pakistani government without disclosing their status as agents of a foreign government. The United States’ Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) makes this illegal, and any agents who are connected with a foreign government or working in the interests of foreign powers in either a political or quasi-political capacity are required to disclose these connections and maintain transparency of their financial activity.

According to a former Pakistani diplomat, the unregistered lobbying is controlled by the country’s notorious intelligence service, ISI.

“The Pakistani Foreign service comprises professionals who know that it is inappropriate to break a country’s laws while lobbying,” the diplomat said. “The military people do not understand diplomatic norms or rules. They just want to advance the Kashmir cause or engage in anti-India activities, ignoring international law.”

Fair, the expert on Pakistan, was aware of Chaudhry’s activities long before his conviction, and had repeatedly reported him to the FBI, “Nisar Chaudhry frequently arranged meetings with influential Pakistan Military [officials] and he shopped these meetings around to various “think tanks.” United States Institute of Peace (USIP), happily hosted him and his entourages.” She had been invited to an event at the United States Institute of Peace by Chaudhry himself, who said he wanted to facilitate a rapprochement between her and the Pakistan army, in 2017 prior to his arrest.

Another curious case is that of Moeed Yusuf, the former Vice President for Asia at the USIP. Dr Fair had for many years been drawing attention to Yusuf’s role at the USIP, saying that he used the platform of the organisation to propagate a pro-Pakistan policy. According to Dr Fair, in programme documents written by Yusuf and his colleagues, the USIP took an overtly pro-Pakistan stance, leading to Fair reporting him to the FBI and U.S. House Oversight Committee under suspicions that he was working for the Pakistan government, only to be ignored. Fair’s concerns over Moeed Yusuf were confirmed with his recent appointment to the post of National Security Adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Pakistan’s Nexus with American Academia

The Pakistan government has also actively built a network of scholars, who they invite to Pakistan to present their research, or to show them their military operation sites. Dr. Fair told South Asia Press about a co-author she worked with being contacted by the Ministry of Information in Pakistan to write a book about the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, for which he would be compensated and also be given access to important archival information. The government’s choice of person was very deliberate, in Fair’s opinion, since he is not an expert on Pakistan, and is eager to publish a book and be compensated for it and was thus, easily lured in by the loaded offer.

Pakistan also exerts a great deal of control over think tanks and military universities in the United States. The Middle East Institute has gone as far as to allegedly ban established academic critical of Pakistan like Dr. Fair, who is also excluded from activities of the National Defense University in Washington D.C.

Thomas F. Lynch, a research fellow at the National Defense University himself has stated in an interview that it is “undeniably true” that Pakistan does make a concerted effort to exclude certain voices, and that the National Defense University “may honour requests” made by the Pakistan government with regard to inviting speakers to the university.

Covert and Overt Lobbying by Pakistan – AGENDA: Kashmir

Other recent examples of individuals “influencing operations” secretly on behalf of Pakistani government and convicted under FARA include Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a U.S. citizen who was funded by the ISI, and used his links to Capitol Hill to manipulate the narrative over Kashmir in Pakistan’s favour. He was the head of the Kashmir American Council which claimed to be an independent voice for Kashmiris funded by Americans to educate the U.S. about the Kashmiri peoples’ struggle. He was arrested by the FBI in 2011 and charged with secretly lobbying for Pakistan, and receiving over $400,000 in funding from the ISI. But Fai’s ability to infiltrate and influence US Congress members points towards a much larger problem of US democracy itself, and how illegal foreign money has found a place in US politics.

According to the retired diplomat in conversation with South Asia Press, “On several occasions, unlawful Pakistani influence operations have resulted in Pakistani agents being arrested by the FBI in the U.S. But that has not stopped the Pakistani military from continuing with its activities. People are dispensable when you embrace Jihad as your cause.”

Pakistan has also hired several paid lobbyists in the U.S., including Brown Lloyd James, a lobbying firm used by China, in the United States in an effort to influence the narrative over Kashmir and build support for Pakistan in Capitol Hill. Other lobbying firms have been hired for the same purpose, including Holland & Knight, which ex-Congressman Tom Reynolds was an important part of, along with other Capitol Hill veterans.

The US law allows for lobbying groups to function legally in the country, to work to influence their foreign policy, a seriously flawed system due to which, “virtually anyone can buy our democracy”, says Dr. Fair. “But this is our law. The best we can do is show light on its pernicious effects, which in the case of Pakistan has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans in Afghanistan.”

Pakistani women continue to join militant groups in Afghanistan, with many caught and imprisoned, internal Pakistan Foreign Office documents show

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By SOUTH ASIA PRESS Team

In an exclusive internal document (dated 8th June 2021) obtained by South Asia Press, Pakistan’s mission in Afghanistan has written a letter to the Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry detailing the case of 24 Pakistani women imprisoned with their children in Afghanistan for having ties with the so-called Islamic State local chapter IS-Khorasan.

South Asia Press team spoke to one of the family members of the women on the list, who confirmed that their daughter was being held in prison for over a year now.

“She had problems at home with her husband. She did not approach us and instead approached her friend from a local seminary, who recruited her, and took her to Afghanistan,” says her relative, speaking to South Asia Press by telephone from Lahore city.

The document mentions how many of these Pakistani women are mothers and living with their children. Some of them also have Pakistani husbands that have been detained in different parts of Afghanistan for militant activity. In some cases, the women have already spent their prison time and are yet not freed.


SOUTH ASIA PRESS HAS THE FULL DOCUMENT IN ITS POSSESSION, AND YOU CAN VIEW IT HERE ON OUR TWITTER PROFILE: WWW.TWITTER.COM/SOUTHASIAPRESS 

The Pakistani government officially maintains that the Islamic State group is not active in the country, and that they do not allow people to cross over into Afghanistan to join militant groups. However, the communication in the document obtained by South Asia Press between the officials of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan is in clear contradiction of that claim.

Pakistani women joining militant groups in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region is reflective of a larger trend, ongoing since the last few years, where there are several cases of women in Pakistan being radicalised and leaving the country. Many of these women have been educated in high-profile institutions and live in urban centres of the country. These young women are inspired by the ideology of the IS and are radicalised through seminaries in Pakistan.

In a famous case from 2017, the Pakistani police and intelligence agencies revealed how a woman from Hyderabad Sindh had joined the group, admitting officially for the first time that women were being recruited for the IS from Pakistan. Noreen Jabbar Laghari, a university student, shared extremely radical religious views on her social media accounts, and it was found that seminaries of Islamist groups were working in educational institutions in this part of Southern Pakistan and radicalising students.

As United States and its allied forces do complete withdrawal from Afghanistan this September, there appears to be a growing trend of more and more people joining such militant groups. According to a recent investigative report by a well-known German media, Pakistani militant groups have intensified their collection for donations and funds and for recruiting, while Pakistani state authorities turn a blind eye.

In conversation with the German news outlet Duetsch Welle, a former Pakistani parliamentarian claimed that the Taliban was recruiting militants from Pakistan: “Come to Balochistan, and I will show the villages and areas where clerics are openly attending the funerals of those Pakistanis killed in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban.”

For the last 50 years, Pakistan has fanned Islamist movements in Afghanistan and in the northern parts of the country to weaken and counter nationalist sentiments among the Pashtuns population inhabiting this region. Pakistan has steadily supplied new recruits to Islamist militant movements in Afghanistan, a trend which continues even today with state authorities remaining complicit to protect their own interests.

EXCLUSIVE: How Pakistan Army runs Death Squads in Balochistan

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SOUTH ASIA PRESS INVESTIGATES HOW THE PAKISTANI MILITARY OUTSOURCED THE TARGETING OF BALOCH SEPARATISTS AND POLITICAL ACTIVISTS TO PRIVATE MILITIAS KNOWN AS “DEATH SQUADS” IN THE PROVINCE AND HOW MANY OF THESE DEATH SQUAD OPERATIVES ARE NOW TURNING TO MAINSTREAM POLITICS IN THE PROVINCE, AGAIN WITH THE HELP OF THE PAKISTAN ARMY.

By a Baloch Reporter AND Taha Siddiqui

During the summer of 2020 in Pakistan, Major Nadeem Abbas Bhatti and soldiers under his command were on their way back to their military base in Kech district of Balochistan province after patrolling close to the Pakistan-Iran border. According to the Pakistani military, the team was looking for Baloch separatist groups when their vehicle came under attack. An improvised explosive device planted on the side of the road hit them. Six personnel were killed including Major Bhatti. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a Baloch ethno-nationalist separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Soon after the attack several photos of Major Bhatti from his time in Balochistan started to surface on social media showing him posing with unknown armed teenagers. Prominent Baloch political and separatist leaders took to social media to allege Bhatti was running a “death squad” and the teenagers he was posing with were part of the squad. Some further claimed that even at the time of the attack, Bhatti was traveling with death squad members. One such account says three Baloch teenagers were killed alongside the six officials.

Major Nadeem Bhatti posing with Baloch youngsters who are seen with weapons in the next photo. Source: Baloch Independent Media
Two members of the alleged death squad who were seen in the previous photo posing with Major Nadeem Bhatti. Source: Baloch Independent Media

“Major Nadeem Bhatti was involved with proxy militias…” tweeted Rahim Baloch, a central figure of Baloch National Movement, a political party in the province that calls for the region’s independence from Pakistan. Rahim further claimed that three Baloch teenagers who had been recruited by Major Nadeem for death squads were also killed in this IED attack.

Rahim’s tweet contained photos of Major Nadeem in different parts of Balochistan including one from an unknown location where Major Nadeem is seen with armed civilian men. The tweet also shows the above photo of two teenagers posing with automatic weapons.

Major Nadeem posing with another alleged death squad member from Balochistan. Source: Independent Baloch Media

Further investigations by South Asia Press led to the discovery of two other photos of the same teenagers that Rahim Baloch tweeted, posing with Major Nadeem Bhatti.

Major Nadeem posing with alleged death squad members from Balochistan. Source: South Asia Monitoring Desk

Multiple local sources confirm that these armed teenagers are indeed Baloch youngsters from Buleda, a town tucked between the Iran and Pakistan border, a town Major Nadeem Bhatti frequented.

 

DEATH SQUADS: THE ORIGINS

Like late Major Nadeem, many Pakistani military officials continue to work closely with death squads in the southwestern province of Balochistan, South Asia Press has learnt in a three-month long investigation.

Although there are reports that Pakistani military has been using such squads for decades now, our in-depth investigations point out that since 2010s, the practice of using death squads in the name of private militias has been institutionalized, especially in the south-western districts of Balochistan. This is the region where a full-fledged insurgency continues to rage since the mid 2000s, triggered by the killing of former Chief Minister of the province Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in August 2006.

Bugti, an influential tribal chieftain was murdered along with more than 35 others when the Pakistan Air Force bombed his hideout inside Marri hills in Balochistan.

Pakistan’s former dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, who was the country’s military chief and president at the time ordered Bugti’s assassination.

Since partition of South Asia in 1947, Balochistan has seen five ethnic Baloch separatist insurgencies and a brutal crackdown by the Pakistani state, ensuing a conflict which has claimed thousands of lives. The latest wave is considered to be the most violent by many accounts.

“Akbar Bugti’s killing triggered a new wave of insurgency and it began from the southern parts of Balochistan. Middle-class youth especially from the south-west of Balochistan started to actively join the pro-independence movement,” says a local Baloch journalist who has been covering conflict in the province over the past two decades.’.

He wishes to remain anonymous, for the fear of reprisal from the Pakistani military for openly speaking on this subject.

The editor says that to counter this new wave, since the late 2000s the Pakistan military has deployed several strategies, one of them being the formation of the private militias known as death squads, for which they recruit local criminals, drug lords and pro-Pakistan Baloch political activists.

“The Frontier Corps [the military’s corps stationed in Balochistan], along with other paramilitary forces have been sponsoring private militias in south-western districts of the province in response to a rapidly rising Baloch nationalist insurgency there,” the editor explains.

Besides death squads, another strategy employed by the military to suppress the local rebellion – especially in the northern parts of Balochistan – is to Islamize the youth, with the help of seminaries run by religious groups close to the military.

“In the northern parts of the province, Pakistani paramilitary forces promote radical Islamist groups to counter secular voices, especially of Pashtuns, who live mostly in the north of Balochistan,” the editor further explains.

Reportedly, many of these Islamist groups in the north also have linkages with the members of death squads in the south, like that formed by the infamous Shafiq Mengal, who is credited to be one of the first to form such a private militia aka death squad in 2008.

 

DEATH SQUADS: THE BEGINNINGS

Shafiq Mengal is the son of Pakistani politician Mir Naseer Mengal from Khuzdar district, where he and his family currently reside. A drop out of the well-known Aitchison College in Lahore (the Alma mater of the current Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan), Shafiq also later attended a Deobandi seminary for religious education. His family is involved in the mining sector in Balochistan, an industry known to be run with military’s patronage. Shafiq’s father, who was part of General Zia ul Haq’s government is also famous for signing the controversial Reko Diq mine deal as the caretaker Chief Minister of the province in 1993. The father joined Pakistani military dictator General Musharraf’s party Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) (formed after Musharraf’s coup in 1999) and then became the oil minister in the general’s government. When PML-Q lost power in the 2008 elections and Musharraf resigned, his father disappeared from the political scene. But it was not the end of the road for the junior Mengal.

The same year, in 2008, Shafiq launched Baloch Mussallah Diffa Tanzeem (BDM), a tribal militia with the mission of defending Baloch locals from separatists. Locals say he had support of the Pakistani military in launching the militia, helping him acquire weapons. But instead of protecting the Baloch, Shafiq unleashed a reign of terror through the BDM, credited to be one of the first-known death squads of Balochistan. At first, he was only targeting suspected Baloch separatists but then he reportedly started killing political, non-political and criminal rivals too, as highlighted by the leading Pakistani daily Dawn in this report from 2014.

“Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces permitted Shafiq to expand his private militia network and provided him unlicensed ammunition in large quantities and bomb proof vehicles, to fight against Baloch insurgents seeking separation from Pakistan,” says a former bureaucrat from Balochistan, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

For the next three years, despite his murderous campaign, Shafiq managed to stay low profile, but all that changed in 2011 when he became the target of the first-ever suicide bombing by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the same separatist insurgent group that recently killed Major Nadeem Bhatti in an IED attack.

According to the police, a car packed with around 50 kilograms of explosives tried to ram into the house of Shafiq Mengal. BLA said its suicide wing known as Majeed Brigade targeted him to avenge deaths of the Baloch targeted by his death squad. He and his family remained safe but 13 other people including women and children were killed in the attack according to local media reports.

Two years later as the 2013 general elections approached in Pakistan, Shafiq Mengal made headlines again, when Akhtar Mengal (not related), a politician and parliamentarian from Khuzdar (where Shafiq is headquartered) said his men were gunned down by a death squad run by Shafiq Mengal in their hometown, Khuzdar city, the capital of the district of the same name.

DEATH SQUADS: THE FAILED CONTAINMENT

Many say post the elections of 2013, there was an attempt to shift the government policy towards Balochistan initiated by the new chief minister (CM) Dr. Abdul Malik. Credited to be the first non-tribal leader to serve as the CM, with roots in the south-west of Balochistan, Baloch political circles say he was brought in to reconcile with the insurgency that the Pakistani military was grappling to deal with despite unleashing a deadly campaign of violence against the Baloch.

As Dr. Abdul Malik assumed power, he announced many measures to reconcile with the separatist Baloch including a crackdown against death squads. Just a few months into this crackdown, Abdul Malik faced his biggest challenge.

On January 25th, 2014, a local shepherd while herding his cattle stumbled across mass graves in a small town of Balochistan. He alerted the local authorities who reached the site and dug out several dead bodies buried together.

Government sources say they found 17 bodies only but Baloch activists dispute this and say around 169 dead bodies were recovered, as per reports in the international media.

The Balochistan government formed a judicial commission in February 2014 to launch a probe into the discovery of these bodies. And once again Shafiq Mengal name surfaced and he became the center of attention. Local media reports say the bodies were found near his property in Khuzdar’s Tootak area, a deserted locality, and several locals have alleged his involvement in the mass graves.

Subsequently, the Pakistani Supreme Court also took notice, but to date no one has been held accountable and the government’s commission report also remained inconclusive. Many of the suspects including Shafiq Mengal refused to appear before the commission.

“Everyone knew Shafiq Mengal’s BDM and intelligence agencies were behind these mass graves. They were the dead bodies of missing persons. The judicial commission report was a mere eyewash like if you try to hide the sun with your hand,” says the Baloch editor.

After Dr. Abdul Malik left office, he reportedly said that the Pakistani military, which is considered to be the de-facto power in the province, had also agreed to a crackdown against death squads. But was the military willing to deliver on its commitment? Seeing how Shafiq goes unpunished even today, it seems the military was never on board with Abdul Malik’s plan.

The same year, Shafiq again became the center of attention but got away this time too. On May 25, 2014, eight levies security officials were allegedly killed by his men. A case was registered against him but despite the passage of several years now, there has been no progress in the case.

A Baloch politician, who was part of Dr. Malik’s government at the time claimed that during following the killings of security officials, Shafiq Mengal sensed some pressure and moved to Afghanistan for some time.

“In Afghanistan, Shafiq Mengal developed a closer nexus with sectarian outfits in the Nangarhar province,” the Baloch political leader claims, speaking on the conditions of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the subject.

Shafiq Mengal’s sectarian links were also confirmed in a 2017 investigation by the Police’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in Pakistan’s Sindh province. In the investigation report available with South Asia Press, he is named as a suspect in having helped orchestrate sectarian attacks in the province, including the 2017 failed suicide bombing on a Shiites Imam Bargah (mosque) in Shikarpur city.

A suicide bomber, who could not detonate his explosive jacket told the Sindh police during interrogation that he stayed in Khuzdar city at Shafiq Mengal’s residence before moving to Shikarpur to carry out the attack.

Baloch journalists on the ground say his links to such sectarian anti-Shia groups were not only developed with his time in Afghanistan but already existed in Pakistan, especially due to his relationship with Ramzan Mengal (not related), the provincial chief of the Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) in Balochistan, a radical-right religious group that declares the Shia sect Kafir. ASWJ, formerly known as Sipah e Sahaba, is also known to be close to the Pakistani military establishment.

Shafiq Mengal in a meeting with Ramzan Mengal, Head of ASWJ Balochistan Chapter. Source: South Asia Press

Journalists in Balochistan tell South Asia Press it is such religious alliances of Shafiq Mengal that provide him an out-of-jail card in Pakistan and keeps his relationship with the military establishment intact, even if the relationship has seen its ups and downs.

DEATHS SQUADS: THE NETWORK

By early 2010s, the experiment that started with Shafiq Mengal’s death squad – to counter the insurgency fueled by Bugti’s assassination – had spread across the province with the Frontier Corps (FC) allegedly backing similar militias in Khuzdar and other parts of south-west Balochistan, and like Shafiq’s BDM, most of these private armed groups also quickly turned into death squads.

South Asia Press investigations reveal that the majority of such militias are run by hardcore criminals and drug lords, while a few of them are also led by extremists, pro Pakistan politicians, and former separatist insurgents who have surrendered to authorities under reconciliation schemes in the recent past.

During these investigations, it also emerged that five Balochistan districts are more known for death squads, namely Khuzdar, Awaran, Kech, Panjgur, and Mastung. Besides Mastung, the rest of these districts are next to each other and lie in the extreme southern part of the province where, as mentioned earlier, the Baloch insurgency is said to be the strongest. (Note: There are reports of death squads in some other parts of Balochistan too, scattered across the province, like in Dera Bugti, but South Asia Press was unable to find reliable sources on ground. However, we plan to focus on it in future). 

THE WHO’S WHO OF DEATH SQUADS

As illustrated in the above map, within Khuzdar district, besides Shafiq Mengal, another well-known private militia aka death squad organizer is Zakria M. Hasni. He is a young man in his thirties and is believed to be responsible for assassinations and abductions of people linked to the Baloch cause not just in Khuzdar but across Pakistan. His sister is an officer in the Pakistan Army, according to highly-placed sources, however South Asia Press could not independently verify this claim.

Just next to Khuzdar district, where Shafiq and Zakaria run their militias, is the Awaran district, considered to be the heart of the latest wave of Baloch insurgency. Here the private militia aka a death squad is led by Deen Mohammad Deenu, a former Baloch insurgent.

Next door to Awaran is the Kech district, where the military has supported several death squads, starting with that of Rashid Pathan, a known hardcore criminal. Rashid’s brother-in-law was a key commander of Baloch Liberation Front, a separatist organization fighting the Pakistani state and was killed in a Pakistani intelligence operation with the help of Rashid in 2010. This insider info made Rashid a key ally for the military to find more about the Baloch insurgency which has been going strong in this district, especially around the city of Turbat.

Besides Rashid, Samir Sabzal is another hardcore criminal, also running a private militia in the district. He recently ran into police troubles after his death squad was involved in a shoot-out that resulted in the killing of a woman and injuring her five-year-old child.

Besides these two, another known militia chief from Kech is Sardar Aziz, who runs a religious seminary in the area since 2010.

Next door to the territory of these three death squads is the district Panjgur where Maqbool Shambezi – a drug kingpin involved in cross-border smuggling – leads a state-backed private militia. Little is known about this drug kingpin except that he is involved in the illegal trade and runs a death squad. Panjgur has witnessed a moderate insurgency in the area since the late 2000s.

Beyond these death squad clusters in the four adjacent districts, another infamous but recently defunct one to that South Asia Press was able to confirm information about from local sources was that of Baloch politician Siraj Raisani.

Siraj was running a private militia in Mastung until his recent killing. Besides running the squad, he comes from a politically active family with his brother – Nawab Aslam Raisani serving as the former Chief Minister of Balochistan.

FOCUS: KHUZDAR

ZAKARIA M HASNI’S REIGN OF TERROR

Along with Shafiq Mengal, a key recipient of support from the state since 2010 has been Zakria M Hasni.

Zakria M. Hasni runs a death squad in Khuzdar. Source: South Asia Press Monitoring Desk

Zakria claims to local journalists that he fights BLA, BLF, and Baloch nationalist militants. Multiple images collected by South Asia Press show him riding a horse, holding AK47, and wearing prayer beads – symbolic attire that reflect his radical Islamic thinking. Zakria is also believed to be close to the local chapter of the so-called Islamic State – Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK), which encompasses modern-day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Zakria’s foray into crime began with him imposing taxes on people involved in the mining business in Khuzdar around 2012. It was at this time he also became notorious for a graphic mobile phone photo showing him torturing a man identified as Mohammad Baloch. The image, published by a local daily paper called Tawar (translation: the Voice) (now banned) shows the man being tortured while he hangs upside down. The paper claimed the man was allegedly being tortured after his family failed to pay ransom for his release from the custody of military authorities.

The Baloch nationalist have also accused Zakria and his death squad in Khuzdar of torturing and killing political activists and nationalists. Zakria’s close circles that South Asia Press spoke to claimed he has also admitted to being involved in the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, a progressive Pakistani human rights activist, and social worker. Sabeen was murdered after she held a talk on Balochistan at her intellectual initiative in Karachi. This claim could not be independently verified and further details are not available to establish the extent of his involvement. A Baloch journalist also told South Asia Press Zakria claims to be involved in the deadly attack on prominent Pakistani TV journalist Hamid Mir in Karachi. Mir surived the attack. This claim could also be not independently verified.

Zakria M Hasni and his death squad patrol Khuzdar district often. Source: South Asia Monitoring Desk

Like other death squad chiefs mentioned blow, eyewitness accounts say he roams openly in the province with automatic weapons. He is also known for organizing rallies on Pakistani national days in Khuzdar.

 

FOCUS: AWARAN

THE DEATH SQUAD CHIEF WHO LOVES FACEBOOK

South-west of Khuzdar district where Shafiq and Zakria run their squads is the Awaran district, where Deen Mohammad aka Deenu runs a private militia. Awaran is considered to be Balochistan’s most volatile region in the south-west as it also serves as the headquarter of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), a separatist armed group currently led by Dr. Allah Nazar, a medical doctor who went underground in 2008 and joined the Baloch resistance.

According to Baloch sources, Deenu is himself a former insurgent, and was once close to Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, commanding BLF in the Mashkey region of Awaran district but he surrendered to the forces in 2017 under the Balochistan Reconciliation Process.

Exact reasons for him changing sides are not known but experts say the reconciliation process is usually a way out for those who want safety for themselves and do not want their families to be harassed by the state any more. Money is another motivation for leaving the insurgency, as the government offers a significant amount of cash to those who give up arms.

Death squad chief Deenu posing with Pakistani military officials. Source: South Asia Press Monitoring Desk

Deenu also has the support of another of Dr Allah Nazar’s former close associate – his brother-in-law Mehrullah Baloch, who lives in city of Hub, near Karachi.

Since leaving the rebellion, several photos documenting Deenu’s atrocities in Awaran have appeared on social media, with him posing for the camera. A photo posted on Facebook in April 2018 shows Deenu with a group of Pakistan Army soldiers in Awaran district.

Deenu and his private militia on an alleged mission together in Awaran, Balochistan. Source: South Asia Press Monitoring Desk

Sources say these photographs (show above) are from a joint operation by Deenu and the military against Baloch separatists hiding in Awaran’s mountainous region.

FOCUS: KECH

RASHID PATHAN: PART TIME DEATH SQUAD CHIEF, PART TIME CRIMINAL

Next door to Awaran district is the Kech district which has also seen its fair amount of insurgency and therefore death squads.

In the early 2010s, Rashid Pathan started to emerge as a terror face in Kech’s district capital – Turbat.

Rashid Pathan posing with a Pakistan Army helicopter at a secure military base. Source: South Asia Monitoring Desk

An illiterate man with a criminal past, Rashid comes from a poor background. Before leading his private militia allegedly with the help of Pakistani military, he was involved in robbery and burglaries in his home district of Kech.

South Asia Press investigations reveal that Pathan was introduced to the military through Imam Bheel, a local drug kingpin, named as one of the four main drug barons in the world in 2009 by the US administration under the then President Barack Obama. (NOTE: Bheel has been politically connected to the military since General Musharraf’s time, and South Asia Press will be releasing a separate investigation into his activities soon).

As mentioned earlier, Rashid forged closer ties with the military after he helped them catch and kill his brother-in-law. At his peak, Rashid Pathan commanded a core of more than 100 loyalists, mostly criminals. Baloch political activists say he has been involved in attacks against members of Baloch Students Organization (BSO-Azad) and BLF (Balochistan Liberation Front), who have a strong hold in the Kech district. Rashid is also accused of killing Imdad Baloch, a leader of BNM, and Jahangir Baloch, central secretary general of BSO-Azad in Kech district in 2013. He also helped the FC in its operations in Kech district, including taking over local Baloch property, as reported by the daily Dawn in 2014.

“The military armed Rashid Pathan and used him to attack pro-separatists,” says the former bureaucrat who also served in Kech district.

“Rashid is feared more than the police. He is known to harass businessmen, government officers, and politicians in Turbat,” the bureaucrat adds, further claiming that despite Rashid’s criminal activities, no one can touch him because of his perceived connections with the military intelligence (MI). “He raided houses and abducted people in the areas where the military could not navigate the population,” the bureaucrat explains.

Rashid recently moved out of the region and is said to be setting up base in Gwadar since 2018. Since then, he has kept a low profile as far criminal activities are concerned but Baloch sources say Pathan’s previous affiliation with Imam Bheel may have been the reason for his move to Gwadar, since the alleged drug baron is reportedly involved in forcibly acquiring Baloch land for Pakistani armed forces in Gwadar (and in the adjacent Kech district too) since 2018.

FOCUS: KECH

SAMIR SABZAL – THE DEATH SQUAD CHIEF ABOVE THE LAW

Since Rashid Pathan’s departure from Kech District towards the south in Gwadar, locals in Turbat area say the paramilitary force FC started to support another known criminal Samir Sabzal, who launched his own private militia in the name of defending the Baloch. The thirty-year-old’s career as a death squad chief almost came to an abrupt end last summer but his alleged connections to the military came to rescue.

Sameer Sabzal, with former commissioner Makran division, Mir Tariq Zehri. Source: South Asia Monitoring Desk

On May 26th four people broke into a house in Dannuk, a dusty village, west of the main Turbat city. The intruders met with resistance from women inside the house who managed to overpower one of them. The rest, while fleeing fired and killed one of the women named Malik Naz and injured her 5-years-old daughter Bramsh. The man caught by the family admitted he was working for Samir Sabzal’s private militia. Balochistan and especially Turbat city erupted in widespread protests following this revelation and Samir was subsequently arrested and charged with murder and robbery. But he was recently acquitted by the courts due to lack of evidence, which many say is a sign of his strong connections inside the military establishment.

A family member of the killed woman who does not want to reveal their identity due to fear told South Asia Press that Samir was even protected during his short time in custody. “Samir was shifted to his home in Absar in Turbat at night and brought back to the prison in the morning,” the family member alleged.

Like other death squad organizers, Samir also gained the trust of the Pakistani military by orchestrating rallies on Pakistan’s Independence Day and other national holidays before starting his own private militia to hunt the Baloch.

“Such display of patriotism is often orchestrated in the province to show to the world that the Baloch are happy with Pakistan,” says a local from Kech, who has witnessed Samir co-organizing such patriotic events with the help of the Pakistani military officials stationed in Kech district.

Like Deenu, Samir is also a fan of using Facebook and often posts videos on the social media platform where he is seen traveling through Balochistan, especially in Turbat city. In one such video viewed by South Asia Press, he can be seen traveling with an armed convoy of four-wheel SUVs that have installed state-of-the-art signal jammers, in a bid to stay safe from IED attacks, like the one that killed Major Nadeem Bhatti. In this video Samir can also be seen passing through a military check post while openly displaying a weapon, but his car and the convoy do not get stopped and checked.

FOCUS: KECH

SARDAR AZIZ: MANAGING A MOSQUE, MADRASSA AND A DEATH SQUAD 

Another known figure running a private militias in this district is Sardar Aziz who leads the alleged death squad with his two sons Meeran Aziz and Shah Meer. Meeran is said to be close to Rashid Pathan too.

Sardar Aziz – known death squad chief, who manages a mosque and a seminary in Kech district

The Aziz family belongs to Pidark, an impoverished town located in the west of Turbat, the district headquarters.

Meeran Aziz, son of Sardar Aziz, and an active member of a death squad in Kech district. Source: South Asia Press Monitoring Desk

In Pidark, Sardar established a mosque and a madrassa (a religious seminary) in 2010. Locals tell South Asia Press poor families in the area enroll their children at Sardar’s religious school to benefit from free food and lodging. The locals further add Sardar is not a religious man but through his seminary he has gained influence in the region, especially with the military that considers him an important ally for running a private militia and also helping them Islamize the Baloch population. Today, his seminary is also known as a recruiting ground for jihadis going to Afghanistan and other regional conflicts.

In 2014, Sardar and his sons are accused of carrying out a spate of attacks on members of the Zikri community, a religious minority, settled in the region.

Zikris have a strong affiliation with Balochistan, are believed to be nationalists in their thought and actions, and this affiliation led them to become a target by Sardar.

FOCUS: MASTUNG

THE RISE AND FALL OF NAWAB SIRAJ RAISANI

Besides the cluster of the four districts in south-west mentioned above where the insurgency is the strongest and therefore countered with death squads, military operations and Islamization, another district where there is heavy presence of such private militias, is Mastung district. Here Nawab Siraj Raisani, the brother of the former chief minister of Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani, ran a death squad until his recent killing, according to South Asia Press investigations.

Siraj launched a group called Balochistan Muttahida Mahaz (BMM) in 2010 in Mastung district but it is said to also have had influence in the city of Kalat and Quetta.

Siraj Raisani posing with his death squad members. Source: South Asia Press Monitoring Desk

Like other private militias, Siraj’s BMM was also accused of kidnapping and killing Baloch separatist and activists in the Mastung region.

Family insiders say that Siraj did not get along with his brother Aslam Raisani, who opposed his alliance with the military. This rift also became quite visible during the last general elections in 2018 when Siraj announced that he would be contesting against his older brother on the ticket of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), a newly formed political group, believed to be launched by the country’s military establishment to counter Baloch ethno-nationalist groups.

Siraj had announced the merger of his BMM with BAP (Balochistan Awami Party) a few months before elections but days before the vote in July 2018, Siraj was killed in a suicide bombing. It was claimed by the so-called Islamic State but Baloch sources dispute this saying Siraj was actually killed in a revenge bombing by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), an off-shoot of the state-aligned extremist group ASWJ, which as reported earlier is known to be close to many of the private militias, including that of Shafiq Mengal.

LeJ started as militant wing in the 1990s for the Sunni extremist group (known as Sipah e Sahaba at that time) but went rogue subsequently. It also recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK).

Siraj, who was close to such Sunni extremist groups used his links to reportedly pass confidential information to the Pakistani military about Mohammad Usman alias Saif Ullah Kurd, a leader of the rogue LeJ. A Baloch journalist claims that Siraj, who was a friend of Kurd, trapped him by calling him to a hotel in Quetta. Soon after Kurd’s arrival, the military reached the spot and gunned him down. In retaliation to this killing, LeJ ordered a hit on Siraj and may have asked the Islamic State to claim it.

Siraj Raisani with members of Sunni extremist group ASWJ. Source: South Asia Monitoring Desk

To many’s surprise, Siraj’s funeral was attended by the current Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa who declared Siraj Raisani a ‘Soldier of Pakistan’. Siraj who was not that well known before his killing became an overnight hero with Pakistani media running special segments in his memory, showing his photos and videos of organizing pro-Pakistan events in Mastung where he was also seen tarnishing Indian flags.

His open hate for India is said to be one of many reasons why he became close to the Pakistani military establishment, that tries to paint the indigenous Baloch rebellion as Indian-sponsored.

Since his killing, the private militia he ran has gone dormant as it appears the rest of his family members want to stay away from such activities.

MAINSTREAMING THE DEATH SQUADS

Although the Pakistani military continues to provide support to many of these death squads in the province, journalists, activists and political sources South Asia Press interviewed say there has been a gradual policy-shift in the last few years.

“In the past paramilitary Frontier Corps trained and armed notorious criminals to fight against Baloch insurgents. But they [the intelligence agencies] have made a few changes in their old policies now. They are now converting the death squads into political parties in the region to prevent Baloch ethnic nationalists from winning the polls. Same old notorious Islamist militants are also being washed to head the political parties,” says a Baloch politician from Makran division of the province. [The division comprises of three districts, Kech, Panjgur and Gwadar].

The politician seems on point as there are already signs of this and once again Shafiq Mengal seems to be at the center of this new policy being tried out.

He contested the last polls after returning from Afghanistan some time before the 2018 general elections but did not succeed. And recently, in January 2021, he has announced the launch of his own political party, while there are also reports to suggest that he may join the Pakistan Army-backed BAP (Balochistan Awami Party) which currently leads the Balochistan government. Many of BAP members recently met with Shafiq Mengal in Islamabad last month, reportedly to discuss his entry into politics.

But analysts say this new policy of mainstreaming death squads is destined to be unsuccessful too.

“The state’s policy to run death squads, introduce Islamization and engineer political manipulations – all of it has failed in Balochistan,” says Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, a veteran of the 1970s Baloch insurgency, and a newspaper columnist.

“Despite these crackdowns, the resistance of the Baloch continues and the alienation of the Baloch people vis-a-vis the state is only increasing,” he concludes.

xxx THE END xxx

“Blacklist Pakistan!” Exiled dissidents in Paris protest outside FATF headquarters as the body meets on 22nd February

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FATF MUST BLACKLIST PAKISTAN AND NOT COME UNDER PRESSURE OF CHINA

JOINT PROTEST AND CONFERENCE BY EXILED DISSIDENTS BELONGING TO BALOCH, PASHTUN, UYGHUR, TIBETAN AND HONG KONGER COMMUNITIES OUTSIDE THE FATF HEADQUARTERS IN PARIS ON 2OTH FEBRUARY, 2021.

PARIS, France

As members of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meet from 22nd February to 25th February to decide the fate of Pakistan, dissidents of Baloch, Pashtun, Uyghur, Tibet and Hong Kong origin organized a protest outside the FATF headquarters urging the international monitoring body to blacklist Pakistan and deliver on its mandate of stopping terror financing and sponsoring from Pakistan.

TERROR NETWORKS CONTINUE TO OPERATE FREELY IN PAKISTAN

While Pakistan has been repeatedly adopting the tactic of showcasing taking action against terror financing by placing senior terror group leaders under arrest ahead of FATF plenaries, these UN listed entities, like the Lashkar e Taiba (now rebranded as Jamat ud Dawa -JuD) and Jaish e Mohammad (JeM) continue to function freely in the country including collecting funds.

The charity front of JuD, the Falah e Insaniyat Foundation (FeF) has continued to collect funds. FeF chief Hafiz Abdur Rauf has remained active including openly delivering sermons. Similarly, Talha Saeed, son of Jamaat ud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed and a designated a terrorist by the US Treasury dept, has been active and addressed gatherings in recent months. Similarly, JuD offices including the Markaz Al Quds in Lahore are able to raise funds to meet their monthly expenditures. The JuD’s social media team functions unhindered advertising their fund collection drives.

Jaish e Muhammmad (JeM) has also been openly collecting funds, often to support families of ‘martyrs’ or jihadists killed during operations.

In order to avoid detection by FATF, Pakistan has moved JeM training camps and fighters to Afghanistan.

The recent acquittal and orders of release of known terror operative Ahmed Omar Saeed Shiekh, who was sentenced for the abduction and killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl, is also an indication that the deep links between the terror groups and the Pakistani State remains in place.

Moreover, Pakistan has allowed militants in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to openly collect funds and regroup, as reported by mainstream media in recent months. Even Pakistani parliamentarian Mohsin Dawar warned of militants regrouping in the tribal belt, in a recent interview.

Also, recently Nobel Peace laureate and girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai received public threats on social media by the former spokersperson of the Pakistani Taliban Ehsanullah Ehsan, who mysteriously escaped from military custody recently, and has become active in the field again. Fingers point to Pakistan military’s complicity in the escape of this high profile terrorist.

CHINA’S ROLE AT FATF

China, a close strategic partner of Pakistan, has been defending and often covering up for Pakistan’s links to terror groups. It has stood by Pakistan in the UNSC and other multilateral forums on this issue.

For instance, China, for a decade, blocked the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under the United Nations sanctions regime. Though Beijing repeatedly asserts that it is against terrorism, but it justified its UNSC vote against putting Azhar on the list by saying there wasn’t enough evidence against Azhar and citing “procedural problems”.

This lack of Chinese commitment to counter terror is also expected influence China’s diplomatic support in the FATF, where China is likely to shield Pakistan from accountability. It may be noted that the success of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a project where China has huge strategic and economic stake, will depend on Pakistan escaping accountability of the FATF.

We call upon the FATF member nations not to be pressurized by China into letting Pakistan off the hook. This should not be allowed especially because it will not only embolden Pakistan to carry on using terror groups as strategic assets against its adversaries, but also use them against their own people like the Baloch and Pashtuns, who are already facing grave human rights violations.

FATF has in the past, during its review on China, noted the lack of transparency in China sharing data on money laundering and terror financing cases. FATF has also noted that China’s rack record on targeted financial sanctions related to both terrorist financing and proliferation financing is poor, and China should fundamentally strengthen its legal framework and the implementation of these United Nations-mandated sanction regimes and work with financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions to achieve implementation without delay.

China’s support to Pakistan in overlooking its sponsoring terror groups, is reciprocated by the latter in completely ignoring China’s human rights repression in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. If the FATF succumbs to Chinese pressure and does not blacklist Pakistan, it will indirectly be responsible for the continued abuses against the people of these regions.

NOTE FROM THE ORGANIZER:

The protest was planned and organized by The Dissident Club which has brought together the Pakistani and Chinese dissidents for the first time in France. Post the protest, the participants met for a conference at The Dissident Club and vowed to continue their peaceful struggle through a joint action forum to continue to raise awareness about Pakistan-China nexus in France and in Europe and remind the West of its commitments of eradicating all kinds of terrorism and ensuring human rights globally. The community organizers will soon meet for another virtual conference to finalize the future course of action.

The Dissident Club is an intellectual space co-founded by Taha Siddiqui, an award-winning Pakistani journalist in exile.

Protesters hold placards saying “China get out Balochistan” and “Why did Pakistan acquit Daniel Pearl’s murderer and known terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh?

STATEMENTS BY COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS

DISSIDENTS FROM PASHTUN REGION: As representative of Pashtun Nation, I would like to request International community particularly FATF to take tougher action against Pakistan which is responsible for terrorism financing, terrorists training not only International region but all around the world. Recently, China has also entered into this dirty business by supporting terrorist states like Pakistan on one hand on international fora and directly supporting some terrorist groups in Afghanistan on the other. The release of Omar Sheikh, the killer of Daniel Pearl by the Highest court of Pakistan clearly indicates the non-seriousness of Pakistan to combat terrorism and terror financing: FAZAL-UR REHMAN AFRIDI, Pashtun Human Rights Activist

DISSIDENTS FROM BALOCH REGION: Balochistan is an occupied territory by Pakistan and now it is being colonized by China. There is a nexus of Pakistan and China. In Balochistan there are many Chinese projects which are currently ongoing in the name of development – but these projects are only to benefit the elites of Pakistan and China. There is no gas, no hospitals, no schools in the area where this development is happening. They are making roads to connect Balochistan to China but why cannot they build schools, hospitals, etc.? There is massive financial corruption in these projects. We reject Chinese imperialism and this forceful marriage between the Baloch region and China. Balochistan is an occupied territory and China must directly talk to the Baloch if it wants to do so-called development in the region. Currently, Pakistan has forced the Baloch to migrate from the regions where China is investing through military operations. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has displaced thousands of Baloch and forced them to become refugees on their own land: Dr. Naseem Baloch – Victim of enforced disappearance in Pakistan, 7 years in exile in France, Diaspora Community Organizer Baloch National Movement

Today our one of the utmost objective of protesting in front of the FATF headquarters is to ask from this Global organization is to take action against Pakistan which is continously violating the International laws in various aspects. As for as FATF mandate is concerned Pakistan is using local people deposits and international various funding amounts to finance International and local Terrorist Organizations. Particularly in Balochistan Quetta Shura Council is still operating and working as a head quarter for various religious terrorist organizations, by the financial and logistic support of Pakistan and I. S. I.

Kesh Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tahaffuz Balochistan, Lashkar-e-Khurasan and many religious terrorist organizations have penetrated deeply inside Balochistan Which Pakistan Army is using as force to combat Baloch National struggle whom are struggling to end occupation of their Land by the Islamic state of Pakistan.

Pakistan is using these organizations to attack, humiliate, abduct and loot people. Just take a look of only one example of seven-years-old Bramash Baloch. Pakistani goons attacked her home, looted valuable materials and killed her mother in front of her eyes. She also received was shot and injured.

Baloch Zikri community and Hazara community, people, religious worship places, and even tombs have been attacked by these state-backed groups.

Pakistani authorities intentionally allow these organizations and finance and support them to threaten secular lifestyle of the Baloch. Working Baloch women have been attacked at various places by acid to force them to remain indoors. Many schools have been burned and threatening messages have been left by these organizations, many at times using Pakistani Army Helicopters to terrorize the Baloch people and particularly women.

Secondly another objective of FATF is to stop financing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Balochistan is under occupation of Pakistan and Pakistan is using Baloch land for testing its nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. Recently Pakistan claimed testing of Ghori 6 ballistic missile. The missile reportedly fell in Balochistan’s Dera Bugti area and more then twenty people lost their lives with scored injured.

We request this august international organization to keep a check on China also. Unfortunately, China for its strategic designs and to gain strategic depth in Balochistan is financing Pakistan in name of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to eliminate Baloch people from their land. We have reports that China is not only exploiting resources of Balochistan but it is also extracting Uranium from the mountains of Balochistan namely from Koh e Suleman and Koh e Murdar.

Pakistan has already been using US military aid to run its campaigns against the secular Baloch people besides funding religious terrorist organizations. Now similarly the borrowings and financial aids by China are also being used by Pakistan against the Baloch people. The designs of Pakistan and China towards the Baloch land and Balochistan are not hidden from anybody. This CPEC is a colonization project locally and internationally will be used as a launching military pad to terrorize regional and international communities.

At the end I request from this international organization to take action against Pakistan and China for violating the FATF and international laws and norms with respect to financial and mega projects. Munir Mengal President Baloch Voice Association.

DISSIDENTS FROM HONG KONG: Beijing’s strategy allows regional dictatorships (no matter in Pakistan, Africa or in other Asian regions) to rebuild a rent-based economy based on the massive exploitation of raw materials without any real transfer of wealth or know-how to local populations. As a result, the pressure to improve governance and for the democratization of existing regimes have become much less effective. China proves to be able to expand its imperialism through the economic colonization in the developing countries. The Jiwani and Gwadar ports in Pakistan are the good examples. We, the Comité pour la Liberté à HK and AHKF, oppose such kind of economic and cultural imperialism, which hinders the regional democratization and political reforms.

DISSIDENTS FROM TIBET REGION:

The Beijing authorities have eyes on the rest of the world. Its expansionism knows no borders. The method is well known. An economic conquest by China becomes a debt trap for its partners, who ultimately lose their independence under the weight of Chinese debt. The case of the Port of Colombo in Sri Lanka is emblematic. Pakistan or Nepal can no longer contest Chinese decisions. Dictatorships repressing their people in Burma or North Korea have the assent of Beijing, anxious to broadcast a system of values not respectful of human rights. And this is problematic when we know that the the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to remake a global “multi-lateralism” in its own way, with its phagocytosis of UN institutions, for example. The Himalayan region has its own strategic challenges, but which have implications for the rest of the world. The Silk Roads project which will redraw the map of the world thanks to Chinese infrastructure projects, anti-ecological, is also one of the causes of the genocide of Uyghurs. In Tibet, hydraulic dams built by China endanger survival populations