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Lashkar-e-Taiba linked humanitarian group resurfaces in Murree for rescue efforts

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In what appears to be a repeat of the same old, a Lashkar-e-Taiba linked humanitarian organization with the name of Tehreek Allah-u-Akbar was seen at the forefront of rescue efforts in the calamity hit area of Murree city. The hill station experienced heavy snow fall that resulted in 22 people, including women and children, freezing to death in their vehicles, after being stranded and stuck on the roads, for several hours, without help.

Very little is known of this obscure group called Tehreek Allah-u-Akbar that came to the aid of those affected by this tragedy, except that it is headed by Saifullah Khalid, a close confidante of Hafiz Saeed, the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba (convicted in 2020 for terror-financing and sentenced, but continues to spend time at home, which has been converted into a sub-jail, according to media reports). Saifullah was also part of the political party backed by the terror group called Milli Muslim League.

Saifullah shared a video on social media being thanked by the people of Murree for rescue efforts that led to an investigation by South Asia Press and it was found that dozens of recruits who are allegedly affiliated with LeT were dispatched to provide humanitarian aid to those affected by the calamity. According to media reports, thousands of people were stranded in the area for several hours before help arrived. Social media platforms are flooded with photos and videos of the rescue efforts by the banned militant group, with several posts thanking Hafiz Saeed for coming to the aid of the people. But what comes as a bigger shock is that a senior Pakistani police official is seen thanking Jamat ud Dawa (one of the many names of LeT) in a video obtained by South Asia Press. 

Yaseen Janjua, who is currently posted in the region, thanked the banned militant group, calling it by the name of Jamat ud Dawa, confirming that it was involved in the rescue efforts as much as other government departments.

See video here:

Another video obtained by South Asia Press shows several people sitting in a vehicle thanking Hafiz Saeed for helping them, with a man saying some social activists (affiliated with Hafiz Saeed) came and provided them with food.

But these militants-disguised-as-humanitarian-workers were not just helping the ordinary citiens who were stuck, as seen in another video obtained by South Asia Press, in which they can be seen handing out food packets to not only the public but policemen and even military officials.

See video here:

Interestingly, they can be seen wearing the same colored jackets that they have used in the past but it appears that they have tried to hide their previous affiliation by putting the name of Tehreek Allah-u-Akbar, hand-written over the old names, but the cover up seems obvious as seen in the photos below:

For last few years, the Pakistani government has claimed that it had clamped down on the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (recently known as Jamat ud Dawa and then Falah e Insaniyat Foundation). But the terror organization – known for its involvement in the Mumbai attacks of 2008 which killed at least 175 people – apparently went underground to ease international pressure on Pakistan, and has once again resurfaced with a new name Tehreek Allah u Akbar, but with the same old tactics. And it appears that such militants are still able to raise funds for their activities, as the rescue efforts in Murree show that the group has ample of resources available at its disposal.

LeT and other such Kashmiri jihadi groups have been softening their image using charity as a front, especially since the 2005 devastating earthquake in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, when such groups provided rescue, food, and shelter to thousands of Pakistanis affected by the natural calamity. But LeT does not do such acts for altruistic reasons alone. Rather it uses such opportunities to find recruits that it can dedicate to its terror activities in the region, especially to foment unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir and previously in Afghanistan also. Investigations on ground have proven that LeT finds vulnerable Pakistani families who are in need of aid, and by providing them help, it asks for youngsters in such families to be sent to serve the terror organization.

With the Murree tragedy, the group is active again and is using this incident to gain sympathy and subsequently recruits, which puts a serious question over Pakistani government’s claims that it is containing such terror groups.

With Pakistan’s review at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris coming up next month, will the international monetary watchdog take some concrete action against Pakistan for continuing to allow such terror groups to openly organize and fund their activities? It is time that FATF must go beyond lip-service and make Pakistan accountable for its continued support to terror.

EXCLUSIVE: Is Pakistan using Turkish and Chinese drones in Kashmir conflict?

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By Taha Siddiqui

Between the night of Saturday 2nd of October and Sunday 3rd October, in the southern part of the Kashmir valley nearby the village of Almore Mandal in Jammu district, the Indian police discovered a yellow polythene bag with a package containing weapons. Witnesses in the area said a drone had dropped the package, and the police suspect it came from the Pakistani border. But reports from the area unveil that this is not the first such case.

Since beginning of this year, local police have reportedly seized a large number of weapons and ammunition brought in by drones allegedly from Pakistan. 

A SHORT HISTORY OF DRONE WARFARE

Drone warfare against India from Pakistani soil was aimed for surviellance at first, Indian authorities say. But recently the interventions from across the Line of Control (LoC) (the cease-fire border between the two sides) have become bolder, with drones not only dropping packages but also carrying out attacks.

In late June two members of the Indian Air Force were injured when two bombs dropped by drones exploded at the military airport in Jammu region. This was the first such drone attack in this part of Kashmir region, which has been hit by numerous terrorist attacks in the last several decades.

According to South Asia Press research, in January 2021, the Jammu & Kashmir Police caught two persons while they were picking up a consignment of 16 grenades, two AK-74 rifles, nine AK magazines, a pistol and ammunitions, which were smuggled via drones, as per investigations.

In another case, the Punjab Police seized 11 grenades that were allegedly air-dropped from Pakistan in December 2020.

In October 2020, the Indian Army reportedly shot down a drone along the Line of Control.

A case of dropping arms was also reported when the Indian Border Security Force shot down a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) near Rathua village in the Hira Nagar sector of Jammu on June 20 last year. The drone was transporting an American-made M4 rifle, several grenades and ammunitions.

In yet another case, in the intervening night of June 3 and 4, 2020, a consignment of weapons was dropped through three drone sorties outside Dharamkot Randhawa in Punjab’s Gurdaspur. The consignment included two MP-9 guns, six pistols and counterfeit currency.

Owing to such cross border activity, the Indian Kashmir police chief recently acknowledged that despite the ceasefire agreement since February this year between Pakistan and India along the Line of Control and the International Border, some “Pakistani state actors” have been helping Pakistan-based terror groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir, by trying to maintain their supply chain of arms, ammunition and cash.

PAKISTAN’S DRONE TECHNOLOGY AMBITIONS

Pakistan had several requests for drone technology reportedly rejected by the United States, and went on to manufacture its own drones, with the help of Chinese and Turkish technology. Just this August, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) signed a contract with Pakistan’s National Engineering and Science Commission (NESCOM) to jointly produce Anka military drones. Also, China has become a major exporter of armed drones, with Pakistan being one of its 11 customers, with negotiations between the two countries starting in 2011.

It appears that Pakistan has started using this foreign drone technology as an alternative to sending militant proxies into the other side as it was facing immense pressure to crackdown on Kashmiri militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad at home. These groups regulalry infiltrated the border in the past, especially during cross-fire between the two sides, which Pakistani military sources say was a way to distract attention of the Indian side from finding out about such infilitrations. However, in recent years, such infiltrations have become harder due to improved border management from the Indian side. Also, given the international negative attention such groups were bringing to Pakistan, there were some cosmetic and performative judicial actions against these groups, thereby limiting their cross-border movements but they remain fairly operational domestically. And hence, Pakistan has opted now for deploying drones as a tactic to continue this conflict.

INCREASE IN VIOLENCE IN INDIAN KASHMIR LINKED TO INCREASED DRONE ACTIVITY?

Since the last few months, a new wave of violence and targeted killings has been observed in Indian Kashmir. This year 196 terror incidents took place till mid November, with October being one of the deadliest months in 2021.

On October 5, unidentified gunmen killed three civilians, then on October 7, militants shot dead two Hindu teachers in a school in Srinagar, and on October 11, five Indian soldiers were killed near the Line of Control.

From January 1st this year, about 200 people – mostly Indian security personnel and separatist militants – have died in the violences in Kashmir. Some 30 civilians, have been shot dead.

In response to the new warfare in Kashmir using drones, the Indian government is reportedly further upping its defences also by installing drone detection and countermeasures, such as radars, RF sensors, GPS spoofing and D4 systems.

Experts say that in due course, such drone warfare will become a constant irritant and a source of low-intensity attacks that India will have to face. The drone attacks on the Jammu air base strongly suggest that, even though Pakistan may have reined in its proxy forces, a new front may be opening up in the conflict over Kashmir, as Foreign Policy recently reported.

 

In Naya Pakistan, you can get a peace deal if you are a terrorist!

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Days after making a deal with the banned Islamist extremist group, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the Pakistani government has announced that it has made another peace deal with another banned Islamist terror group – the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

It is being reported that the Pakistani military has been behind these peace deals, as it wants to use such Islamists for its own purposes.

The first peace deal the government made a few weeks ago was with the TLP which became prominent in the aftermath of anti-government protest in 2017 in support of blapshemy laws. Later, the country’s top courts investigated and questioned the role of the Pakistani military in orchestrating these protests to undermine the then civilian government, which had a troubled relation with the Pakistan army and the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by the country’s generals in 1999.

The second and the most recent peace deal that the government has made is with the TTP which came into existence in 2007 after failure of successive peace deals with the then military government of General Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008. Since its inception 14 years ago, the terrorist group has unleashed a campaign of bloodshed and violence, killing thousands of Pakistani civilians, and soldiers. In 2014, the TTP carried out its deadliest attack in a school in Peshawar city killing 150 people, a majority of which were children, resulting in Pakistan Army to finally launch a full-fledge operation against the group. But it soon emerged that the military had allowed most of the militants to escape across the border in Afghanistan, and now with the acscension of the Afghan Taliban in power there, it is being reported pushed the Pakistani Taliban to make a peace deal with the Pakistani government.

At the same time other banned extremist groups are also demanding Pakistani state to unban them. For example, the banned anti-Shia political party known as Sipah e Sahaba (SSP) originally and which goes by the name of Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) today, is demanding that the government unban them. The party is responsible for violence against the Shia sect across Pakistan.

Such appeasement of and deal-making with Islamist groups has been a hallmark of the Pakistani state, and in past such peace deals have always failed, resulting in the terrorists coming out stronger on the other side, with the state’s writ weakening further. But Pakistan seems not to learn a lesson. Or is this what the Pakistani state want? To continue to be a terror factory because such groups serve the strategic purposes of the Pakistani military, that runs the country from behind the shadows.

The Pakistani military has been accused for pushing Islamist militant groups and ideology across its borders to disrupt peace in Afghanistan and Kashmir for several years now. And it has also been accused of using such militants at home to counter ethno-nationalist sentiments among the Baloch and the Pashtuns by Islamizing the population at large.

Alarmingly, Pakistan is making such peace deals with terrorists at a time when it is on a review with the international financial watchdog – the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in failing to stop terror-financing and money-laundering, and has remained on its grey-list for the last three years. Also most of such deals are being done behind closed doors with the country’s military’s involvement while the civilian leadership is being kept out of these vital negotiations, raising serious concerns of transparency and accountability.

Is Pakistan Islamizing Gilgit Baltistan? South Asia Press investigates

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FILE PHOTO

On the morning of July 14th 2021, a bus transporting workers through the mountainous  terrain of Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was attacked.The workers, mainly Chinese nationals, were travelling from their place of stay to the Dasu Hydropower project when their bus was intercepted by a car laden with explosives. 

In the ensuing suicide blast, nine Chinese nationals were killed along with a few Pakistani workers.

This attack, which is by far the deadliest in terms of Chinese lives lost, is just next door to the disputed region of Gilgit Baltistan (GB), an area through which much of China’s trade into Pakistan moves. 

GB is part of the ‘Kashmir territory’ which became a disputed piece of land following the India-Pakistan War of 1947, which was fought over the control over the region.

No group claimed responsibility for the bus attack but the modus operandi reflects it maybe the work of local Islamist militants. Many such extremist groups have proliferated in Gilgit Baltistan in recent years and the Pakistani state has chosen to ignore the matter and has even encouraged this radical Islamist expansionism. 

WHY THE ISLAMIST EXAPANSIONISM IN GILGIT BALTISTAN? 

The reason behind this rampant Islamization of GB is that the region has predominantly had a Shia majority, a sect of Islam that the Sunni State of Pakistan views suspiciously, since the 1979 Iranian revolution just next door. And to counter this Shia majority and its influence in the region, Pakistan has encouraged Sunni extremist groups to set up shop in the area. 

In 1974, the Pakistani government abolished the ‘State Subject Rule’ in GB which protected the local demography, but after its abolishment, Pakistanis from other parts of the country could settle in GB. This was one of the first political moves by the government in Islamabad as part of its Islamization process because most new settlers belonged to the Sunni sect, thereby reducing Shia influence which has gone from over 80% to just 39%, in the last 74 years. 

This illegal government-sponsored settlement scheme damaged the social fabric and provoked religious feuds that continue to simmer.

Gilgit Baltistan has witnessed several sectarian attacks aimed at the Shias in the past. The first attack can be traced back to the year 1988 when a large group of Sunni militants raided the land and massacred over 700 Shias. The Pakistan Army which was incharge of the country then,under the dictatorship of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, stood by silently as this bloody event unfolded in front of their eyes. 

In August 2012, as part of a ‘targeted genocide’, multiple gunmen dressed in military uniforms, forced 25 Shia passengers out of the buses they were travelling in and shot them point blank in GB.This was the work of Sunni militant organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. In April the same year, 20 people were killed in an attack in Chilas, Gilgit Baltistan. 

PERSECUTION OF SHIAS ACROSS PAKISTAN

The Shia population have been staring down the barrel of a gun, not just in GB but across the country. There are examples of numerous attacks against the Shias in various parts of Pakistan.

Just January this year, 11 Shia coal miners were abducted and shot dead in the Balochistan province by Sunni terrorists. Shia Muslims have often been targeted by Sunni terrorist groups over the years, one of the most brutal attacks happened in 2019 where a suicide attack in a busy marketplace in a Hazara housing society in Quetta, killed at least 21 people. In November 2012, a Talibani suicide bomber killed 23 in an attack targeted at a Shia procession in Rawalpindi. In a similar incident in Karachi, Taliban set off two bombs outside a Shia Mosque. And most recently, a bomb attack on a Shia Muharram procession, left 3 dead and scores injured in Bahawalnagar, Punjab. 

Since the turn of the century, there have been nearly 500 incidents of violence against the Shia population, which has led to over 2700 Shia deaths in the country.

A NEW TARGET FOR ISLAMIST MILITANTS: CHINA

But now it seems the same anti Shia militants are expanding their scope by going after international targets. And this can jeopardize the age-old strategic relations between Pakistan and China because the militants seem to have China as their new target. 

China appears to have taken due cognizance of the evolving situation and has expressed its concern through strongly worded statements such as the one given out by Chinese state owned media house, the Global Times which stated that China will not shy away from deploying its own troops in Pakistan, if Islamabad continues to fail in protecting Chinese nationals and interest in the region. 

Following the bus attack, Pakistan had tried to underplay the seriousness by calling it an accident arising from mechanical failure. This was met with stiff resistance by the Chinese who insisted that it was an attack and even sent its own team of investigators to look into the matter.  Thereby exposing the fault lines in the China-Pakistan relationship.  

Pakistan has created dedicated brigades for the protection of Chinese interests, namely the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Beijing has time and again extended its resources and its support to Islamabad in its fight against militancy of all kinds. It has 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. 

There has been a growing trend of attacks against Chinese nationals in Pakistan and there are multiple culprits. In April this year, there was a deadly blast at a hotel in Quetta where the Chinese ambassador was staying. Again in July this year, two Chinese nationals were shot at while travelling in a car in Karachi. Like these two incidents, many of the attacks aimed at the Chinese happen in the south of Pakistan where there is an ongoing insurgency by the Baloch population. But the cause of concern for the Chinese is that there is an increasing trend of attacks in the north as well, especially in GB, like the deadly bus bombing. 

It has become crucial for China and consequently for Pakistan, to have a tight control over GB. 

IS PAKISTAN PLAYING A DOUBLE GAME WITH CHINA?

In a move to impress its investment partner China, Islamabad has now decided to grant provincial status to GB, elevating it from an autonomous status and making it the fifth province of Pakistan. This move by Islamabad, seems to have Beijing’s backing as China stands to profit from this move. Now that GB is a province of Pakistan, China can bypass any issue of investment in a disputed region and also makes it easier for them to purchase land for its projects.

But the Sunni Islamist population that Pakistan has pumped in the region, shall become a spoiler for any Chinese advancements as there ought to be a spillover of Pakistan’s ulterior motives. 

But is Pakistan genuinely unable to contain militancy, which has been a result of its own doing? Or is it playing the same double game with China as it did with other international partners where it shakes hands with militants on one side and with international partners on the other. This double game that Islamabad is playing, will not only put the Chinese investment in Pakistan at risk, but such manipulations will also affect the local Shia population who already have felt the brunt of Pakistan’s policies. 

Banned Islamist extremist party in Pakistan wants to expel French ambassador following FATF meet in Paris. Coincidence? Not really.

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A banned Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) agreed to suspend its long march to Islamabad from Lahore on Sunday after the Pakistani government announced that it would consider expelling the French ambassador from Pakistan and drop charges against the party’s leader Saad Rizvi.

Rizvi was arrested in April this year during demonstrations against the publication in France of caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan at that time had refused to expel the French ambassador and instead banned the TLP under the country’s anti-terrorism laws.

“The issue of expelling the French ambassador will be taken to parliament for debate,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said, adding that the government would drop charges against TLP chief Saad Rizvi and release those arrested at protests in support of Rizvi.

In return, the TLP agreed to stop the march but said supporters would continue a sit-in at the town of Muridke — near Lahore — until the Pakistani government delivers its promises. It was unclear when Rivzi would be released.

Earlier, at least two policemen died in clashes in Lahore in a bid to stop the marchers, Pakistani authorities said, adding that at least a dozen officers were injured and several police vehicles were torched. Some police vehicles were also seen hijacked by the extremist group.

On the other hand, the TLP spokesperson Saddam Bukhari said “at least seven” of its supporters died in the clashes, and that hundreds more were injured in clashes with police.

The TLP gained prominence as a “blasphemy brigade” in Pakistan in 2017, in an anti government protest allegedly engineered by the Pakistani military to undermine the then civilian government of Nawaz Sharif, who now lives in exile in London.

Pakistan’s military establishment is known to have close ties to Islamist groups in the country and the region and is known for regularly using them to settle its scores with rivals at home and abroad.

These latest protests come at a time when civil-military relations in Pakistan are worsening due to a dispute between Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan with his army chief General Qamar Bajwa over the selection of the next chief for Pakistan’s spy agency the ISI. Some feel that there maybe a connection. Others have pointed out that it could be linked to the international monetary watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recent meet in Paris, France, where it was decided that Pakistan must continue to remain on a “grey-list” for not doing enough to prosecute known terror groups and their leaders residing in the country.

Pakistan is home to at least 12 US-designated ‘foreign terrorist organisations’, according to a new bipartisan US Congressional report.

Will the world silently watch as Pakistani military continues to play with fire, radicalizing its 200 million population in the name of Islam for its personal gains?

Pakistan fails to convince FATF to remove it from the grey-list over concerns of not prosecuting terrorists effectively.

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The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Thursday retained Pakistan in its grey list and urged the country to do more to investigate and prosecute senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups involved in terror financing.

FATF president Marcus Pleyer said after a three-day plenary meeting of the multilateral watchdog that Jordan, Mali and Turkey had been added to the list of countries under increased monitoring or grey list because of serious issues in their regimes to counter money laundering and terror financing.

“Pakistan remains under increased monitoring,” Pleyer told an online news briefing. “Pakistan has taken a number of important steps but needs to further demonstrate that investigations and prosecutions are being pursued against the senior leadership of UN-designated terror groups,” he said.

Pakistan was added to the grey list in mid-2018 and given a 27-point action plan by FATF to control money laundering and terror financing. In June this year, FATF asked Pakistan to implement another seven-point action plan to address serious deficiencies related to money laundering.

In Thursday’s briefing, the FATF President insisted Pakistan must deliver on the sole remaining item in the 2018 action plan by demonstrating that its investigations and prosecutions are targeting senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated groups.

FATF said in a statement that Pakistan had made significant progress in addressing its “strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies”.

The statement added: “Pakistan should continue to work to address its other strategically important AML/CFT deficiencies, namely by: (1) providing evidence that it actively seeks to enhance the impact of sanctions beyond its jurisdiction by nominating additional individuals and entities for designation at the UN; and (2) demonstrating an increase in ML investigations and prosecutions and that proceeds of crime continue to be restrained and confiscated in line with Pakistan’s risk profile, including working with foreign counterparts to trace, freeze, and confiscate assets.”

The FATF is expected to review Pakistan’s performance on its recommendations during the next plenary and working group meetings between February 27 and March 4, 2022.

Pakistan continues to appease terrorists – this time it is the Pakistani Taliban.

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In a recent television interview, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed that his government was in the process of negotiating with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a banned terrorist group credited with hundreds of terror attacks in Pakistan, killing thousands of Pakistani soldiers and civilians. According to government’s own estimates, more than 80,000 people have been killed in the last two decades due to terrorism, mainly carried out by the TTP. 

“We are in talks with some of the groups on a reconciliation process,” he said in the interview, given to a Turkish news channel. “There are different groups which form the TTP and some of them want to talk to our government for peace,” the PM further added.

The PM said he is expecting a deal to come out of the talks but again nothing is certain. He also pointed out that he sees dialogue as the only solution and that the government will “forgive” the militants if an agreement is reached.

Pakistan made such peace deals with militants in the past too but they all led to the violent groups being strengthened and challenging the writ of the government even more.

Major peace agreements in the past include the Shakai Agreement in 2004, Sararogha Agreement in 2005, Miranshah Agreement in 2006 and the Swat Peace Agreement in 2009. 

This latest revelation by PM Khan has left many baffled and enraged within and outside Pakistan, especially those among the Pashtun ethnic community, who have been directly affected by the bloodshed unleashed by the Pakistani Taliban since 9/11 when such terrorists were allowed to settle in the Pakistani tribal belt and adjacent areas by General Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator ruling Pakistan until the year 2008. 

Pakistan appears to have a terrible track record of offering peace deals to various terrorist groups. Even now, when the world seems to be questioning the Afghan Taliban and their occupation of Afghanistan, Islamabad has taken it upon itself to campaign for the hardline Islamist group and has been asking the world to accept their occupation as a legitimate takeover. 

Although the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban have different objectives, much of their ideology overlaps and they usually coexist in the same geographical space, and often provide help to each other. There are media reports that the Afghan Taliban are also involved in the negotiations between the TTP and the Pakistani government, but nothing has been officially confirmed. 

Pakistan is also known to host Kashmiri and anti-India militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, which continue to operate freely in Pakistan, by running religious schools and mosques across the country.

The state, mainly the Pakistani military, has also been promoting Sunni extremist and terror groups like Sipah e Sahaba (now known as Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jamat – ASWJ) to counter ethno-nationalism in Balochistan, and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to divide the vote of the mainstream political parties. 

And while Khan’s government is keen to appease the Pakistani Taliban, the group have denied having such talks and called on its fighters to continue their attacks. 

“Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has never announced a ceasefire. The TTP fighters should continue their attacks wherever they are,” TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khurasani said in a statement, released following Khan’s revelations. The group’s attacks have also seen an upsurge in the recent year, with reports emerging that they have once again started to regroup in the Pakistani tribal belt.

‘The authority to appoint DG ISI rests with the PM’ announces the government in a major rebuttal to the Pakistan Army. Is PM Khan’s government doomed?

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Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has categorically announced that the appointment of Director General (DG) for the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, thereby effectively rejecting the announcement issued by Pakistani military a few days ago, in which the military had announced a new chief for the spy agency.

“The appointment of the new DG ISI will be done as per the rules and regulations… The authority [to appoint a new DG ISI] rests with the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” the minister told a press briefing earlier today. 

On 6th October, Pakistan’s military media wing the Inter-Services Public relations (ISPR) had announced a major reshuffle with several transfers and new postings including the appointment of Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum as the new DG ISI. He was to replace Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, who was made Peshawar Corps Commander. However, the Prime Minister office, which normally endorses such appointments with an official notification remained silent. 

According to media reports, behind closed doors, Prime Minister Imran Khan told the military chief General Qamar Bajwa that he was not on board with the decision to change the DG ISI which has led to a standoff between the civilian and military leadership. The tussle between the two sides publicly surfaced the first time during the recent National Security Committee meeting, which was attended by Gen. Hameed, as the DG ISI, despite being already transferred out by the military announcement.

This appears to be the first public dispute between Bajwa and Khan, who was brought into power in 2018 with the backing of the military. 

According to insiders, Khan credits Hameed with his victory in office and wants him to continue in the position so that he can secure another term for Khan when general elections take place in 2023. There are also speculations that Khan wants to elevate him to become the army chief next year, when Bajwa finishes his extended tenure in office. However, some argue that with the new law passed by the Pakistani parliament to allow indefinite extensions in the tenure of the army chiefs, it is possible that Bajwa may want to remain in office, and for that reason, he wants a team around him that he can trust, especially within the ISI, and therefore has replaced Hameed with Anjum, so as to strengthen his own position as army chief.

These civil-military tensions come at a time when Pakistan is facing multiple challenges at home and abroad. Inflation has sky-rocketed in the country, touching almost 11%. And then there is the issue of Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan, which Pakistan is also being blamed for, given it provided refuge for the terror group for the last two decades. 

In the past, whenever such civil-military tensions have surfaced, the army, which has ruled Pakistan directly for half of its existence, has been able to send the civilian government home. And such a track record should worry Khan, who is in office with the help of the military, and lacks genuine political support in the country. 

Pakistani military officials & their families exposed in Pandora Papers puts the military-backed government of Imran Khan in a fix

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The names of at least eight former Pakistani military officials and their family members have been named in the latest set of documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). 

The ICIJ released what is being dubbed as the ‘Pandora Papers’ on Sunday night outlining the names of powerful politicians, business tycoons and other individuals. who  have off-shore investments. The Pakistani military officials who have been named are joined by over 700 other Pakistani nationals who have also made to the list. 

Besides the Pakistani military officials, prominent Pakistanis including cabinet members and key allies of Prime Minister Imran Khan along with top businessmen, are among those 700 named in these leaked papers. 

Revealing the transactions by retired Pakistani military officials, the Pandora Papers show that in 2007, the wife of Lieutenant-General Shafaat Ullah Khan, a prominent general and key ally of then Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf, acquired a USD $1.2m apartment through an offshore transaction.

Major-General Nusrat Naeem, a former director-general of counter-intelligence at the ISI, Pakistan’s premier spy agency, owned a company in the British Virgin Islands that was registered in 2009, shortly after he retired.

Lt. Colonel Raja Nadir Pervez, a retired army official and a former government minister, owned a British Virgin Islands registered company that has been involved in major transactions “in machinery and related businesses” to India, Thailand, Russia and China.

Other military officials include the former Pakistan Air Force chief Abbas Khattak, retired Lt Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak, retired Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal Muzaffarr, retired Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool and retired Lt Gen Tanvir Tahir. Among prominent cabinet ministers, Pakistan’s current finance minister, Shaukat Tarin has also been named with Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi.

The Pakistani elite, including  military officials (who are considered at the top of the hierarchy) have often been accused of usurping much of the country’s wealth. According to a recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), nearly $17.4 billion or roughly 6% of Pakistan’s GDP is enjoyed by a group of selected individuals.

The Pandora papers include 11.9 million documents which have exposed the “financial secrecy” of world leaders and others in the biggest ever leak so far. This massive reporting effort brought together more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries across the globe, including Pakistan.

PM Imran Khan, who ran his election platform on the promise of eradicating corruption, has found himself in the thick of it. He has constituted a government committee to look into the Pandora leaks but the political opposition has called it a sham, asking to involve more independent members to the committee, and not those that have close ties to the government given many of his cabinet members and ministers have been named. 

International cricket abandons Pakistan as the country continues to support terror groups

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The English Cricket Board announced last week that it has cancelled the tour of its men and women teams to Pakistan, citing security concerns. The English follow the footsteps of the New Zealand team which abandoned its series in Pakistan on the same day it was supposed to play, again citing security concerns. 

These are worrying signs for Pakistan as it once again finds itself in murky waters.

For close to a decade, Pakistan became a ‘no-go zone’ for international cricket following the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus at Lahore in 2009. It is once again stepping into another episode of international isolation because of the worsening security situation in the country.

In the last few years itself, there has been a rise in terrorist related incidents. From 2019 to 2020, there has been a spike of 11% in the number of terror attacks. This trend has carried on from 2020 to 2021 with a 27% increase, as per data compiled by independent observers. 

Even China has come under the cross-hairs of these terrorist groups with attacks against Chinese nationals and interest also on the rise. The latest such attack was in Khyber Pakthunkhwa where a bus carrying Chinese engineers was bombed, killing nine Chinese citizens. This is considered to be one of the deadliest attacks targeting the Chinese in Pakistan.

Who is responsible?

Pakistan has been a victim of terror for long, with thousands of civilian lives lost. The government continues to point to a “foreign hand” behind these attacks, but security experts disagree, citing Pakistan’s hobnobbing with certain terror groups while cracking down on others as a reason for the country’s terror woes.

Pakistan continues to not have a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards terrorism. It has repeatedly chosen to look away with respect to various terror outfits using Pakistani soil as a launchpad for its attacks in the region, as long as their targets are beyond Pakistani soil. Islamabad continues to extend its overt support to many of these groups, like the ones operating against India in Kashmir and also the Afghan Taliban, who lived in Pakistan for the last many years before moving back to Afghanistan after the occupation of the country by the terror group. 

Facing international scrutiny, Pakistan has claimed to take action against some of these terror groups but it is cosmetic and performative, like in the case of Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), who continues to live at his residence despite being convicted, and continues to command the LeT.

Such terror groups help Pakistan in its strategic interventions of subverting peace in Kashmir and countering Afghan nationalism that Islamabad views as a threat to its unity. 

It has recently been lobbying internationally asking the Western nations to recognize the Afghan Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan as a legitimate takeover, despite widespread reports of human rights abuses by the terror group, which has started to target women, minorities and other vulnerable groups in the country.

The good and the bad terrorists

While Pakistan’s support has helped such terror groups to attain power, these very groups also help anti-Pakistan militants by providing them refuge, logistics and other material and non material support, given they have the same Islamist leanings. And hence, as Pakistan continues to ignore those terrorists it considers good as they serve its interests, it ends up being a victim of those terrorists that it deems bad, because most of such groups share geographical, and ideological space with each other.

Now with the recent abandonment of international cricket tours, it appears Pakistan is once again going down the path of isolation due to its own strategic follies. Will this prompt Pakistan to take some real, definitive measures against all terror groups without any distinctions? Or will the world continue to see Islamabad play the blame-game where it takes no responsibility?