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The dirty legacy of General Bajwa – one of Pakistan’s most controversial army chief who ended up dividing the military

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When General Qamar Javed Bajwa became Pakistan’s most powerful man on November 29, 2016, he was taking over the army amidst a religious campaign against him and in favor of his predecessor General Raheel Sharif, to stay as the army chief.

The 62-year-old official, in charge of the country’s most powerful post for six years will step down on November 29. Last Thursday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appointed Lieutenant General Asim Munir, a former spy chief, as Bajwa’s successor.

General Bajwa is credited to be the man who institutionalized the current model of governance in Pakistan – called the “hybrid regime” where the military remains in control of the country behind shadows but helps install their person of choice as the Prime Minister.

The first experiment that Bajwa orchestrated in this regard failed miserably with Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, who turned against the military after his ouster as the Pakistani Prime Minister earlier this year.

The second experiment in this regard continues today but is yet to bear any results, given Pakistan’s economy is in trouble and the political instability in the country is at an all time high.

Khan and Bajwa had a fall out because of their disagreement last year over a key position in the military – the head of the powerful intelligence service – the ISI. Khan wanted his recommendation to continue as the ISI chief, but Bajwa eventually prevailed, and subsequently Khan was sent packing home earlier this year in a no-confidence motion by the Pakistani parliamentarians. But the dispute between Khan and Bajwa and Khan’s removal from office has led to one of the most vocal campaigns against the Pakistani military to date, leading to a dramatic decline in the army’s reputation across the country.

In his farewell speech last week, Bajwa acknowledged that the military has meddled in political matters for which it has been severely criticised.

“In my opinion, the reason for this is the constant meddling by the army in politics for the last 70 years, which is unconstitutional,” he said. “That is why, since February last year, the military has decided they will not interfere in any political matter.”

According to international media – Bajwa’s abiding legacy will be the “internal rifts” within the army, which has been viewed as the most disciplined institution in the country.

“General Bajwa miscalculated and underestimated the cracks within his own establishment. He acted too late and also perhaps does not seem to have the stomach to ‘quash’ the rebellion within,” said Maria Rashid, the author of a book on Pakistan’s military, Dying to Serve: Militarism, Affect, and the Politics of Sacrifice in the Pakistan Army, in an interview to Al Jazeera English website.

“For the first time perhaps, the cracks within the military, even though they existed before, are being filtered through the concerns of a mainstream political party, the PTI,” Rashid told Al Jazeera, refering to Khan’s party.

Bajwa’s 6 year tenure also saw the worst crackdown against media freedoms, with Pakistani journalism dying a slow death. Today, the country’s media is effectively micro-managed and controlled by the ISPR – the military’s media wing, and as per RSF: “Pakistan is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, with three to four murders each year that are often linked to cases of corruption or illegal trafficking and which go completely unpunished. Any journalist who crosses the red lines dictated by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) – an intelligence agency offshoot – is liable to be the target of in-depth surveillance that could lead to abduction and detention for varying lengths of time in the state’s prisons or less official jails. Furthermore, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s leading military intelligence agency, is prepared to silence any critic once and for all.”

Another legacy of Bajwa’s tenure is the resurgence of the Pakistani Islamist and militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban who were offered a peace deal recently, and the rise of the Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) – an Islamist group that uses blasphemy as a tool to further its own extremist agenda. TLP has been involved in radicalizing Pakistanis beyond the country’s borders with blasphemy related attacks by Pakistanis in Europe and in neighboring India in recent years.

However, perhaps the most damning legacy of Bajwa is an investigative report that came out just a few days before his retirement by an exiled Pakistani journalist Ahmad Noorani, who in  a publication called FactFocus has revealed how the outgoing army chief’s family made billions of dollars in property and wealth during his 6 year tenure. The journalist published the tax records of his close family members and how the assets grew manifold since Bajwa’s appointment as chief. The report has led to the current Pakistani government initiating an inquiry into the leak but not denying the contents of the investigation.

Weeks after Pakistan’s exit from FATF grey list, terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad acquires land near its HQ in Bahawalpur: Report

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Source: The Print

Pakistan continues to shelter terrorist groups, with renewed fervour after exiting the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list earlier this year.

A report by the well known newspaper The Print says that soon after Pakistan exited the ‘grey list’ of the FATF – terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) began a large-scale construction work near its headquarter in Bahawalpur.

The Print, citing maps, videos and photographs, said the area was acquired by the terrorist group in 2022 itself and it houses a seminary that teaches several hundred children. The process of acquisition of the land began in 2008.

The purchaser of the land is Abdul Rauf Asghar aka Abdul Rauf Azhar aka Rauf Ashgar. Abdul Rauf Azhar, is currently the deputy chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), but escaped the global terrorist tag after China placed a technical hold on the proposal in August against a India and the US joint bid.

Pakistani authorities have consistently claimed that the seminary has no link with the terrorist group that plotted and carried out the Pulwama blast in 2019 and the attacks on the Indian Parliament in 2001 and was also the main orchestrator of the attacks on Pathankot Air Base in 2016. The JeM also claimed responsibility for killing three police personnel near Srinagar’s Pantha Chowk in December 2021.

Pakistan has arrested 26/11 perpetrator Sajid Mir, urged the Taliban to locate Masood Azhar and also arrested several members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba on terrorism-related charges. These were measures undertaken to exit the FATF list and were taken ahead of the FATF team’s visit to Pakistan in August.

However, a separate report by local media said that Mir is in custody of the Pakistani deep state in a guest house.

The report in Print further said that JeM maintains eight training camps in Nangarhar of which eight remain in control of the Taliban.

Source: The Print, News18

Pakistan’s balancing act between China and the West exposes its duplicity once again – ANALYSIS

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Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif landed in China on Tuesday for a two-day official visit at the country’s Premier Li Keqiang’s invitation. This is his first trip to the neighboring country since assuming office in April this year. The country’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, among other Pakistani officials are part of the delegation accompanying the PM.

Ahead of his departure, Sharif posted on the social media site Twitter saying: “Honored to be among the first few leaders to have been invited after the historic 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. At a time when the world is grappling with multiple challenges, Pakistan and China stand together as friends and partners.”

The prime minister further said in his tweet that discussions with the Chinese leadership would focus on the “revitalisation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) among many other things”.

At a time of drastic global geopolitical realignments, Sharif’s visit to China is being closely watched by the West, due to Islamabad’s commitment to different international economic institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, from whom Pakistan is seeking financial assistance and which view China as an exploitative power.

It is well-known that the Chinese economic ambitions are expansionist. As records show, strategic infrastructure projects are taken up globally in an attempt to set up major debt traps for countries. Chinese financial assistance in the form of “easy loans” have already destabilized countries like Sri Lanka, Laos and Mongolia. But Pakistan appears to push ahead making financial and economic deals with China that are neither transparent, nor do they seem to benefit the country. 

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), launched in April 2015 was supposed to turn around Pakistan’s economy. Despite all such rhetoric in public from the leadership in both countries that it will lift ordinary Pakistanis from poverty, the CPEC is yet to deliver on its promises. Experts say that Chinese projects are benefiting only a handful of the elite of the country, and this perception further took root when Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician came to power. Khan had already questioned the transparency of the CPEC, and once in power, he created a CPEC Authority, which added a bureaucratic layer, slowing down the CPEC projects further.

On the other hand, in recent years, Islamabad’s relationship with the West, and primarily with Washington has also been under pressure, especially since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. This relationship worsened even further since the downfall of Imran Khan’s government this year, as he accused the US of orchestrating his ouster from power. 

Since then, an attempt has been made to improve the ties between the two countries by PM Sharif and Pakistan’s military chief General Qamar Bajwa, who dominates the country’s foreign policy. They made official visits to the US recently, following which there were speculations about improvement in ties between the two countries.

However, it appears that Islamabad is also continuing to strengthen its relationship with China – a rival of the US, which could create complications for Pakistan going forward as it may need to choose a side. In fact, Pakistan’s balancing act between the West and China has been quite dubious, with the country giving assurance to both sides of commitment to their respective interests in the region. But for how long will Pakistan continue to fool the West and China – it is a question that policy makers in Washington and Beijing must ask themselves.

Who killed Arshad Sharif? 5 questions that raise suspicions of the involvement of powers beyond the Kenyan police.

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The brutal assassination of Arshad Sharif, a Pakistani journalist in exile, at the hands of the Kenyan police has raised some serious questions about the killing, especially since he was on the run from Pakistan after receiving threats from the Pakistani military, and Pakistan’s former human rights minister Shireen Mazari had alluded to the media that powerful institutions (read Pakistan Army) had put out head money and wanted him dead. There are several questions that we must ask, and at South Asia Press, we thought of compiling those queries as below:

  1. Who is Khurram Ahmed – the person driving the vehicle Arshad Sharif was in? As per Kenyan police, Khurram Ahmed claimed to be the brother of Arshad Sharif, which is not true. In fact, he is the brother of Waqar Ahmed, who runs a shooting range in the area. The business claims to be the major site for shooting practice by Kenyan security officials. Following the fatal shooting that killed Sharif, Ahmed has completely disappeared from the scene, and has not given any statements to the press, raising speculations of his linkages to the Kenyan police.
  2. The Kenyan police says that they were looking for a vehicle that had been stolen with a child inside it. Would the police fire at a vehicle knowing there are children inside it? Also, as per local media, the police did not allow journalists to visit the site of the incident and have not clarified how they sprayed bullets on the vehicle and yet did not even touch the driver who escaped unharmed and only got Arshad Sharif, the passenger, who had bullet lodged into his head from behind, and it exited from the front. Was there any autopsy done to determine the distance from where the bullet was fired from? Why does the fatal shot that killed Arshad Sharif sound like he was executed rather than a victim of a bullet that was not aimed for him but for stopping the car?
  3. Who lured Arshad Sharif to come to Kenya, a country known for its lawlessness and extra judicial killings by the police? Sharif had escaped to Dubai via Peshawar some months ago after receiving threats. But in Dubai, he was being harassed and told he will be deported back to Pakistan where he was also facing a case of sedition for maligning the Pakistani military in a TV show. He reportedly had applied for a visa to the United States but was rejected. He also wanted to go the UK but it is unclear if he was able to. In such circumstances, was he forced to make a decision to go to Kenya to so-called friends who had other plans for him?
  4. Who had paid head money for killing Arshad Sharif when he was in Pakistan and why did they want to kill him? As claimed by former Pakistani minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, the head money was paid to a terror group. It is a well-known fact that Pakistani terror groups have global connections. Is there some linkage between those who were paid in Pakistan and those who orchestrated his killing in Kenya?
  5. Former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf has said that Pakistan should go after its dissidents abroad in a television interview a few years ago. He laughingly told the journalist interviewing him that around the world, dissidents in exile are killed by the state, and Pakistan should follow their steps. The mysterious deaths of activist Karima Baloch in Canada and journalist Sajid Husain in Sweden in the year 2020 also raise questions about Pakistan’s involvement in killing its dissidents abroad. But most importantly, the case of Waqas Goraya, whose Pakistani origin would-be assassin was arrested by British police last year and convicted by the UK courts this year is a clear indication that the Pakistani state is involved in killing or attempting to kill Pakistani dissidents abroad. 

As Pakistani government sets up a judicial commission to probe the killing of Arshad Sharif, it is most important that any investigations must look into the context and history of such assassinations, threats and attacks against Pakistani dissidents in exile. 

7 questions the US must ask Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa as he visits America

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By South Asia Press Team

The Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa is on a 5-day official visit to the United States at the invitation of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, where he is scheduled to hold a series of meetings with senior US officials and, as well as visit the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Pentagon and Langley. Although the military’s media wing has kept the General’s itinerary and agenda guarded, his warm reception by the Biden administration had renewed speculations on the restoration of US-Pakistan security relations. On this occasion,  we at South Asia Press will like to send a memorandum of questions that the US government, military and other officials should pose in front of General Bajwa, one of Pakistan’s most controversial army chief, known for his non-democratic interventions:

Question # 1: Why are Pakistani jihadis resurfacing once again in flood-hit regions of Pakistan?

In a recent investigation by South Asia Press (SAP), we revealed how the ongoing flood situation has facilitated the return of Islamist terrorist organizations, such as the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, in nearly all regions of the country.  On the surface, these terrorists want to serve the flood-affected people, but in reality, as SAP found out, they are using this opportunity to proselytize jihadi ideology and reestablish bases of support in the country. Not only that, these terror groups are also collecting funds, despite assurances from Pakistan to the international watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that terror-financing is no more allowed in the country. It is pertinent to mention here the long history of Pakistan’s armed forces and intelligence services of being involved in the formation of jihadi groups, as well as their attempts to utilize militant groups for their so-called strategic agendas – in Afghanistan, India, Kashmir and even against the separatist movement in Balochistan. 

Question #2: Will the Pakistani Military stop interfering in the country’s democratic progress?

The Pakistan Army is being accused of orchestrating a move against the last government of Imran Khan this year and before that meddling in the 2018 elections in favor of Khan, and getting Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister disqualified for life from contesting elections with fabricated charges, in collusion with the Pakistani judiciary.

General Bajwa is especially notorious in this regard as it is widely known in Pakistan that he sought an extension to his three year stipulated tenure as army chief and arm-twisted the civilian leadership to pass a law so that he could continue as the chief for another term. Bajwa who cherry-picked Khan to become the Prime Minister in 2018 did so by not only rigging the elections on the day of the vote but also using the military power to attack political opponents of Khan.

The Pakistan Armed Forces have a long history of direct and indirect control in the country since its creation in 1947, and the military leadership must be questioned over these practices that lead to a regression in the democratic process.

Question # 3: Can the Pakistani military be held accountable for the rampant human rights abuses in Balochistan?

The Baloch separatist movement in south-western Pakistan, is a well known insurgency, as old as Pakistan itself, with several secret and unannounced military operations by Pakistan’s Armed Forces in the region. The international advocacy group Human Rights Watch has documented the conduct of military atrocities, including  extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances targeting not only insurgents but innocent Baloch too. The battered bodies of Baloch missing persons are found on a daily basis in Balochistan. The military is also known to outsource military operations to private militias or “death squads”, revealed by an in-depth investigation by South Asia Press. Furthermore, representatives of the Baloch Human Rights Council have reported the exploitation of natural resources in the region, while the local population remains extremely poor. Now with the advent of Chinese interests in the area, it is being reported that the Baloch are being displaced from their own lands to make space for Chinese projects, that will only benefit the elites of the two countries.

Question #4: When will the Pakistani military close its secret military prisons that are spread throughout Pakistan? 

The Pakistani Army operates secret military tribunals and internment centers all throughout Pakistan, including 43 secretive detention centres just in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which have become the sites of starvation, torture, and extrajudicial executions of insurgents, alleged terrorists, their sympathizers, human rights defenders, and anyone who criticizes the military’s oversized presence and role in the country. 

There have been several cases of mysterious deaths being reported at these internment centers but no one has been held accountable.

Most recently, an Amnesty International report has documented the extrajudicial trial by the Pakistani military of a well-known activist Idris Khattak on charges of espionage, who had previously been a victim of enforced disappearance.

Question # 5 Why is Pakistani military best friends with the Afghan Taliban?

The Pakistani military is known for its close ties with the Afghan Taliban and one of the first official visitors after the fall of Kabul was General Faiz Hameed, the chief of Pakistan’s intel agency the ISI. He visited the Afghan capital right after the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan in August 2021. This visit led to the development of bilateral relations between the two countries, most prominently through coal exports and the implementation of infrastructure projects. Furthermore, Pakistan has also become one of the key promoters of the Afghan Taliban on the global front, appealing for the reestablishment of their relations with the international community, including the United States.

Question # 6: Can the Pakistani military stop censoring the local and international media operating in the country? 

During Imran Khan’s four-year reign as prime minister, the Pakistani military was involved in several press freedom violations and attempts to interfere in the media, including harassment of journalists, physical attacks, shooting attacks, kidnappings, threats against journalists living abroad, blocking of broadcast signals and direct censorship of traditional media, video platforms and social media, according to a recent update by the Paris-based international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “There has been no let-up in the harassment of journalists since Khan’s replacement by Sharif as prime minister – quite the contrary,” reports RSF. “Arsalan Khan, an independent commentator who worked for Geo News TV for many years, was kidnapped from his home in the southern city of Karachi on 24 June,” the report adds.

Pakistan currently ranks an alarming 157 out of 180 in the media freedom index by RSF and this media clampdown is facilitated by draconian laws such as the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Act 2021 and the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016, including its proposed 2022 amendments

According to RSF, Pakistani military regularly abducts journalists to intimidate them. RSF has documented several such cases in the past, for example, against the Express Tribune editor Bilal Farooqui in September 2020, court reporter Matiullah Jan in July 2020, and Taha Siddiqui, editor in chief of South Asia Press, who narrowly escaped a kidnapping and assassination attempt in 2018 and now lives in self-imposed exile in France.

“The many cases of harassment that RSF has registered in the past two months [since April 2022] have one thing in common – all the journalists concerned had, in one way or another, criticised the army’s role in Pakistani politics,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. 

“It is clear from the data that the armed forces have launched a major campaign to intimidate critical journalists. This kind of interference, which is absolutely intolerable, must stop at once or else the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, will be held directly responsible for the decline in press freedom in Pakistan,” the RSF representative adds.

Question #7: Why has there been an increase in cases of Transnational Repression under General Bajwa’s tenure as Pakistan army chief?

In the last five years under General Bajwa as army chief, there have been several cases of transnational repression in the West. The case of Waqas Goraya, a Pakistani social media activist living in self-imposed exile in Netherlands is the most recent of these incidents. Goraya had to go underground after the Dutch authorities tipped him off about an assassination plot against him. In a joint operation between the Dutch and British authorities, the would-be assassin of Goraya, Gohir Khan, a Pakistani origin British national was arrested and convicted to life by the UK courts. Police investigations reveal Khan had a handler in Pakistan who has disappeared since the plot got exposed. Preceding to this assassination attempt, several Pakistani dissidents have been contacted in recent years by foreign intelligence agencies to tell them of an assassination plot against them. Cases include prominent scholars like Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, as reported by the Guardian this year, and of Mr. Siddiqui, editor-in-chief South Asia Press. 

There are also questions over the two mysterious deaths of Pakistani exiled activists from Balochistan. The first happened in April 2020, in Sweden where Sajid Hussain went missing for some weeks and then was found dead in a river, and the second in December 2020 when Karima Baloch, another Baloch origin individual in exile in Canada was found dead in a lake after briefly going missing. 

It is pertinent to note here that Pakistan’s last military Dictator General Pervez Musharraf had called for carrying out assassinations of Pakistani dissidents globally in an interview to a local journalist a few years ago.

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We at South Asia Press hope that the US government officials meeting with Pakistan army chief General Bajwa this week question him and hold him accountable for the abusive practices of Pakistan army under his command. The US must ensure that any talk of future partnership between Pakistan and the US is conditional to the Pakistani military stopping its oppression against its own people at home and abroad.

“Taliban, Pakistan Army and the heroin networks” – NATO’s latest investigation reveals how Afghanistan and Pakistan are involved in narco trade.

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The illegal narcotics trade constitutes one of the main financial sources of the insurgency groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but, more importantly, it feeds narco-terror, globally. The American withdrawal in 2021 means that the countries of the region and beyond will have to play a greater role in the management of their borders and confront questions about their capacity to stop potentially destabilising trends emerging from Afghanistan, as per a new report published by the NATO Defence Education Enhancement Program (DEEP).

According to this 2022 report titled “Narco-Insecurity, Inc., the convergence of Pakistan and Afghanistan narco-trade”, such trade was made possible with the help of Pakistan’s military spy agency the ISI, who launched several covert operations with sympathetic jihadist groups, all of whom relied heavily on narcotics trafficking to fund their operations, expanding the trafficking route even further through their regions, launching the Balkan, northern, and southern routes of the global narco-trafficking pipeline.

The central aim of this NATO academic report written by David R. Winston is to analyse the growth of the narcotics industry stemming from Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and the nexus that has formed between narcotics trafficking and terrorism/extremism. The Taliban have long used narcotics as their main source of revenue. Without the poppy crop, they may never have grown to be the massive organisation that they are today that was capable of toppling the Ghani government, as per the writer. Through examining the history of narcotics and its connection to terrorist groups, this report identifies how the world fell down this perilous path, and offers possible solutions to deal with this new dynamic.

The most substantial networks mentioned in the report is the Haqqani network, a criminal enterprise situated along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border that was founded on smuggling. The Pakistani military saw the Haqqani network as a key ally, given their location and alliances with numerous jihadist groups, and began investing in their bases while using them as a proxy for engagement with other non-state actors. The prominence of the Haqqani network within the Taliban’s current leadership is being witnessed while there is uncertainty as to who may succeed after Sirajuddin Haqqani in the coming years, which can be a further alarming development.

With the control of Afghanistan by the Taliban last year, the terror group has acquired control over the opium cultivation in the country.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) November 2021 Report, Afghanistan accounted for around 85 percent of global opium production in the year 2020 and supplied to approximately 80 percent of the world’s opium consumers. The total value of opiates (opium, morphine, and heroin) was 9 per cent to 14 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. Methamphetamine and cannabis are two other major drugs which have expanded production in Afghanistan in recent years.

The Western withdrawal that precipitated the swift takeover by the Taliban, has led to increasing instability such as internal conflict within the Taliban and growing local opposition to the Taliban, fueling further growth of narcotics trafficking.

While the Taliban publicly states they will not traffic narcotics, that depends on whether or not they would make enough from other revenue sources to sustain the country, and whether they believe trafficking will impact their international standing enough to threaten their control of the country, according to the Afghan Diaspora Network (ADN).

With Afghanistan facing its worst humanitarian crisis due to economic collapse and climate change, the Taliban would not want to ban the drug which has funded its insurgency against the US and NATO-sponsored previous Afghan government, ADN adds in its latest research report.

“The Taliban needs the drug money to keep control over their cadres. Although drug production and consumption are un-Islamic, in their previous regime the Taliban did not ban the production and trading of opium cultivation for the longest time. The drug money has also played an important role in the Taliban’s rise to power for the second time and it would not want to jeopardise it,” the ADN says.

With Pakistan sharing 2400 kilometres of largely porous border with Afghanistan, it has served as a transit corridor for drug traffickers. According to independent estimates, more than 40% of Afghan drugs transit Pakistan before they reach the international markets.

Tonnes of opiates and meth are trafficked from Afghanistan to the Torkham border crossing, Ghulam Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, from where they are sent to Lahore and Faisalabad, reassembled into huge consignments.

Pakistan’s role in drug proliferation is validated by a number of arrests of its nationals in other countries on charges of drug trafficking. Shahbaz Khan, a Pakistani national, was the leader of a drug trafficking organization (the “DTO”) based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which produced and distributed massive quantities of narcotics around the world. He was arrested by Liberian authorities in December 2016 and later deported to the United States, where in 2019 he was sentenced to 15 years for conspiring and attempting to import heroin into the U.S.

In May 2017, officials for the U.K.’s Border Force impounded a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Islamabad at London’s Heathrow airport. Later, the National Crime Agency said that a quantity of heroin had been found hidden in different panels of the plane.

In March 2018, two members of the cabin crew of a PIA flight, travelling on an Islamabad-Paris flight (PK-749), were caught smuggling narcotics on board the flight.

There is also the famous case of Mir Yaqub Bizenjo who appeared on a White House list of the world’s four leading drug barons in 2009.

The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a notice under Obama administration saying that he operated from Balochistan, a Pakistani province sharing borders with Afghanistan and sends his durgs consignments out of Jiwani, Turbat and Gwadar.

In 2002, Mr Bizenjo vowed to work for the success of General Musharraf through front-page ads in newspapers. He is currently involved in real estate projects with the Pakistani military, and his family is part of the Pakistani parliament, according to a previous South Asia Press investigation.

It is reported that Pakistan has established smuggling networks over the last years into India – and especially within the Kashmir valley – so as to ensure a steady supply of narcotics and weapons. The recurring, major terrorist attacks, for example in Uri and Pulwama, and the subsequently increased security measures by the Indian armed forces led to the suspension of traditional smuggling routes in the area and forced the Pakistani to use other land-based trafficking options through Punjab and Gujarat. Also the sea-based smuggling gained significance for Islamabad’s crime-terror nexus. An increasing number of exposed consignments on the India–Pakistan border containing narcotics as well as arms and ammunition were seized by the Border Security Force/BSF, particularly in Punjab. This indicates expanding activities by terrorists and drug traders, in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Moreover, it points to Pakistan’s ‘larger’ plans to carry out disruptive activities in India.

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had once revealed how the Pakistani security establishment sells heroin to pay for the country’s covert military operations. This was reported in 1994, in an interview Sharif gave to The Washington Post.

Af-Pak Heroin networks, drug lords and their nexus with the Taliban and Pakistani military present a principal impediment to security, state-building, and democratic governance in Afghanistan and the region. Beyond the region, Afghan-originated drugs create enormous challenges for international security by financing terrorism, instigating corruption, and creating health emergencies. It is time to put an end to such “narco” trade originating from Afghanistan and supported by Pakistan.

China comes in defence of a Pakistani terrorist (involved with Mumbai attacks 2008) at the UN: Report

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China has put on hold a proposal at the United Nations (UN) to blacklist the main handler of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks as a global terrorist. The proposal to blacklist Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Sajid Mir was moved by the US and co-sponsored by India, according to several media sources.

China blocked the move to designate Sajid Mir as a global terrorist at the 1267 Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

The proposal moved by the US had called to subject Mir to assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo. Mir has a bounty of $5 million placed on his head by the US.

Pakistan, which has been trying to get off the ‘grey list’ of the Financial Action Task Force (FAFT), had in June sentenced Sajid Mir to 15 years in jail in a terror-funding case.

However, Pakistan is yet to book him for his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks.

China has been putting a hold on all the proposals this year to blacklist Pakistan-based terrorists. Last month, a technical hold was placed on a US-backed proposal to blacklist Abdul Rauf Azhar, the brother of Jaish-e Mohammed (JEM) chief Masood Azhar and a senior leader of the Pakistan-based terror organisation.

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#EXCLUSIVE: Pakistan’s cosmetic steps to fool FATF exposed.

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The international Paris-based watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) just concluded its on-site visit to Pakistan which went on from August 29th to September 3rd, 2022.

The FATF team visited the country to verify the claims made by Pakistan on addressing the action points given by the FATF related to “Terror Financing and Money Laundering”. At the conclusion of the plenary meeting which happened in Berlin from June 12th-17th, the FATF had announced that Pakistan has met all 34 action items and added that the country will be removed from the ‘grey list’ if it successfully passes the on-site visit.

The report of this recent on-site visit will be placed in FATF’s October Plenary session in Paris which will decide whether Pakistan remains in the grey-list or is moved out.

PAKISTAN BACK TO SQUARE ONE?

The grey listing has forced Islamabad to take action against, albeit in limited sense, some of the UN designated terrorist however with possibility of getting out from the grey list now, Pakistan seems to be already heading back to its old games.

Pakistan’s recent action on Lashkar e Taiba (LeT) operational commander Sajid Mir, which Pakistan kept on declaring dead until now, is the result of FATF’s persistent pressure on Pakistan. It also shows duplicity and insincerity on the part of Pakistan to deal effectively against terrorists that reside and operate in the country. It is a well known fact that LeT has changed its name several times in the last two decades and continues to operate in Pakistan. It was known as Jamat ud Dawa (JuD) for sometime now but when that was banned, it reincarnated itself to Falah e Insaniyat Foundation which also came under scrutiny and is now called Allah u Akbar Tehreek.

PAKISTAN’S LOVE FOR JAISH E MUHAMMAD

Will FATF’s pressure make Pakistan deliver on other UN designated persons including Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) Chief Maulana Masood Azhar? It seems unlikely. Pakistan maintains that Azhar is not present in Pakistan and likely to be in Afghanistan. Despite claims by Pakistan that he is not traceable, he continues to publish articles on Pakistani social media networks exhorting JeM cadres to indulge in Jihad and eulogizing the Taliban takeover of Kabul, claiming that Taliban victory would open avenues for Muslim victories elsewhere.

A banner obtained by South Asia Press that was released by JeM’s student wing Tulba Al-Marbetoon Pakistan” (Students of Al-Marbetoon Pakistan) claimed to be student movement for geographical & ideological defense of Islam and Pakistan. The banner mentions that a pattern of education should be followed in schools, colleges and universities run with the support of Maulana Masood Azhar, Amir, JeM. It outlines that such a system of education would enable students to attain desired educational goals in future, at the same time keeping the flag of Islam flying high. It invites desirous courageous students who are motivated towards ‘jihad’ and ‘martyrdom’ to join the Student Wing to obtain education under their set pattern of education.

​LeT GLORIFYING AFGHAN TALIBAN OPENLY IN PAKISTAN

It appears that despite the FATF retaining Pakistan in its “grey list” for money laundering and terror financing, leaders of Pakistan based proscribed organizations like the JuD and JeM have been able to continue with their activities, inciting youth for Jihad, conducting training camps and seeking donations through banners and social media posts, according to South Asia Press investigations.

In one such recent incident, a Friday Sermon at District Okara (Punjab), on February 18th this year was delivered by Maulana Naser Javed, a central JuD leader. South Asia Press was able to secure an audio file of the sermon, which can be found here.

In the sermon, he claimed that a few days after the fall of the Kabul government and occupation of Afghanistan by the Taliban, a delegation from Afghanistan had come to meet Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Amir, JuD. 

Furthermore, Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) is very active on social media in the relief works for floods in Pakistan. It is using social media platforms for seeking donations, which may likely to end up in funding jihadi activities, as reported by another South Asia Press investigation a few weeks ago, which can be found here.

Regretfully, instead of undertaking due actions to counter money laundering, Pakistan has resorted to making unfounded allegations of politicization of FATF. Pakistan’s continued inaction on key compliances of the FATF regime holds potential adverse consequences for not only the security of the region but beyond.

#EXCLUSIVE: Banned jihadist groups at the forefront of relief work in Pakistan “monster” monsoon and floods

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One-third of Pakistan has drowned in the recent floods that have displaced 33 million Pakistanis. The disaster has claimed 1,136 people lives since the “monster monsoon” (as it being referred to) began this summer in the country.

“The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids – the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” says UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The UN today launched an appeal for $160 million (€159.6 million) to help Pakistan cope with the catastrophic floods which have wiped out homes, roads and crops, causing more than $100 billion worth of damage, according to the government’s current estimates.

And while help has been promised from across the world by several country leaders, on ground, the catastrophe has given an opportunity for Kashmir jihadi groups to make a comeback across the country in the spirit of “helping” the affectees.

Banned Islamist group Lashkar e Taiba involved in terror activities in India, Kashmir and Afghanistan has resurfaced in all four regions of the country including Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. The group is raising funds for flood affectees while proselytizing about jihadi ideology, amidst it’s so-called relief efforts. Lashkar was banned by the Pakistani government but came back as Jamat ud Dawa, which has also faced restrictions, given its linkages to the Lashkar and involvement in Mumbai attacks 2008 which killed over 150 people, after jihadists crossed into India from Pakistan. Next, the group came back as Falah e Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) but was again banned by the Pakistani goverment under international pressure. This was the most recent crackdown which began some years ago and was perhaps the most serious of the crackdowns seen in years against such Kashmir focused Islamic terror groups.

But it appears that most of it was cosmetic given the group has once again made a comeback. According to an exclusive South Asia Press investigation, the group is now operating under the name Allah u Akbar Tehreek and is openly collecting charity and is involved in rescue and relief work alongside the Pakistani military, and other governmental and non governmental organizations.

Several photos, videos and eye witness accounts gathered by South Asia Press team show that individuals like Hafiz Talha Saeed, son of Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed (who was recently convicted and jailed for vague terror financing charges but may likely be released given he has been arrested and released several times over the past decade), is behind the revival of the group. Other prominent organizers include Hafiz Abdur Raouf, a close associate of Hafiz Saeed and Nadeem Awan, who is been affiliated with the group since it was called Lashkar e Taiba. According to our investigations, they are all the same faces and names that have been previously affiliated with Lashkar e Taiba, Jamat ud Dawa, and Falah e Insaniyat Foundation, and have repeatedly gone underground to reappear with new idenitities.

The most alarming aspect of them being at the forefront of relief and rescue efforts during these floods is that they are not only radicalizing and recruiting Pakistanis for terror activities at a time they are most vulnerable, they are also once again able to raise funds publicly via Pakistani financial networks, and have access to their “reportedly” sealed and confiscated buildings, disaster management equipment like boats, trucks, etc.

Below are some photos obtained by the South Asia Press team confirming the presence of Allah u Akbar Tehreek group across Pakistan, and several sources, including the group’s own members’ social media accounts confirm that they are involved in fund raising activities and they openly claim that these relief efforts are being done by Lashkar e Taiba/Jamat ud Dawa, now called Allah u Akbar Tehreek.

Floods, pakistan, jihadist, lashkar e taiba, falah e insaniyat foundation, jamat ud dawa

 

Pakistani ambassador in Europe involved in human trafficking: Report

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A high-ranking Pakistani diplomat, who faced serious allegations of human smuggling in March, is at the core of a visa scam as he tried to persuade the European embassies in Islamabad to illegally get visas for Pakistan nationals.

A complaint was filed against the high-ranking Pakistani diplomat Israr Husain by Tariq Javid Khan, a former government servant who is in the visa business.

Several emails issued to different embassies along with proofs of payment made to the accused diplomat were attached to the application, The News International reported.

Husain used to work as an additional secretary of Europe and he would try to persuade the European embassies in Islamabad to get visas for Pakistan nationals. He allegedly tried to send around 11 individuals to Spain.

Husain had earlier also served as Pakistan’s ambassador in Czech Republic. Khan alleged that Husain “made an offer to facilitate the issuance of visit, work and residency visas for Italy, the Czech Republic, Spain, Poland and South Korea. He also introduced me to the ambassadors of these countries in Pakistan.”

He added that he has the complete record of all payments he made to Hussain in the form of bank receipts, local media reported.

Khan also added that he also has a record of all videos, voice and text messages exchanged between the two.

The visa was not issued and the Pakistani diplomat had refused to return the money and warned him of dire consequences in case the word went out.

Khan collected PKR 1.5 million from a group of Pakistani Qawwal (cultural troupe) by saying that he arranged their tickets, accommodations and all other expenses in Prague, the capital of Czech Republic, and he promised that they would get work and residency permits.

Around 10 Pakistanis also joined the troupe. However, the group had to seek asylum because Husain did not keep his promise.

The complaint added that the ambassador of Italy, Czech Republic and Spain “will be happy to confirm Husain’s disorderly conduct and they will provide evidence regarding his continuous requests for the illegal issuances of visas.”

They are not his associates but friends or assistants, none of them has travelled before and they don’t seem to comply with the requirements established by Schengen regulations, the publication said.

A formal complaint regarding Husain’s deceptive conduct was submitted to the foreign office by the ambassador of Czech Republic in Pakistan and the ambassador of Pakistan in Czech Republic.

“An investigation was carried out by the Foreign Office, however, Husain was exonerated due to his batchmates being the investigators of the case,” Khan wrote.