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“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 downstream, nearly 3 billion people, and a tool of the Sino-Indian Cold war. This Sino-Indian war results in Tibet as an over-militarized place, obviously at the opposite end of the peaceful vision (from the Buddhism) of the Tibetan people. We remind here that we want the independence of Tibet. What Tibet has experienced in 60 years of occupation, other countries, others peoples are now experiencing: Students for a Free Tibet / SFT France

DISSIDENTS BELONGING TO UYGHUR REGION: As Uyghurs from East Turkistan (Xinjiang by the communist Chinese regime) who are experiencing the harshest oppression by China-Pakistan cooperation, using the excuse of anti terrorism, we want to tell the whole world: China, you must immediately stop the cultural genocide that you are conducting in East Turkistan. Uyghurs are never terrorists. In fact, in that region (Pakistan, Afghanistan and etc.), you are the one who funded terrorism. Then, you blame, torture and diminish the innocent Uyghurs for all the crimes and terrorists attacks that you financially helped. Your evil purpose of this is just to wipe out the Uyghurs. China, who is locking up and oppressing millions of innocent Uyghurs is actually the real terrorists – Adil Kasim, Representative France Uyghur Association.

Taha Siddiqui, one of the organizers of the protest, gives an interview to the news channel France24, which covered the protest. 

Joint conference at the DISSIDENT club in Paris, post the protest to chart out future course of action.

Media coverage of the event:

Balochistan in focus: Exclusive Talk with Akhtar Mengal

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We discuss Balochistan and Pakistan army, the issue of missing persons, suspicious death of Karima Baloch and much more. Guest: Akhtar Mengal, Pakistani parliamentarian and Chairperson BNP-M. Moderated by Taha Siddiqui, Editor-in-Chief South Asia Press:

Is Kashmir the next destination for Turkey-backed militants?

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Turkey-backed mercenaries are being enlisted to join Pakistan-backed militants in Kashmir: Reports

19.01.2021
By Taha Siddiqui
PARIS, France

A new pan Islamic-alliance is emerging between Turkey and Pakistan with the two countries fostering stronger economic, military and cultural ties, as Pakistan re-aligns itself in the global geopolitical arena especially that of the Muslim world.

This has come in the wake of growing distance between long term allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, mainly due to the Kashmir dispute. Islamabad has been pushing the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), led by Saudi Arabia to recognize Kashmir dispute as one of its main agendas. However the OIC has been not responsive to the pressure, irking Islamabad and even prompting the country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quershi to openly criticize the Saudi regime recently.

Experts say this growing gap between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is being capitalized by Turkey, with Ankara providing Islamabad the diplomatic support it needs especially on the Kashmir issue.

But it appears that the Turkish regime maybe going a step further than just providing solidarity to Pakistan when it comes to the Kashmir dispute.

A recent news report by journalist Bêrîtan Sarya in Firat News Agency reveals that Turkish-backed mercenaries in North-East Syria are being asked to head to Kashmir to fight the conflict there.

“The commander of the Syrian National Army (SNA) militia “Sulayman Shah Brigades”, Muhammed Abu Amsha, announced […] to members of his militia in the occupied city of Şiyê near Afrin that the Turkish state wanted to relocate some units to Kashmir,” the December 2020 report highlights, further alleging that Turkey had asked Abu Amsha and other SNA commanders to provide a list of the names of such volunteers.

The Syrian National Army (SNA) is also known as the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army is a coalition of armed Syrian opposition groups with backing from the Turkish state.

“Those who would agree to go would get USD $2,000 initially. Sources report that there was similar recruitment activity for a Kashmiri operation in Azaz, Jarablus, Bab and Idlib. The volunteers would then be secretly taken out of the country,” the report adds.

Read more on Pakistan-Saudi deteriorating ties: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia no longer friends?

TURKEY’S FOREIGN POLICY OF USING MERCENARIES

Although the Firat News agency report is not independently verifiable, analysts point out that there is strong possibility of it being true, especially given that it will not be the first time Turkey will be using its mercenaries in a dispute beyond its regional conflicts.

“Turkey is a multi-ethnic country. It hosts sizeable immigrant populations from Balkans, Caucasia and Eastern Turkistan (the Uighurs). These ethnic groups have been involved in conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnia in the past. They were provided Turkish passports, health care and occasionally light weaponry. This was done through so-called humanitarian aid organizations,” says Kerim Balci, a well-known Turkish journalist and academic, who lives in exile in the United Kingdom.

But when the conflict in Syria began, “what was till then a semi-official policy of Turkey became state policy,” explains Mr. Balci. According to him, after Syria the same mercenaries were sent to Libya and recently to Nagorno-Karabagh (Armenia vs. Azerbaijan conflict). “It appears now that the Turkish intelligence officers are also accompanying them on the ground sometimes, as we saw documented in the case of Libya,” he adds.

Reportedly, during the recent Armenia vs. Azerbaijan conflict, Armenian authorities also alleged that Turkey deployed Syrian mercenaries to bolster Azerbaijani forces, as pointed out by Balci. Turkey has denied these claims.

“Turkish military experts are fighting side by side with Azerbaijan, who are using Turkish weapons, including UAVs and warplanes,” said the Armenian Foreign Ministry. “According to credible sources, Turkey is recruiting and transporting foreign terrorist fighters to Azerbaijan,” the ministry further added.

According to a recent report in Deutsche Welle (DW), a leading German news outlet, these Syrian mercenaries have served Turkey’s interests well as they offer a way to shore up its foreign policy objectives without mobilizing national assets such as the armed forces.

“They are an effective means to an end in providing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a military force that could be discarded once its usefulness has been completed,” said Noah Agily, a Washington-based independent researcher focusing on militia recruitment and formation in Libya, in the DW report. “In the future, these mercenaries will allow Turkey to continue positioning itself geo-strategically without incurring domestic blowback,” Mr. Agily added.

TURKISH MILITANTS AND THE AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN CONNECTION:

The origins of these mercenaries can be linked to Islamic State and before that to al-Qaeda, according to the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The SOHR claimed that the Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries were former militants who fought for the likes of “Islamic State” and al-Qaeda affiliated militant groups before. Reportedly, there al-Qaeda affiliation began in the Afghan war, and can be traced back to Pakistan.

“Turkish militants have fought alongside Osama bin Laden and other Afghan, Arab and Pakistani jihadis for long in Afghanistan, but they have been in limited numbers. Initially they went as individuals but later the Turkish intelligence agencies got involved in the process too,” says Ahmet S Yayla, a Washington D.C. based Turkish academic who served as a counter-terrorism police chief in Turkey,

Then in 2002, ties between the Turkish origin militants and the Pakistani militants strengthened further with the formation of Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) in the tribal belt next to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. IJU was a splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and affiliated with al-Qaeda. Recruits in IJU were mainly Turks both from Turkey and the Turkish communities in Western Europe. The IJU later went on to become Taiftaul Mansura, according to Pakistani intelligence assessment.

In 2010, a Pakistani official told the news agency Reuters that jihadis living in the tribal belt who did not fit easily into South Asian or Arab militant camps gravitated to groups like Taifatul Mansura which was made up of Turkic-language speaking Central Asians, as well as Turks and European Muslims, notably from Germany.

Over the years, such Turk-origin militants have not limited themselves to fighting in Afghanistan alone. A 2019 report by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) revealed that they also made their way to Syria where they fought under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Syrian jihadist group that has close affiliations with SNA (Syrian National Army).

TURKEY – THE NEW LEADER OF THE MUSLIM UMMAH?

Reacting to the report in Firat News Agency, the Turkish academic Mr. Yayla feels that there needs to be more investigation into these claims. “Currently there is no such official policy by Turkey that we have heard of but it is possible that Erdogan may want to get involved in this dispute on behalf of Pakistan, given the past trends we have seen of Turkish-backed militants being sent abroad,” Yayla adds.

He further explains that the Turkish President is increasingly portraying himself as a the leader of the Muslim world, and Turkish involvement in any conflict Pakistan is involved in could be connected to that positioning.

“Since last many years, Turkey is trying to become the leader of the Sunni Muslim world or the Ummah as its called and replace Saudi Arabia, its chief rival. And to achieve this, the Turkish government is increasingly getting involved in Muslim and Islamist activities around the world, and the strengthening of relationship with Pakistan on different fronts is part of that agenda too,” he adds.

Is Pakistan behind the Khalistan movement? South Asia Press Talk

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Veteran journalist Terry Milewski’s report released by Macdonald-Laurier Institute titled “Khalistan: A project of Pakistan” probes the Khalistan movement and discovers its reality as a geopolitical terror project nurtured by Pakistan. South Asia Press interviews Mr. Milewski who takes us through his investigation into the role of Pakistan in Khalistan Movement especially on Canadian soil, the possible impact it can have on Canada, and what is being done to stop this terror group?

A week after Karima Baloch’s mysterious death, global calls for investigating it further intensify – South Asia Press

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By South Asia Press Team

It has been a week since Karima Baloch, an exiled Pakistani human rights and political activist, was found dead in Toronto. Known for her political resistance against militarisation, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killing, she had fled from Balochistan in 2015 when the Pakistani government accused her of terrorism. Unyielding in calling to attention the serious human rights violations in Balochistan, Baloch continued to receive threats in exile.

On December 23, the Toronto police termed the death of Karima Baloch as “non-criminal”. But her death demands a more thorough investigation. Even in exile, Pakistanis face threats to their life. Threats that may have been carried out after Baloch was last seen on December 20.

Hammal Haidar, the husband of Karima Baloch and her brother Sameer Mehrab have rejected these police findings and are calling for further police investigations. Along with them, more than a thousand concerned citizens including prominent Pakistani parliamentarians, and activists, academics and intellectuals from around the world have also come together under a “Justice for Karima Baloch collective“, and have endorsed a joint statement calling for the Canadian police to resume their investigations. Another online petition has also gathered over 3000 signatures asking for the Canadian authorities to look into her death, and not close the investigations.

This is not the first time a Baloch activist has been found dead in mysterious circumstances. In May, the body of the journalist Sajid Hussain was found drowned near the Swedish city of Uppsala, after disappearing for two months. Hussain had written about human rights violations in Balochistan before seeking asylum in Sweden in 2017 following threats to his life in Pakistan. Although circumstances were suspicious, local police stated it was difficult to tell from the autopsy if his death had been the result of a crime, an accident or a suicide.

Karima Baloch’s family has already been targeted. When she refused to stop her activism, her family received the mutilated body of her uncle; her parents’ siblings were abducted and killed in Pakistan.

Seeking to kill dissidents abroad has also been contemplated by previous Pakistani authority figures, namely General Pervez Musharraf, the former dictator. The current government’s unofficial “Kill and Dump” policy shows that hostile tendencies are already in full effect in Pakistan itself. It is probable that they are likewise envisioned beyond borders.

Canadian authorities should take this highly sensitive context into account and resume investigation into Karima Baloch’s death, including Pakistan embassy officials, especially Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agents. Investigations should not discount the possibility that she was murdered by a private person commissioned to do so, which is a common method used by intelligence agencies.

The situation in Balochistan is very volatile. Karima Baloch’s death adds to the casualties of Balochistan’s ongoing insurgency, where Pakistan state forces and various nationalist and separatist groups have engaged in armed conflict in the past decades.

Amid this explosive situation, innocent citizens pay the price. Pakistan state authorities conduct the “Kill and Dump” policy in the region. Voice for Baloch Missing Persons claims that since 2000, some 55 000 people have been kidnapped and 18 000 bodies later found. According to a recent federal government inquiry, 155 people are missing in Balochistan. Akhtar Mengal, a Pakistani lawmaker, found the findings “insulting” in an interview to the media. His party withdrew from Imran Khan’s ruling coalition this year to protest against the lack of action on disappearances.

A United Nations report from June highlights the systematic targeting of “human rights and minority defenders critical of the government and the military, as well as persons suspected or accused of involvement in the opposition,” by the State of Pakistan. Despite its natural resources, Balochistan is a poor region. Its inhabitants are marginalised from economic development. Resentment has been fuelled by billions of dollars of Chinese money flowing into the region through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a key part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative – which locals say gave them little benefit as most new jobs went to outsiders.

Owing to these grievances, the province has seen a Baloch rebellion and insurgency for the last many decades which has intensified its attacks against Pakistani security forces and other targets in recent years. In response, the Pakistani authorities have also intensified their crackdown, not just against the separatist groups but increasingly against innocent and peaceful Baloch people, who are only raising their voice for the rights of their people.

Has the Pakistani spy agency ISI infiltrated ISIS in Afghanistan?

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Fri 25 Dec, 2020

By Taha Siddiqui
PARIS, France

Afghanistan has seen a sharp rise in violence, particularly of terrorist attacks, in recent months as the Afghan government and Taliban hold talks to find an end to the country’s almost 20-year-long war. These negotiations are happening following the peace agreement Taliban signed with the United States, earlier this year in February in Doha, the capital city of Qatar.

But this current spike in terrorism acts in Afghanistan are not being claimed by the Taliban. Instead, the terror group “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIL or more commonly referred to as ISIS) is increasingly claiming responsibility for these attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan, including for one of the recent deadliest attacks on an educational institution, that killed 50 people, mostly students.

In Afghanistan, ISIS claims to operate through its local branch called the Islamic State Khorasan Province, known as ISKP or IS-K which came into existence around 2015. Since then it has been carrying out acts of terrorism in the country but counter-terrorism experts in Afghanistan view these claims of ISIS with suspicion and believe that such statements are nothing more than just attempts by the global ISIS network to appear stronger than they are.

ISIS IN MIDDLE EAST AND AFGHANISTAN – ARE THEY CONNECTED? 

“There has been no solid links between fighters from Middle East and Afghanistan so ISIS and ISKP/IS-K are not as interlinked as they may try to show. Most of the ISKP/IS-K fighters are from Pakistani Taliban cadres belonging to the tribal belt in Pakistan,” says Habib Khan Totakhil, an Afghan journalist who works with international media and focuses on terror networks in Afghanistan.

“Most of the time ISIS news agency Amaq takes responsibility of the attacks in Afghanistan but its like what the Taliban used to do before – claiming any and every terror attack in Afghanistan to appear more threatening than they are,” Mr. Totakhil further adds.

In August this year, Masoud Andarabi, who was then the acting minister of interior of Afghanistan, had also claimed that Shahab al-Muhajir, the newly appointed leader of ISKP/IS-KP in Afghanistan, was a member of the Haqqani Network, a group known to have close ties to the Pakistani military establishment.

Before Shahab al-Muhajir, a Pakistani national Maulvi Abdullah, who was earlier associated with Lashkar-e-Tayebba (LeT) used to head Islamic State Khorasan faction. Abdullah was arrested in April this year by Afghan authorities. His past links with LeT raise further suspicion of ISKP/IS-K infiltration by Pakistan-aligned groups.

It is no secret that LeT has had the backing of Pakistani military since its inception and that relationship continues even now, several reincarnations later. From Jamat-ud-Dawa to Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation and recently as Milli Muslim League, LeT has been operating with relative ease in Pakistan, despite claims by Pakistani government of carrying out a crackdown against the terror group.

Following the arrest of the LeT affiliated militant leader Abdullah, Shahab al-Muhajir took over ISKP/IS-K but it appears that he is facing resistance within the group from his own subordinates who have accused al-Muhajir of working for Pakistani and Iranian intel agencies and other hostile militant groups.

CRACKS WITHIN ISIS AFGHANISTAN?

In a latest video obtained exclusively by South Asia Press, ISKP/IS-K fighters have alleged that their current leader and some other fighters have gone rogue and are working as proxies for Pakistan and Iran intel agencies and militant groups.

“We, the Mujahideen of Wilayat Khorasan (WK) would like to inform the Caliph of Muslims Abu Ebrahim Al Qurashi Al Hashmi that the heads of WK have deviated from the right path and they are following the orders of Shias and intelligence agencies,” alleges an anonymous militant in this latest video statement exclusively obtained by South Asia Press. The fighter refers to Islamic State Khorasan Province as Wilayat Khorasan, its original name in Arabic.

The man further makes claims that ISKP/IS-K is collaborating with groups such as Al Qaeda (AQ), Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Afghan Taliban,

“They are only fighting for the sake of power and money and not for the supremacy of the Sharia,” the militant further adds.

According to him, these compromised ISKP/IS-K militants have also been leaking information to the Afghan intelligence agency about anyone in disagreement with them, resulting in the arrest of numerous foreign fighters and supporters by Afghan authorities.

“Some anonymous individuals belonging to the Pakistan intelligence agency and Iran, within the WK project are working to achieve their personal and collective interests. At present, the mujahideen and supporters are living in bad condition. Therefore, I request you to do something to revive the IS’s dominance, and appoint a just and pious man as the head of WK, so that he will become an example for the people not to follow the path of intelligence agent Shahab Al Muhajir,” the video concludes.

See full video here:

South Asia Press could not independently verify this video but security analysts familiar with the Pakistani and Iranian militant proxies operating in Afghanistan say the claims in this video give it authenticity.

“These claims are very much in line with the reality. There is growing frustration since few years among the ISKP/IS-K fighters against their leadership because the top has been infiltrated by Pakistani and Iranian intelligence groups and militant networks. Pakistan has been supporting Afghan militants for long, and Iran’s soil has been used by some Al Qaeda terrorists who fled after 9/11 and found refuge in Iran so both countries have strong linkages among different terror groups operating in Afghanistan,” says Hekmatullah Azamy, Deputy Director at Centre for Conflict & Peace Studies, Afghanistan.

Experts also believe that Iran may have infiltrated ISKP/IS-K to have eyes and ears inside, so as to know what is going on within Afghan terror networks. However, Pakistan has more sinister reasons for infiltrating ISKP/IS-K.

“With the previous proxies of Pakistan i.e. Afghan Taliban now engaged in talks, Pakistan needs an alternative to continue to serve its purpose of unleashing violence in Afghanistan and it can do so through ISKP/IS-K,” Mr. Azamy explains. “The bigger threat are not these groups, but Pakistan that continues to back Islamist militants in Afghanistan. Today its ISKP/IS-K, tomorrow it will be some other group. Pakistan needs to stop this,” he adds.

WHY DOES PAKISTAN SUPPORT MILITANT PROXIES IN AFGHANISTAN?

Since the 1970s, Islamabad has been supporting Islamist militants in Afghanistan to counter ethnic Pashtun nationalist elements within its own Pashtun populated regions and across the border, because Islamabad fears that a strong Pashtun nationalist movement can threaten Pakistan’s territorial claims on Pashtun regions next to Afghan border, and there might be a repeat of what was seen in East Pakistan in 1971 when it broke off from mainstream Pakistan and became independent Bangladesh, after the rise of an ethnic nationalist movement.

“The use of militants as proxies in Afghanistan has not been abandoned by Pakistan. There is no evidence that Pakistan wants to stop that or that it wants a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. The Pakistani government keeps saying it has given up on its so-called strategic depth policy about Afghanistan but on ground we do not see evidence of that,” says Afrasiab Khattak, former Pakistani senator and Pashtun politician.

“Pakistan’s policy [to destabilize Afghanistan] is quite entrenched and consistent. It has remained the same through the last many years,” he adds.

South Asia Press Talk: PTM Worldwide Protests

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We discuss with Gulalai Ismail, exiled Pashtun rights activist and Abdullah Nangyal, leader of the PTM movement about the recent arrest of parliamentarian and PTM leader Ali Wazir, the worldwide protests PTM has organized in the wake of this arrest, and the future strategy of PTM to stand up against oppression directed towards Pashtuns. Please do subscribe to the channel to get more updates from South Asia Press.

Is religious extremism on the rise in Bangladesh?

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There has been an increase in the religious extremism in #Bangladesh. This trend saw a rise in the aftermath of the #CharlieHebdo related killings in France in the last couple of months when wide stage protests rocked the country. More in our latest video analysis:

#SouthAsiaPress Talk: Pashtuns under attack?

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South Asia Press organized an online talk titled “Pashtuns under attack?” We discussed the issue of recent persecution of Pashtuns in Pakistan, with a focus on the history of #Pashtun resistance, and current movements in Pakistan. There was also a live Q and A with our online audience.

Guests: Afrasiab Khattak, Bushra Gohar, and Gulalai Ismail
Moderator: Taha Siddiqui.

Is Pakistan behind the #Khalistan movement?

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South Asia Press analyzes recent research paper by journalist Terry Milewski for a Canadian think-tank that talks about Khalistan movement being a project of Pakistan. “A closer look suggests that it’s Pakistanis, not Khalistanis, who are driving the campaign — and their motives are not necessarily pure,” he writes. Western countries like Canada and UK have unwittingly found themselves home to several proponents of the pro-Khalistan movement. We also look at how Sikhs are treated in Pakistan and why the West should be vary of this global partnership between such fringe Sikh violent separatist groups and Pakistan.