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Imran Khan whipping up anti West sentiment among Pakistanis living abroad can lead to dangerous consequences – ANALYSIS

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Since being ousted out of power some three weeks ago, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly targeted the United States and the West for being responsible for his ouster.

On Monday, he once again took to the microblogging website Twitter to post tweets demanding answers directly from the US President Joe Biden’s administration over his ouster and calling upon the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to form a judicial commission to probe the US-backed conspiracy to oust his government.

In one of the tweets Khan said: “Clearly, the US wants an obedient puppet as PM who will not allow Pak choice of neutrality in a European war; a PM who will be obedient to US demands; who will not sign agreements with Russia & who will downgrade our strategic r’ship with China. If a PM asserts Pak’s sovereignty & an indep[endent] foreign policy he will be removed & a subservient, crooked PM like Shahbaz Sharif will be brought in.”

Khan has always resonated with Pakistanis living abroad and following such anti-Western rhetoric, several Pakistanis across the globe have come out in large numbers to denounce the involvement of the United States and the West in Pakistan, and have threatened to march towards US embassies around the world, as witnessed in the street agitations organized in London, United Kingdom.

Overseas Pakistanis have also been posting videos showing them tearing or setting fire to green passports. In one such recent video (reportedly from the United States) which went viral, three men can be seen burning Pakistani passports in a barbeque grill and condemning the removal of Imran Khan, calling it a Western conspiracy.

In the UK, protests were held in London, Bradford, Glasgow, Manchester and Nottingham. Reportedly, in a video message on social media, Imran Khan’s UK spokesperson Sahibzada Jahangir urged PTI supporters to march to the US embassy in London and protest against the foreign interference by America.

Similar protests have been witnessed in the US, France, Germany and several Gulf countries in the Middle East.

In one such protest in Saudi Arabia, several Pakistanis shouted slogans at the current Pakistani government’s entourage when they were visiting Masjid e Nabvi – the main mosque in Medina city considered as one of the holiest sites for Muslims. Following this protest, Imran Khan and his political party’s leadership in Pakistan are now being prosecuted by the Pakistani state for orchestrating such a move and therefore committing blasphemy, as they desecrated the sanctity of the holy mosque by raising abusive slogans there. In Medina, few of the organizers have also been arrested and are expected to pay heavy fines and spend time in prison before being deported.

Interestingly, when Khan was in power (and even before him becoming the PM), he used blasphemy laws to his advantage against his political opponents and also led an international campaign over Islamophobia, denouncing blasphemous cartoons published by the French media.

Such Islamist radicalization by Khan and now by the new government, along with the whipping of anti Western-sentiment is a dangerous game that Pakistani politicians are playing, as it will only lead to common Pakistani at home and abroad taking laws in their own hands, and ending up in trouble with local and foreign authorities.

US authorities slap $55m fine on National Bank of Pakistan for anti-money laundering violations, compliance failures

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US authorities fined National Bank of Pakistan $55 million in separate orders, with the US Federal Reserve Board announcing a $20.4-million penalty for anti-money laundering violations, while New York State Department of Financial Services said the bank agreed to pay a $35-million penalty for failure to maintain an ‘effective and compliant anti-money laundering program’.

The US Federal Reserve Board announcement can be found here.

Similarly, Superintendent of Financial Services Adrienne A Harris announced that NBP and its New York branch have agreed to pay $35 million in penalties pursuant to a Consent Order entered into with the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS).

“The Consent Order resolves the Department’s investigation into compliance deficiencies at the Branch with respect to Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) requirements,” the statement added.

“The National Bank of Pakistan allowed serious compliance deficiencies in its New York branch to persist for years despite repeated regulatory warnings,” said Superintendent Harris. “Foreign banks that enjoy the privilege of operating in New York have an obligation to maintain effective controls, and the Department will continue to promote financial transparency and take action to protect the global financial system when those obligations are not met.”

It said that following examinations conducted by the Department and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) in 2014 and 2015, the New York branch was found to have inadequate BSA/AML compliance programs, serious issues with its transaction monitoring system, and significant shortcomings in managerial oversight.

“As a result, in 2016, the Department and the FRBNY took enforcement action against the Bank in the form of a Written Agreement in which the Bank acknowledged its oversight and compliance deficiencies and agreed to remediate them.

“As reflected in the examinations following the Written Agreement, however, the Branch’s overall condition and its risk management and compliance programs continued to deteriorate. These continued failures revealed that the Branch’s senior management were unwilling or unable to promote a culture of compliance, adequate resources were not provided for compliance programs, and the Bank failed to adequately supervise the Branch by allowing problems to worsen year after year. The conditions at the Branch demonstrated severe weaknesses, and unsafe, unsound conditions requiring urgent restructuring.”

Under the settlement reached today, it said, in addition to payment of a $35 million penalty, the National Bank of Pakistan will be required to create a written plan, acceptable to the Department, detailing enhancements to the policies and procedures of the Bank’s BSA/AML compliance program, its Suspicious Activity Monitoring and Reporting program, and its customer due diligence requirements.

“Additionally, at the Department’s discretion, the Bank may be required to engage an independent consultant to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the Bank and the Branch’s remediation efforts — an evaluation that could lead to the imposition of a full monitorship.”

“DFS acknowledges the Bank’s cooperation with the investigation and its ongoing remedial efforts.

“The Department coordinated this investigation with the FRBNY which has reached a separate settlement with the Bank.”

Read the DFS statement here.

The fines are a fresh blow for the nation, that has been on the monitoring list of Paris-based Financial Action Task Force since 2018 for similar deficiencies. Habib Bank Ltd. and United Bank Ltd. have also faced similar issues in the U.S. for its branch operations in New York.   Both banks subsequently closed their branches.

NBP’s shares fell 7.4% as of 9:28 a.m. in Karachi Friday, the most in a year.

SOURCE: BLOOMBERG / BUSINESS RECORDER

British-Pakistani ‘hitman’ found guilty of plotting to kill Pakistani activist in exile. Hit ordered from Pakistan, court told.

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A British-Pakistani “hitman” has been found guilty of conspiring to kill a Pakistani dissident in the Netherlands.

A court in London heard Muhammad Gohir Khan was offered £100,000 (about $134,000) to carry out the murder in Rotterdam last year.

However he failed to track his target down, and was arrested on his return to the UK.

Now a jury has given a unanimous guilty verdict of conspiracy to murder and he is set be sentenced in March.

The intended victim – Waqass Goraya – is a prominent social media activist and critic of the Pakistani military and government, living in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The guilty, Gohir Khan, from east London, had racked up debts of more than £200,000 whilst running a cargo company. He was working as a delivery driver for a supermarket, but reacted enthusiastically when he was contacted about a “job” in Europe by a contact in Pakistan.

Khan claimed in court that he initially did not know what the job entailed, but he used fishing analogies in a WhatsApp conversation with a middleman man named as Muzzamil who was to take 20% of the fee.

The Pakistan-based “client” who had ordered the hit was never named in court, though Muzzamil referred to a “big boss” who gave a green light to the operation and who he had worked with for around 20 years.

Muzzamil’s full identity has not been disclosed either, though he appears to be a British national living in Pakistan. Police officials simply said the case remains an “active investigation”.

The threat to Pakistani dissidents extends to other dissidents in exile.

Ayesha Siddiqa is an academic who has written extensively about the Pakistani military. In January 2019 she received a visit and letter from police in Britain warning of “credible information” that her life was in danger if she travelled back to Pakistan.

Three other Pakistanis living in the UK confirmed to the BBC they had contact with the police over the possibility of them being targeted in Britain.

One of them, Fazal Khan, is a lawyer whose 14 year-old son Sahibzada Umer Khan was amongst the victims of a massacre at a school in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar by militants in 2014.

Others elsewhere in Europe have also been warned by Western intelligence agencies, including Taha Siddiqui, a journalist who escaped an abduction attempt in Islamabad and now lives in France.

SOURCE: BBC

Pakistani money-laundering ring involved in washing millions of Euros busted in Paris.

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Police in the French capital city of Paris dismantled a major Pakistani money-laundering ring with a net worth of 70 millions Euros of transactions in the last two to three years, and arrested 10 Pakistanis involved in the criminal activity.

In a statement released by the Head of the Central Office for the Suppression of Serious Financial Crime (OCRGDF), Anne-Sophie Coulbois said that several people, all from Pakistan had been arrested, indicted and imprisoned last Friday. The ring was mostly living in Seine-Saint-Denis, a neighborhood in the Parisian suburbs, known for its violence and crime, according to Sud-Ouest, a local French daily.

Police started to investigate the ring in June 2020 after it found suspicious packages carrying fake European paperwork arriving in France, from Pakistan by way of Turkey and Greece. The fake documents included official documents of countries in the Schengen area and in particular for France, including passports, identity cards and residence permits.

During the probe, the French authorities also unearthed 20 legal companies connected to the arrested Pakistanis, and involved in the construction business which were linked to a large network of “shell” companies. These companies were used to redirect funds to nearly 200 bank accounts, opened with various false documents.

This network transferred money to the various accounts using fake invoices or documents and then got the money out of the legal circuit by withdrawing large amounts from these bank accounts through ATMs. Part of the money withdrawn was used to pay illegal Pakistanis working in these construction sites and the remaining diverted to Pakistan.

Searches at the houses and offices of these 10 individuals in Paris led to the recovery of 157 fake identity documents, Euros 134,000 in cash, four vehicles including a Maserati, documents related to 180 bank accounts and the false papers used to open these accounts.

As per the police, between 2019 and 2021, at least Euro 28 million were transferred to the bank accounts of different people and another Euro 13 million were transferred to the accounts in the names of front companies, according to media reports.

This development comes at a time when Pakistan is up for a review at the FATF next month. The country has remained on a grey-list for the last couple of years for not doing enough against terror-financing and money-laundering, according to the international monetary watchdog.

But this is not the only case that has surfaced in recent months that points to Pakistan still being a hub of money-laundering and terror-finacing with global networks.

In another court case currently on-going in London, U.K., the British police arrested a Pakistani-British man for plotting to kill a Pakistani dissident in exile, after being promised 100,000 Euros for the hit by a contact back home in Pakistan. Investigators revealed that the hitman was paid around 5000 Euros through a Pakistani bank account and hundi networks in the country, once again exposing how Pakistan continues to have money-laundering channels open, even for transnational crimes like murdering someone on European soil.

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.