ISLAMABAD: An investigation into the attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team in Lahore has found signs that Pakistani militants with possible ties to al Qaeda were responsible, a senior government official said on Saturday.
‘The indications are that it was one of our own homegrown groups, with possible linkages abroad,’ said the government official with knowledge of the investigation.
Police have rounded up scores of suspects but have yet to announce a breakthrough in their investigation of Tuesday’s attack.
‘It’s a tough job. We’re connecting the dots. We’re making every effort to get to the bottom and hopefully we’ll do it,’ said Salahuddin Niazi, the policeman heading the investigation.
‘Any word before finalising the investigation will benefit the criminals. Let’s finalise it, then we’ll be able to point the finger at someone or a group or groups,’ he said.
A local newspaper, citing a former high-ranking intelligence official in Punjab, said al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants were responsible for the attack.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, the government official said groups such as the LeJ were highest on the list of suspects.
Some of the explosives carried by the assailants were not available in Pakistan, he said.The official was dismissive of media speculation that India may have been behind the attack as payback for the assault by militants on Mumbai in November.
As early as 1992, LTTE leader Sathasivam Krishnakumar alias Kittu had negotiated an arms deal with the militants based in Peshawar, the presidential research unit said in a report.
The links dated back to 1992, the report said, when Kittu, a prominent strategist of the LTTE at the time, negotiated arms purchases for the LTTE in Peshawar. This was uncovered by intelligence sources. In 1993, an Indian intelligence agency identified the vessel in which Kittu was transporting the weapons. The ship was destroyed and Kittu was killed.
There had also been speculations, the report said, that the LTTE might have had external help in firing missiles which brought down two Avro aircraft near Palali airbase in April 1995, killing a large number of civilians. “It was believed at the time that the LTTE may have used mercenaries with links to Peshawar or Afghanistan, to fire the missiles which hit the aircraft, links which have remained till today.”
Intelligence sources were aware that LTTE’s links with the LeT continued and there were ‘good and substantiated reports’ of the Sri Lankan terrorists group and LeT exchanging expertise, LeT supplying arms to the LTTE and both carrying out joint training.
Suspicions about LTTE’s hand in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team emanated from the aspects of planning and the resources that were available to the attackers, the report said.
“The information that the attackers had planned to take the Sri Lankan players hostage is also being viewed by intelligence sources in South Asian capitals, in the context of LTTE’s current position of near defeat, and the search for a bargaining tool for its call for a ceasefire.”
The report said that some Indian analysts were of the view that had “the attackers been successful and taken all or any of the Sri Lankan players hostage, and used them for bargaining with Sri Lanka, or either with India or Pakistan or both, it would have led to a major diplomatic crisis in the region”.
The reports cite a statement by the US State Department which condemned the attack and said that it was not only an attack on innocent civilians but also on the positive relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. “This is not just an attack on individuals; this is an attack on peaceful, normal relations.”
The presidential statement said that the US viewpoint came very close to suspicions of well-informed intelligence sources that the LTTE might have been trying to seek revenge for the strong support that Pakistan had given to Sri Lanka in its fight against terror. “This high-level support has gone on from 1999, and has contributed much to the LTTE’s current position of being on the brink of defeat,” the report said.
China sees risk of northwest attacks
BEIJING: China’s tense far, north-western region of Xinjiang faces threats from violence rippling across south and Central Asia and enforcing stability there will be tough this year, a senior official said on Friday. The regional governor, Nuer Baikeli, told reporters that violence in Afghanistan and recent attacks in India and Pakistan showed Xinjiang had reason to fear what China calls the “three forces” — terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. “We are very concerned about this problem,” he said. “With instability and uncertainty increasing in neighbouring areas, will it affect us? But we can prevent this and have confidence we can properly control the border and keep terrorist attacks beyond our borders.” Nuer Baikeli was speaking at a briefing on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s parliament. reuters (Daily Times, 7 March 2009)
| Saturday, March 07, 2009|
Since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team early this week, we have been hit by what our media evidently sees as some kind of attempt at patriotism. Within hours of the incident, anchors hosting news shows and many analysts they called in to comment on what had happened began insisting that India was responsible for the attack. There is no way of knowing how or why they reached this instant conclusion. Certainly, given that none of the gunmen were apprehended, there was little in terms of solid evidence. The argument that the attackers looked like those who hit Mumbai does not mean anything at all. Should we then assume clairvoyance?
What these media pundits, caught up in their own misguided zeal, seem not to realize is that they are in fact hurting Pakistan's interests rather than serving them. While there may have been an attempt to emulate the Indian media in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the fact is that resorting to the level of immaturity and bigotry displayed by their Indian counterparts does no good at all. Pakistan would have created a far better impression of itself had it shown the capacity to rise above the level of the Indians and demonstrate a true desire to discover who was behind the attacks, rather than merely pointing in a particular direction.
There is still time to make such amends. We seem to have become caught up in a general effort to lay responsibility somewhere or the other; some blame Salmaan Taseer, others Shahbaz Sharif; still others the agencies. The fact is that any kind of truth will emerge only if we can carry out a proper, impartial investigation. This is possible only if pre-conceptions are put aside and an all-out effort made to arrive at the truth. This is what the media should be focusing on. Rather than itself reaching conclusions as to who is responsible, the role of journalists should be to demand a full inquiry and to press for this. The interests of Pakistan would be far better served by such a policy. If Indian involvement was discovered at some level, such findings would have far greater credibility if they came in an environment that was not marred by prejudice and the hurling of wild accusations. The tone adopted by our media has simply shown we are no better than the Indians. This evidence of blind bias will take us nowhere, and in the longer run may complicate the task of getting to the truth. (The News, Editorial, 7 March 2009)
|Lahore: the final wake-up call|
| Saturday, March 07, 2009|
By targeting Sri Lankan cricketers in the heart of Lahore, Pakistani militants have crossed yet another red line. The attackers were well-trained terrorists armed with rocket launchers, grenades and automatic guns. That they engaged the police in a 25-minute gun battle and escaped only proves their professional prowess.
They didn't target the cricket team because they have anything in particular against Sri Lanka. We still don't know their identity, but they could be any one or a combination of jihadi groups, from Al-Qaeda offshoots, to Baitullah Mehsud's Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or Jaish-e-Mohammed. These organisations form a continuum, with a lot of flux between them currently.
Their motive seems to have been threefold. First, to produce mayhem and insecurity, and show that neither the police, nor ordinary Pakistani citizens, nor apolitical foreigners, are immune from their depredations, and the government is powerless. Secondly, they wanted to show they aren't cowed down by the recent arrests for the Mumbai attacks and can repeat a mini-Mumbai in Pakistan. They may also have been trying hostage-taking to free detained jihadi militants. Last but not least, they wanted to signal their bellicose defiance to coincide with the India-Pakistan visit of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller. The FBI is collaborating with Indian agencies in investigating Mumbai, and reportedly has strong evidence against LeT. Its personnel might stand witness in the Mumbai case.
An FBI team was camping in Pakistan to interrogate Zarar Shah and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the Mumbai attacks' handlers. The jihadis' message to it was to lay off and recognise that Taliban-style militancy has come to stay in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Under its sway, the disgraceful Swat deal to impose the Sharia can be repeated in the heart of Punjab. The message? The more you yield to the jihadis, the more emboldened they become to come back for more.
The Swat deal was signed by the NWFP government led by the secular Awami National Party. It was the result of utter desperation and insecurity, which is so extreme that ANP leaders no longer dare step out of their homes. The truth is the army's 20,000 troops in Malakand division could not defeat the TTP's 3,000 militants. Meanwhile, the ANP's strategy of countering the fundamentalism of the mullahs of the Tehreek Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammedi (TNSM) with Pushtun nationalism failed.
The writ of the state no longer runs in Malakand. The TTP and the TNSM under Maulana Fazlullah have overrun Swat, closing down girls' schools, turning women into prisoners in their homes, preventing men from shaving beards, and generally terrorising a 1.5 million-strong population, causing 350,000 people to flee. Yet, the government dishonestly rationalises the Swat deal as the sole means to restore peace in keeping with "the people's will". Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureishi has termed it "a local remedy for a local problem." Even information minister Sherry Rehman has rationalised its extension beyond Swat to the other five districts of Malakand.
The Lahore attack coincides with the aggravation of multiple other crises in Pakistan. These include a severe economic recession, inflation at 25%, and plummeting foreign reserves; a crisis of governance, with insurgencies raging in volatile provinces and; growing disintegration of state institutions.
The latest is the political crisis precipitated by the Supreme Court's judgment to disqualify former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, from holding public office or contesting elections. This has put Pakistan's two largest parties on a collision course.
The judgment is widely seen as a rigged verdict delivered by hand-picked judges appointed by President Asif Ali Zardari, who had been sworn in under former President Musharraf's Provisional Constitutional Order. Even Prime Minister Gilani regrets the verdict as unfortunate.
Zardari wants to control the Punjab and is loath to thwart any challenge to the collusive National Reconciliation Ordinance. He has betrayed his promise to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, for whose reinstatement lawyers are launching a mass agitation. This is likely to lead to a huge confrontation, with grave consequences for Pakistan's stability, and for the always-precarious balance between military and civilian power.
However, the army has no coherent strategy to deal with the rising tide of terrorism and religious extremism. It has allowed the Afghan Taliban's Quetta Shura to flourish and provided sanctuary to its militants in the border areas. But its calculation that it would achieve its objective of creating "strategic depth" in Afghanistan and yet control the Pakistan jihadi militancy has gone awry. Benazir Bhutto's assassination, the Marriott Hotel attack, and the Lahore episode bear testimony to this.
The army is either unwilling or worse, unable to fully join the fight against the jihadi militancy in Pakistan. Nor is it really cooperating with the US-led forces in Afghanistan and hasn't broken the nexus between Afghanistan's Al-Qaeda-Taliban and Pakistan's TTP-TNSM, as the latter escalate their deadly threat to its state. This has aggravated the state's legitimacy crisis.
With all its institutions in disarray, the Pakistani state is beginning to unravel. It may be too early to talk of Pakistan imploding, but power in Pakistan is increasingly fragmented and the state no longer controls large swathes of territory. The commonest image of this is the failed or failing state. Pakistan figures at Rank Nine in the Failed States Index compiled for 2008 by Foreign Policy magazine of the Fund for Peace (US).
Somalia holds the first rank, Sudan the second, and Zimbabwe the third. Pakistan is just two ranks below Afghanistan, and marginally higher than war-ravaged Central African Republic and Guinea.
The index may not be perfect, but it's a good pointer. Twelve criteria are used to compile it, including the state's criminalisation and delegitimisation, progressive deterioration of public services, widespread human rights violations, security apparatus as "a state within a state", legacy of vengeance-seeking groups, the rise of factionalised elites, uneven economic development along group lines, sharp and/or severe economic decline, and movement of refugees and internally displaced, etc. Pakistan scores badly (8 or higher on a deteriorating scale of 10) on 10 of the 12--a sign of its slow unravelling.
This will have dreadful consequences for South Asia, including Afghanistan. It's ludicrous to react to Lahore by pointing fingers at India, as some Pakistani leaders did, or adopting smug "we-told-you-so" postures, as India's Home Minister P Chidambaram did.
The US cannot sort out Pakistan. It has a myopic and parochial agenda -- witness its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 after creating the deadly mujahidin network there. Defence Secretary Robert Gates now says Washington "would be very open" to a Swat-style agreement in Afghanistan. The emerging strategy of a "troops surge", which President Obama is keen on, coupled with appeasement and bribery of the jihadis, is bad news.
The only sensible alternative is a regional approach to isolate the jihadis who are a menace for all of South Asia. But for this to materialise, the Pakistani state must summon up the will to crack down on groups like LeT and LeJ and their domestic and Afghan collaborators. Lahore is the final wake-up call. We must all answer it before it's too late. (The News, 7 March 2009)
The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: email@example.com
|Monsters & delusions|
| Out of my head|
Monday, March 09, 2009
Apart from the expected horror and dismay at the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricketers, there was another reaction from a number of people that I talked to that added to my depression. They couldn’t believe that the attackers were Pakistanis. “No Pakistani could do this”, “Why would they do this?”, “What is to be gained?” they said, either implying Indian involvement or laying the blame on our neighbours outright.
While nothing can be discounted outright in this murky world that we currently inhabit the refusal to acknowledge the monsters in our midst is perplexing and dismaying. Why can’t Pakistanis be behind this atrocity? After all, Pakistanis enter mosques and mow down other Pakistanis. Shias kill Sunnis and Sunnis kill Shias. Minorities are threatened and their places of worship are damaged, destroyed and blown up. Schools are razed. Women buried alive. Foreigners kidnapped and beheaded. The list goes on. There is much that is wrong within us (and much of the horror inflicted in the name of religion) and even if the majority of Pakistanis are peaceful and peace-loving, there is definitely a minority out there which aims to impose its obscurantist views on the rest of us and will go to any lengths to achieve its objectives. Murdering a visiting cricket team is not beyond the realm of possibility.
The genie — manufactured and nurtured by men in khaki, originally encouraged by players in the great game, used as a bargaining chip by would-be tyrants, financed by petro-dollars — is out of the bottle and has been for a long time, and it is going to take all of our combined wills to contain it. But we first have to acknowledge the problem. Without accepting the problem we can’t fix it, yet many of us continue to delude ourselves that the genie doesn’t exist.
These delusions are encouraged by right-wing, fascist nut-jobs (sometimes disguised as “enlightened moderates” and not to be confused with religious fundamentalists) who get on their soap-boxes (conveniently provided to them by media conglomerates that worship only at the altar of perhaps the most powerful god of all, profit) and on television talk shows and op-ed columns advocate retaliatory strikes and Mossad-style targeted killings, a la “Operation Wrath of God”, the Israeli covert plan to assassinate the killers of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
I wish I was making this up but I am not. Worse, this lunacy is propounded when we haven’t even been able to identify who was behind the attack on the Sri Lankan team and — many chest-thumping pronouncements (from the president on downwards) of leaving no stone unturned to capture the killers or the formation of the highest level inquiry committees notwithstanding — I am not holding my breath either that we ever will, given our past track record and considering the ease with which the terrorists were able to carry out their attacks and the even greater ease with which they managed to disappear from the scene. The lapses and the screw-ups by our intelligence agencies and security apparatus were shocking yet instead of highlighting these appalling failures or talking about the beasts in our midst and who is responsible for setting them loose, these delusional lunatics are talking about targeted killings and what-not. They must have seen too many Steven Spielberg Hollywood blockbusters for their own good or the good of their compatriots. “Operation Wrath of God” indeed!
Post-script: I don’t have enough words of praise for the decency, dignity and grace exhibited by the courageous Sri Lankan players despite having every legitimate cause for complaint and anger after their terrible ordeal. Not one of them has yet expressed a bitter or acrimonious sentiment. If more of us exhibited this generosity of spirit the world would be experiencing much less strife than it is. I also salute their brave bus driver, Mehar Mohammad Khalil whose quick-thinking and courage prevented an even bigger tragedy. He is a real Pakistani hero as are the policemen who gave their lives in the line of duty. (The News, 9 March 2009)
The writer is a banker and freelance writer. Email: khusro_m@ yahoo.co.uk
|Reviving the peace process|
| Monday, March 09, 2009|
Every major terrorist attack whether it was 9/11 or those that occurred subsequently in South Asia have triggered a chain of events that have resulted in putting Pakistan under great pressure. The Mumbai terrorist attack in November 2008 resulted in freezing the Indo- Pakistan peace process and revived the Cold War mentality and jargon between the two countries. India since then has been saying that it will keep all options open implying even a limited military action against Pakistan. It, however, eventually opted for a full blown diplomatic and media offensive. Fortunately, tensions have since come down and rhetoric from New Delhi is more tempered after Pakistan took certain specific actions against the alleged perpetrators of the crime but relations remain fragile.
India’s initial anguish and outrage was understandable but, as experience of US has shown, military action and aggressive policies are highly counterproductive and in fact lead to a situation that favours the militants. The events of 9/11 trigged the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and destabilized Pakistan. The Indian government’s restraint therefore has been as much in its own interest as for the region.
Meanwhile, the terrorist attack in Lahore on the Sri Lankan team once again exposed the weakness of the Pakistani state. The ease with which the terrorists committed the crime and melted away in the population reaffirms the international concern that Pakistan is a safe haven and a victim of terrorism. It is apparent that terrorist network and infrastructure has expanded in every province and that these elements have evolved over time in shifting political environments. It is not only confined to FATA, NWFP and Baluchistan but has crept into Punjab and other parts of the country.
The Lahore incident also demonstrates that radicalism is moving eastward at a fast space. There was a wide spread belief that the Taliban movement or militancy will not be able to cross the Indus due to Punjab being relatively more progressive and developed and its higher representation in the military.
The premise has proven to be wrong. All this further justifies the need for improved relations between India and Pakistan.
What exactly were the motives or strategic objectives of the Mumbai and Lahore terrorist attacks may be difficult to asses at this stage. And were these independent of each other or is there a common thread that runs through both these events? Nonetheless, it is clear that both have contributed to destabilizing our government and deflecting attention from the western border and addressing the real problems facing the country.
Understandably there was considerable anguish and frustration in India when the Mumbai incident occurred. Pakistan’s initial response of failing to acknowledge Kasab as its citizen soured relations with India. New Delhi viewed the denial as a course that Pakistan was adopting, which was unacceptable. Islamabad wisely took a U- turn and shifted from its position of total denial to full acknowledgement that was made at the highest level by the adviser to the prime minister Mr Rehman Malik, and went further by registering FIR against specific individuals and arrested several militant leaders. In addition, Pakistan went out of its way to over comply with UNSC resolution 1267, while imposing sanctions against Jamaat-ud Daawa.
This point should not be lost in India and it should reciprocate and extend maximum cooperation in the investigation. Moreover, due to lack of trust it is being overlooked by New Delhi that there are genuine legal issues that need to be sorted out with prosecutors and lawyers of both sides. Cooperation and greater level of trust is therefore crucial at this juncture. For fighting terrorism Pakistan, too, has to introduce additional legislation for prosecuting terrorists. And more importantly, there has to be change of mindset. Our leaders have failed to impress upon the people that on issues of terrorism there is a larger challenge of meeting international obligations.
Prior to the Mumbai incident the composite dialogue was moving forward, albeit slowly, toward normalizing relations. Many useful civil and military CBMs had opened avenues for trade, commerce and travel. The cease fire on the line of control was holding; missile notification and nuclear risk reduction measures were adopted. Back channel was in progress. India had refrained from passing any adverse remarks on Pakistan’s internal situation which was passing through a very difficult period from the middle of 2006 onwards. Islamabad too stayed away from any interference during elections in J&K and took deliberate measures to prevent cross border infiltration. All that was shattered by the Mumbai terrorist act!
It is time the leaders of the two countries review their policy toward each other. The composite dialogue has to commence at the earliest. A realistic assessment however, is to expect that India would resume the process only after the national elections in mid 2009. Pakistan is currently burdened with serious internal dissensions. Until the PPP and PML-N do not resolve their differences on major domestic issues relations with India will remain on the back burner and preclude any serious efforts at resumption. Regrettably, the terrorists are going to take full advantage of this hiatus.
Meanwhile, it is important that both countries continue to faithfully implement the agreed CBMs and keep expanding their economic and cultural ties, where possible. In the absence of formal government contacts the civil society link is vital. Track-2 should be revived and strengthened and its efforts could then be fed into Track-1 one at an opportune time.
The possibility of a more dramatic move after elections in form of a visit by the Pakistani prime minister to India or India’s prime minister to Pakistan could give a huge impetus to unfreezing the relationship.
War on terror climate has given terrorists an unwanted leverage. No time should be lost by the governments in taking the initiative back in their hands. (The News, 9 March 2009)
The writer is a retired lieutenant-general. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some relevant comments:
source: pk politics
everyone is speculating involvement of different groups or agencies..but noone has discussed the possibility of involvement of JI or jamiat in these attacks..they are also very dangerous and want to destabilize Pakistan for their own reasons . They have got also trained terrorists who can carry out such operation with ease…
Police should investigate this matter from every aspect and should include all ethnic/religious organizations which can become a tool of foriegners to destabilize Pakistan
very valid points, what hamid gul, zaid hamid and hamid mir will do if Al.qaida, taliban or other extremists claim the resonsibilty ..in the past after POF wah attack and marriott attack same Jihadi group started “international powers are involved ” and in one week Al qaida /taliban said that we have done that
there is only one sentecne about these so called Jihadi media mafia
Thook Kay Chatnairshad khan said:
I believe Imran Khan and Rtd Gen Hamid Gul do not like speaking the truth, they are again protecting Taliban and extremist parties and blame every one else in the world.
Recently Imran Khan claimed that foreign cricket players will not be harmed and his friends proved him wrong. I really wonder what their goals are.
People in Pakistan must form their own opinions based on their own experience and knowledge. These hypocrites are misleading people in Pakistan;
Broad day light attack in Lahore was shocking and worrisome, entire group escaped safely, this was only possible with the help of local people and this should be a serious concern. Police failed to handle the situation and now facing harsh criticism.
My comments about Imran Khan and Hamid gul are based on facts, Hamid Gul is responsible for killing thousands in frontier area when he was with ISI, now he is trying to please them as he know they want hin killed. Imran Khan and Hamid Gul must be blind when they are always praising and defending Taliban and religious extremists and not holding them responsible for any wrong doings, they never see when acid was thrown on school girls faces in Swat, they never heard about the bomb being exploded all over Pakistan killing thousand of people, all they know is to blame US, UK, Army, present Government and Musharaf. You can never correct yourself if you have your head buried in the sand and refuse to admit to your faults.
People like Hameed Gul know one thing best and that is to hate and spread hate. You have correctly compared him with Rush Limbaugh who does the same thing on his Radio. Why people like him and Qazi, Imran Khan and Taliban’s mouthpiece Hamid Mir do not understand that talibanisation of this country is highly dangerous for the entire Paksitani society. We must not give in to terrorists. Lahore attack has given terrorists another victory and we are fighting with each other blaming Govt for this attack. Only our national unity can enable us win war against terrorists.Fikarmand said:
How many innocent poeple are killed everyday in FATA and Swat by Talibans, whom the Military establishment call Mujahideen. Gen Hameed Gul repeatedly says there is a little misunderstanding between Pakistan Military and Taliban, ohterwise they are our front line force to save Pakistan…
The policy of Pakistani Establishment and Military has miserably failed times and again. “AS YOU SOW, SO SHALL YOU REAP”.
I think its yet not too late to mend and make Paki Army Genarals and ISI work for the people of Pakistan and do not pursue their own stupid agenda of strategic interst.
Down with Talibans and these terrorrists and they need to be wiped out through a comprehensive strategy…..
Taliban have the right to live but they don’t have right to kill others brutally. Disagreements, dialouges are you out of your mind? They don’t want girls to be taught beyond 4th grade, they don’t want physics, chemistry, bio anything taught in schools, just religion. Please be their mouth piece if you are willing to live in their life style. Your leader IK’s kids are raised in England by jewish mom and for the poor innocents in tribal area and sawat he says Taliban brings the best justice system. Instead of getting talking points from Hamid Gul and Jammat Islami and piosioning thousands of innocents minds like your he and people like you should put your money where your mouth is…go and live in Taliban country and then preach the junk you are preaching. Which religion allows these brutal killings in the name of spreading God’s word?Fikarmand said:
Zaid Hamid is a poisionous spokesperson of ISI and corrupt Generals. The stupid is a criminal and liar. He is the shoe polisher of corrupt elites and ISI. He is also call Talibans as Pakistni assett.
To all those who have sympathy for Talibans, wait when the conqueror Lahore and Sialkot and then I will agree with you and Zahid Hameed.
Zahid Hameed is a stupid CROOK like QAZI AND FAZLOO and IMRAN KHAN