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Saturday, 4 April 2009

Farhat Taj: Target: terror secretariat in Miranshah


The Taliban are a diverse mix of different groups, each led by its own leader, which support each other in militancy. Still, it is not uncommon to see two Taliban groups at cross-purposes with each other, and fighting. At that point, something happens and the groups give up hostilities and once again become "brothers in faith and comrades. Most certainly, somewhere there is an infrastructure in place that makes this happen, such as a particular terror "secretariat" in Waziristan.

Some people in FATA who have had the opportunity to see the terror secretariat from inside shared with me what they observed. According to them,

The secretariat consists of three complexes owned by Jalaluddin Haqqani and run by his son Sirajuddin Haqqani. The first complex is located right in front of the Frontier Constabulary, FC Fort in main Miranshah bazaar in North Waziristan. Apparently there is a computer institute in this complex but the complex also contains compounds which are well-guarded and no-go area. The second complex is located in Sirai Darpakhel just behind Miranshah Bazaar. This complex consists of seven compounds and is believed to be the headquarters of the Taliban, who move back and forth between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The complex is believed to be commanded by diehard Taliban Bakhta Jan Afghani. The third complex, at a distance of not more than a kilometre from the Pakistan army camp in North Waziristan, is situated in Dandi Darpakhel on the road to Afghanistan.

The secretariat is a huge and spacious structure spread over an area of a 100 kanals. There is a madressah in the complex in Sirai Darpakhel. All the three complexes have large open grounds, big guest houses and no-go areas. Taliban and Al-Qaida terrorists active in various parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan are believed to stay in the guesthouses. The no-go areas are believed to contain a large quantity of weapons and ammunition. Also, the large grounds are quite possibly used for training terrorists. Jalaluddin Haqqani's extended family resides in the Dandi Darpakhel complex.

The people who went to the compound said that they talked to many students and teachers at the madrasa and observed them. It may well be that the teachers were teaching more than basic education to the students and that they were being trained to become suicide bombers. Qari Hussain, who is believed universally to be a master trainer of suicide bombers, is also resident in the area. There were many Pakhtuns, especially Mehsud and Wazir, as well as Punjabis, Arabs and Tajiks, Uzbeks, Afghans and Africans.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan, is a former Mujaheedin leader. Due to his old age he has left the management of the complex to his son Sirajuddin. The senior Haqqani is widely respected among the Taliban and he uses his position to make peace among warring Taliban groups. When two Taliban groups anywhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan get at each other's throats and kill each other, Jalaluddin asks his son to invite the two to one of his guest houses in the terror secretariat. He ultimately convinces them to stop fighting each other, by giving money to some and weapons to others. Jalaluddin is also a key link between the Taliban of Swat and Baitullah Mehsud. Some time back he managed to make peace between Maulvi Nazir, who leads a strong group of Taliban in North Waziristan, and Baituallah Mehsud. The dispute was over the presence of Uzbeks in the area. Maullvi Nazir wanted them kicked out of Waziristan because they were not interested in fighting in Afghanistan.

In case of any action against the complex, the government will have to consider its close proximity to the FC fort in the area. It is quite possible that in case of an attack on the terror secretariat, the terrorists would try and take control of the fort and kidnap the FC soldiers deployed there. Also, the complex is not far from the main Miranshah bazaar, so any error in the operation may bring about significant collateral damage. The terrorists use women and children as human shields.

An attack on these terrorists needs to be considered, because of the major impact it could have on the coordination and networking of Taliban groups in FATA. (The News, 4 April 2009)

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. Email: bergen34@yahoo.com


Raazi said...

There are at least three considered views about the causes of the growing insurgency and violence in Pakistan. The first is that insurgent groups are being supported and sustained by external enemies of Pakistan, led by the United States, India and Afghanistan. A grand conspiracy is being hatched to covert Pakistan into a land of mayhem, which will then foster the need to (a) neutralise Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, and (b) occupy and control the country, by use of international troops, in the interest of global security. According to this view, while the stated policy of allied forces in Afghanistan is to directly attack insurgent groups in the NWFP (that enrages public opinion in Pakistan and makes the war on terror a hated war), the covert policy is to continue to support select insurgent groups, financially and materially, to enable them to effectively fight and frustrate the army and the Pakistani state.

The second view, and one most popular amongst our foes abroad, is that the Pakistani army is actually working hand-in-glove with insurgent groups. Here the thesis is that while on the one hand the army is officially fighting the Taliban in the NWFP, it continues to distinguish between the good and the bad Taliban. An extreme variant of this thesis that developed after the success of the Taliban in Swat is that there isn't even a distinction between good and bad Taliban, and that the success of the Taliban movement in Swat could not have been possible unless there was a compact between Pakistan's security forces and the insurgents. The principal argument being that the world's seventh-largest army is either following a covert policy to support insurgents fighting to defeat the world's sole superpower in Afghanistan or is simply unwilling to weaken insurgents to an extent that they are no longer capable of being a "strategic asset."

The third view is that the insurgent groups were created and nurtured by the state of Pakistan as part of its Afghan policy during the "good jihad" of the 1980s, and supported through the 1990s when the ISI supervised the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. But after Pakistan's U-turn on the eve of 9/11, the former proxies of the army and the ISI became bitter foes. While official support for jihad in Afghanistan dwindled, neither did state policy towards the use of jihadi groups in Kashmir change nor was any effort made to clamp down on the brand of militant Islam that provided the ideological motivation for the jihadi groups fighting in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

According to this view, strategic policymakers in Pakistan continue to delude themselves into believing that militant groups fired up by religious zeal to wage jihad against infidels are akin to unmanned drones that can be controlled and directed at desirable targets at will. Thus insurgent groups are still being used to (a) carry out limited strikes in Afghanistan to ensure that the US doesn't get too comfortable in the neighbourhood, and (b) continue the low-scale insurgency in Kashmir. But this policy has gone horribly wrong. Insurgent groups have acquired a life and mind of their own: they have continued access to channels of financial and material resources that were never under strict state control during the last three decades; they are being nurtured by an even more ferocious brand of violent religious ideology that was instigated by state patronage in the 1980s; and the army has neither the will nor the ability or training to fight the monster that it created.

A variant of this theory that makes security analysis more complicated, and reflects the confusion that afflicts Pakistan more generally, incorporates elements from all the three aforementioned views. According to this view, Americans continue to sponsor some insurgent groups that have political goals limited to Pakistan. India continues to aid and abet insurgent groups in the NWFP to get even with Pakistan over Kashmir. And to send the subtle message to the US that the Pakistani army is an incapable ally in the war in Afghanistan, that Indian troops, having the experience of fighting insurgencies, should be brought in as part of allied international forces if the planned surge is to be given a fighting chance in Afghanistan. And the Pakistani army continues to act on the view that sustained US presence in our backyard does not serve Pakistan's strategic interests.

If this view is right, the proposed solution to pursue such strategic interest is being informed by the realisation that Pakistan cannot officially oppose the US war effort in Afghanistan, or refuse to offer unqualified logical support to the US troops, or actually take offence to continuing drone attacks. And therefore the only available option is to have an equivocal policy where the army continues to provide logistical support to US forces, the civilian government continues to make faint noises against drone strikes.

Unfortunately, the strategists propagating such an approach are still drunk on illusions of grandeur provoked by the Soviet failure in first Afghan war. After all, if the first Afghan war could bring one superpower down to its knees, why can't the present one lead to US defeat?

Even assuming that this is a desirable goal, there are at least three sets of problem with this train of thought. One, it was not Pakistan's security agencies alone that caused the demise of the Soviet Union. While we might have had an effective tactical role as willing agents during the Cold War, the strategic planning and the resources that made the covert tactics effective weren't ours.

Two, the first Afghan war inflicted on Pakistan the culture of Kalashnikov and drugs, bred intolerance in our society, decisively pushed the country to the right, and the use of suicide bombing as a justifiable political tactic is now entrenched in the militant mindset. Thus, the nefarious consequences for our social fabric of viewing the jihadist as a legitimate agent of the state cannot be overemphasised.

And, three, the defiant Afghan psyche, together with other imponderables, might force America to withdraw from Afghanistan sooner rather than later. That, however, will not make Pakistan's problem of insurgency and extremism go away, but only exacerbate it further. If the US is completely routed in Afghanistan and the Taliban prevail, not as part of a plural governing set-up but as a singular force ruling the country, one can only wonder with dread what will deter the Pakistani Taliban from trying to coerce our society into submission after enjoying such success and psychological boost.

We can continue to debate whether the Constitution and the society should embrace a minimalist or a maximal view of religion. But let us not be mistaken that the Taliban view of religion is completely out of sync with the spectrum of religious views entertained by a majority of Pakistanis. And let us further understand that the abhorrent US approach to "collateral damage" has been completely adopted by our homegrown insurgent groups. Both treat the lives of ordinary Pakistani citizens as collateral in pursuit of their political goals.

It is time for the PML-N, Imran Khan and our religious parties to take an unequivocal position on the threat posed by the Taliban and their like-minded insurgent groups, because the PPP, the ANP, the MQM and other actors that have a centre-left political orientation have limited ability and influence to forge a national consensus on how to fight this bloody insurgency that is eating us up from within. In confronting this existential threat, the test of leadership is not to follow public opinion, but to stir up and rally public support around a vision for Pakistan as a progressive and tolerant Muslim nation-state that will neither bow down before neo-colonsial foreign policies nor submit to indigenous retrogressive elements.

Let us save ourselves
Legal eye

Saturday, April 04, 2009, The News
Babar Sattar

Raazi said...

Militants on looting spree
By Our Correspondent
Saturday, 04 Apr, 2009

WANA, April 3: There was absolute mayhem in this town on Friday when hundreds of tribesmen looted government offices, residential quarters and the press club located near the main base of the Frontier Corps.

On Thursday night, a group of militants blew up the building of the state-run radio station after robbing equipment and other material.

The political administration called out paramilitary troops to end the looting and restore order. Bazaars were closed and troops took positions on buildings to stop the vandalism.

Local people said that security forces had made announcements on loudspeakers asking people to close shops, leave bazaars and stay indoors.

Earlier, the militants were heard telling people that it was legitimate to pillage government property and they should consider the looted goods as war booty.

Within minutes of the militants’ prodding, hundreds of people stormed government buildings and started looting furniture and whatever they could lay their hands on.

“I never saw such a bad situation and even bricks and steel bars were taken away,” said a local tribesman. He said that security forces acted like silent spectators and gave a free hand to the vandals.

Sources said that a number of office buildings, newly built residential quarters for government employees and the press club were destroyed. A recently built security checkpost was blown up. The vandalism continued for several hours as the tribal administration appeared completely helpless.

Raazi said...

Bomb blast in Pakistan kills 17
April 4, 2009 - 10:44PM

At least 17 civilians, including five schoolchildren, were killed and several others were injured in a foiled suicide attack on paramilitary troops in Pakistan's restive tribal region, a media report said.

Soldiers fired at an explosive-laden vehicle chasing their convoy in a busy market in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan district that borders Afghanistan.

The shots caused the vehicle to explode, killing 17 passersby, including five schoolchildren, Geo television channel reported.

It was not immediately clear whether the security personnel suffered any casualties.

The explosion came hours after a suspected US drone strike killed 13 people, including Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, in the Datta Khel area, 35km west of Miranshah.

Aamir Mughal said...

Dishonest Ansar Abbasi.

This news was filed by Ansar Abbasi and click the link now and you would note that he has removed his own name.

Is cooperation with CIA-FBI posing a threat to Pak strategic interests?

Monday, February 25, 2008 By Ansar Abbasi


ISLAMABAD: While Pakistan might have benefited from hardcore actionable intelligence provided by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the FBI in countering terrorism, one possible negative aspect has been the creation of a vast network of CIA and FBI agents – mostly Pakistanis.

Though intelligence cooperation between Pakistan and the US multiplied extensively after 9/11 and was aimed at the Taliban and al-Qaeda, many in Pakistan fear the network for these foreign agencies within Pakistan was also being used for other tasks, some probably falling into the definition of interference in our internal affairs.

Top authorities in Pakistan are said to be in knowledge of this phenomenal spread in the American spy agencies’ network as the country's intelligence agencies have already reported this matter and even identified a number of those on the payroll of the US agencies.

Besides others, a large number of retired Army officers, including ex-brigadiers, are presently working here as American spies. An official of an intelligence agency, however, explained that spy agencies of different countries had their worldwide networks and they handled spy matters according to their resources and needs because importance of spying had increased tremendously after 9/11.

Because of the alleged presence of al-Qaeda-Taliban in Pakistan, the interest of the foreign intelligence agencies here has gone up. The official added that the US had the largest intelligence network in the world and Pakistan was also benefiting from this because through this network the CIA and FBI shared intelligence with Pakistan and gave important information to nab terrorists.

Pakistan allowed concessions to the US as part of intelligence cooperation in the controversial war on terror but some official sources are of the view that these concessions and their parameters were not being adhered to within the agreed limits.

Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq, when contacted, said he had no information of this sort. He said intelligence cooperation between Islamabad and Washington was a fact but doubted that the local agents could be hired. He, however, said if there was any interference in our matters by any foreign spying agencies, it was illegal and not allowed. Sadiq said the ISPR would be in a better position to respond to such questions.

Director General ISPR and military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas, when asked about the feared massive expansion of local CIA and FBI agents in Pakistan after 9/11, said, "I don't think so." He added that the government would never allow the CIA or FBI to expand their network in Pakistan. "I deny this," the military spokesman said.

A defence source, however, recently told this correspondent it was a routine operation of all agencies around the world to recruit agents for espionage in every country. He said CIA and FBI did not need to come to Pakistan and start recruiting their local agents here because they could do the same while sitting in Washington. "These things are neither cut and dried nor done in black and white but this always happens and cannot be denied," the source said

Caretaker Interior Minister Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Nawaz, when approached said the US influence was not only in Pakistan but also in almost every other country. He acknowledged that there was a feeling that the network of US intelligence agents had spread here but he had no proof with him to substantiate this. He, however, admitted that the US influence was there in all areas.

The retired general, who has also been secretary defence for some years and left the job much after 9/11, said there was a standard rule that no foreign intelligence agent could subvert against the state.

Elizabeth Colton, the Press Attache of the US embassy in Islamabad, told this correspondent, in response to a set of questions sent to her, that the Embassy could not discuss intelligence issues with the media.

She said the Embassy had no comment on the questions sent to her which included one asking whether the Embassy or its legal section had any role in recruiting Pakistanis for CIA and FBI.

The Embassy was also asked whether they shared the concerns of some Pakistani authorities that the US intelligence agencies, which were given some concessions in the tribal belt of Pakistan, were crossing their limits and hurting the strategic interests of Pakistan.

US National Intelligence Director Mike McConnel was quoted to have admitted recently that the US administration had already spent $50 billion during the current year on spying. A considerable chunk of this budget for spying is believed to have been spent on the US war on terror. Part of this money would have also travelled to Pakistan to pay off the CIA/FBI local agents, who are said to be paid well.

Parts of the US media have been reporting on this subject and the most significant report was in The Washington Post in 2002 when the influential newspaper claimed that the United States had organised its own espionage network in Pakistan due to lack of cooperation from the ISI in locating the al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives.

"The FBI decided to set up a Spider Group, a band of former Pakistani Army officers and others, after it concluded that lack of cooperation from the ISI made it impossible to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives in the tribal areas of the country.”

Quoting a federal law-enforcement official in Washington, the newspaper reported that the US move marked an attempt by the FBI to develop "free flow of information" to US agents who previously had worked under some restriction with Pakistan's official Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

The Spider Group, the report said, was also asked to recruit locals in Pakistan's tribal areas, where hundreds of wanted "terrorists" are allegedly holed up under the patronage of tribal chiefs. Members of the Spider Group include a mix of Muslim and Christian retired Army and intelligence officers and have been trained and equipped by the FBI.
Background interviews reveal that today the CIA's intelligence local network is far more extensive than that of the FBI. The sources said that during the initial years of War on Terror, the Americans were not satisfied with the intelligence gathering of local agencies in the tribal areas of Pakistan, so they launched their own agencies that had now developed a vast network in the country.

A source quoted an incident in which the CIA officials once distributed awards amongst Pakistani intelligence people in the headquarters of the agency in Langley, Virginia. "This is perhaps unprecedented," the source said.

A spymaster of one of the country's intelligence agency reported to the Interior Ministry that a provincial head of a private security agency, besides others, was spying for the CIA. The security agency was contacted and the said official was removed. It was also reported that a large number of private security agencies personnel were doing espionage work.

A retired lieutenant general confided to this correspondent on condition of not being named that during his career he had gone to the US twice for military related training, where he was openly offered to work for the US. "I was praised and offered that why don't I join them," he said, adding that once an official encouraged him to inform the US about the problems of Pakistan's defence without even talking to his seniors.

He said the same intelligence officials asked him to settle his children in the US for better life and education. "I was openly told that I should not be worried about their expenses," the retired general said.

Meanwhile, a local journalist Azaz Syed told this correspondent that quite a few years back, he approached the legal section of the US embassy in Islamabad, after reading an advertisement in an international publication for recruitment of FBI agents for South Asia. For the purpose of doing an investigative story, he offered his services for FBI. He said he offered his services to spy on Taliban in exchange for information from the US embassy but the diplomat interviewing him was not interested in Taliban but wanted info about civil bureaucracy. He was not ready to give any information either.

"I was told that I would get assignments relating to civil bureaucracy and in return would be paid well," Syed said, adding that later he did a story for an Urdu newspaper with which he was associated at that point of time.

The US Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – the spy military plane – are yet another source of concern for many here. The UAVs were allowed to do espionage in tribal areas of Pakistan for "specific jobs" only but since the UAVs were not caught by radars, these spy planes crossed their limits a number of times.

Initially, the Pakistan Air Force objected to such US surveillance but the government decided otherwise because of US insistence that it was inevitable to track down the so-called al-Qaeda targets.

The sources revealed that the murdered top tribal leader resisting the US war on terror, Nek Muhammad, became the target of a UAV despite the peace deal he had signed with the then corps commander Lt Gen Safdar Hussain.

Getting uncomfortable with the UAV activities, some Pakistani officials have expressed their concerns at the highest level. The Pakistan Army is trying to develop its own UAV but so far these planes are not up to the required international standards.

Pakistan has also been trying to buy these UAVs but some international forces are creating impediments in such deals. Once Pakistan contacted South Africa to purchase these small aircraft but the price demanded was $10 million, which was far higher than the price of the equipment.

The UAV intelligence capacity and its advantage of not being traced by radars, some believe, could pose serious threats to Pakistan's strategic interests.

Aamir Mughal said...

Swat video is genuine, claim activists

Sunday, April 05, 2009

By Usman Manzoor

Islamabad: While the video tape of a seventeen-year-old girl being flogged by the Taliban has led to countrywide protests and condemnation, the NWFP government has questioned the authenticity of the video tape. But those who released the video claim that the video is both genuine and recent.

Samar Minallah, the human rights activist and documentary film-maker, while talking to The News said that the video was being circulated from mobile phone to mobile phone and from person to person. She said that she received the video via email from a human rights activist of Swat. Talking about the authenticity of the video Minallah said that everyone in Swat knows that the incident took place but unfortunately the NWFP government wants to divert the attention of the masses from the actual issue of harassment of women. She said that the facts and figures would be produced before the Supreme Court and everyone would come to know about the authenticity of the video.

“NWFP minister Mian Iftikhar directly named me while addressing a press conference yesterday while today the NWFP government has been apologising over directly blaming me”, said Samar Minallah adding: “I have got nothing from publicising this horrific video except putting my life in danger and if the government cannot provide me security then at least it should not divert the attention of the masses.”

She said that the dialect which the girl was speaking was purely of Swat as she herself has worked in Swat and any Pushtoon could recognise it. Samar said that Muslim Khan, the spokesman of Taliban in Swat, accepted that the incident took place and also told the media that the girl had an illicit relationship with her father-in-law. “If the incident did not take place then how come Muslim Khan came to know about the allegations levelled against the girl?”, said the human rights activist adding: “Muslim Khan said the actual punishment to be awarded to the girl was stoning to death but she was flogged.”

She said that a writer contributing to the BBC had confirmed that the incident was recent and from Swat.

She referred to a human rights activist of Swat who when contacted requested anonymity as publishing his name could put his life in danger. The human rights activist said that the video was so common in Swat that everyone was aware of it. The activist had said that he received the video from Taliban who were not happy with the incident as it was un-Islamic because the girl had not faced any trial. “Many Taliban were not happy with the incident and they themselves had made the video and circulated it”, said the human rights activist adding: “The girl’s younger brother was forced to hold her at gunpoint and the man lashing the girl also abused that boy which could be heard easily; the Taliban said to that boy, “Pimp, take her inside the house?”

The activist from Swat said that the incident took place in a remote area near village Serbanda in upper Swat and many Taliban say that it was an illegal activity as proper procedure of having four witnesses was not adopted. He was of the view that the video was recent and there were many other similar incidents which could not be highlighted by the media.


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