Rohit Kumar's Views

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Posts Tagged ‘Terrorists

Govt taps about 5,000 people’s phones on average

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NEW DELHI: Telephone calls of about 5,000 people are being recorded by central security agencies daily as part of security and preventive measures.

Government sources said on an average telephones of about 5,000 people are being kept under surveillance by intelligence agencies suspecting their linkages with terror activities, hawala operators and members of banned organisations.

Telephones of a number of people involved in various economic offences are also being monitored.

Sources said that conversations of terrorists and insurgent outfits in Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and the banned CPI (Maoist) are mostly under the scanner of intelligence agencies.

“A lot of times the phone tapping is done for only sixty days. But when it involves persons who are facing any criminal case or are under the scanner of investigating agencies, their phones are kept under surveillance for a longer period,” a senior Home Ministry official said.

As per official procedures, the phone tapping by intelligence agencies is done with the consent of the Union Home Secretary . The government can authorise tapping for 60 days which can be extended again as per needs.

The sources said that emails are also being monitored by government agencies after getting the consent of the service providers.

Sources said that tapping of telephone conversations of leading corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, whose name has cropped up in the 2G Spectrum row , with several influential persons were authorised by the government.

Bait For A Kill

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IN KALAROOS, a remote village of frontier district Kupwara, memories of the security forces’ misadventures are kept alive in a graveyard that contains scores of bodies of unidentified men killed in numerous gunbattles with the army in Machil sector. Some of the graves have ‘epitaphs’ that could help identify those buried in them. Thus, a small tin plate erected on one of the graves says “Safaid dadhi wala (White bearded)”, another nearby has “Kala dress wala (Dressed in black)”. Most graves are just distinguishable by soil piled high. Two bodies bear the ‘distinguishing mark’ of smears of blue ink used by woodcutters to mark logs in the forest.

CRUEL END The three young men from Nadihal village who were killed in a fake encounter by the army.

Three graves are empty: the authorities dug them up recently to exhume bodies of young men killed near the Line of Control (LoC). Villagers say they were innocent boys and the encounter was fake. At the root of this bloodshed is a new ‘system’ put in place where Special Police Officers (SPOs) share ‘actionable intelligence’ with the army in return for handsome amounts of money. It enables the security forces to claim victories and produce bodies, all in the name of containing militancy.

A recap of the events that led up to the excavation of these bodies might make the picture clearer.

It was raining heavily when at 2 am on April 30 when a few soldiers led by Major Opinder Singh of the 4 Rajputana Rifles arrived at the Kalaroos police post. They wanted to register an FIR about an infiltration bid from the Pakistani side of the LoC in which three “terrorists” were killed. The major claimed five weapons – four AK rifles and one pistol besides assorted ammunition-were recovered. But the soldiers had not brought with them the weapons and the bodies, insisting that it was impossible to transport them from the forest.

The SHO of Kupwara Police Station insisted on retrieving the bodies and doing a post-mortem. The latter revealed that all three were shot in the head. Among the locals who helped bury the bodies was Mohammad Maqbool, a former militant who had crossed over to the Pakistani side 18 years earlier. “Immediately on seeing the bodies and the clothes, I figured out they could not have infiltrated from the other side,” Maqbool said. “It is a tough 15-day route and your body cannot be in such condition if you have just come in [infiltrated].”

“A police officer claims armymen paid Rs 1.5 lakh to Bashir for luring the three men”

The people of Kalaroos protested but were, as usual, given short shrift. Then, three weeks later, policemen in civvies started quietly guarding the graves. For just 50 km away in Nadihal village, police were investigating the disappearance of three friends, Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Riyaz Ahmad Lone and Muhammad Shafi Lone – all in their twenties.

What seems to have happened is this: one Bashir who was dismissed as SPO after being found guilty in a case of extortion lured the three young men from Nadihal village on April 25 on the pretext of getting them daily wage employment with the army. Shahzad had told a friend that the three were taken in an army vehicle to a forward army post in Machil sector where they were shown to some heavily armed men dressed in civvies and brought back. Back in Kalaroos, they were paid Rs 500 and promised “some work” for which they would be paid Rs 2,000 each.

Instead, they seem to have been handed over to Major Opinder Singh of Rajputana Rifles. A top police official who wished not to be identified insinuated the army paid at least Rs 1.5 lakh to Bashir for bringing in the three men.

In their frantic efforts to trace their sons, families of the three slain villagers were taken to a police Special Operations Group (SOG) at the Sheeri camp near Uri border area in Baramulla district. They were told that the three missing villagers “were sent by the ISI to Pakistan” and that no further effort should be made to look for them.

“The Army needs kills and the SPOs reap benefits,” alleges a senior police official. “It is a business in Kupwara and other border areas. It is like demand and supply of human beings and there is a market for it.” The SPOs identify soft targets for the army, the police official said, and this process has been going on for a decade.

The last person Shahzad had met before his disappearance was his close friend Fayaz Wani, whom he told he was going to “do some work for the army”. Fayaz was called for questioning. While on his way to meet the SP of Sopore, he was kidnapped by three men near Baramulla bus stand and taken straight to the Joint Interrogation Centre (JIC) of security forces in the town. He recognised one of his kidnappers, Qayoom, an SPO and a former militant. The SPO accused Fayaz, a former LeT militant himself who surrendered in 1998, of killing Shahzad and selling weapons and explosives to militants. “Since I knew Bashir (Qayoom’s brother) was involved in Shazad’s disappearance, I understood the SPO brothers wanted to frame me,” Fayaz told TEHELKA. Fayaz was tortured till he fell unconscious for three hours and the Sopore police reached him.

NO FAULT OF THEIRS Jabeena, widow of one of the victims, Shahzad Ahmad Khan, with her son.

During earlier investigation by Sopore police, Bashir was interrogated but revealed nothing. After the revelations by Fayaz on May 20, police investigators confronted Bashir who finally revealed how the three missing Nadihal villagers were handed over to Rajputana Rifles. “Under sustained interrogation Bashir revealed the whole story,” said Altaf Khan, SP Sopore, who cracked the whole case. The next day, photographs of three “infiltrators” killed in the intervening night of April 29-30 appeared in a local Urdu daily, raising questions about who they were.

KUPWARA’S ADDITIONAL SP Mohammad Yousuf cites the instance of an SPO Imran Joo who had lured two youth from the border town in similar circumstances. He was about to hand them over to some army officer in Keran sector – contiguous with Machil – near the LoC when the police informed higher army authorities. Both Zahoor Ahmed Malik of Halmatpora village and Shariq Ahmed of Dardhara in Kupwara, have since been handed back to their families.

Major Opinder’s unit has since moved out from Machil sector and relocated to Meerut. A court martial has been ordered while an internal army inquiry is also on.

Now, all such incidents have come under the scanner. This year so far, the army figure for those killed along the LoC is 29 persons, out of which just three were identified. At least 571 militants have been killed in the state since 2008, most of them along the LoC. Media is not allowed to access the encounter sites and have to solely depend on the army versions.

According to human rights groups based in Kashmir, up to 8,000 people have disappeared in the state since 1990. Many were identified when families painstakingly found out on their own how they were killed and buried as unidentified in numerous graveyards along the border.

‘Bringing On The Army Against The Naxals Will Be A Disaster’

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EN Rammohan, former Director General of the BSF, has fought insurgencies in Kashmir and the Northeast. Recently, Home Minister P Chidambaram picked him to probe the Dantewada massacre of CRPF jawans by Naxals. Yet, crucially, in a forthright interview with SHOMA CHAUDHURY, he says the Centre’s strategy for fighting Naxals is a recipe for civil war

After the train tragedy in Bengal, there is renewed talk of bringing on the army and air force in the fight against the Maoists. What is your view on this?
I think it would be a terrible mistake. The more you try to deal with this issue through military options, the more it will spread and grow in strength.

You were asked by the Home Ministry to investigate the recent Maoist ambush of CRPF jawans in Dantewada. The government obviously thinks well of your judgement, track record and integrity. So how do you read the Maoist crisis facing the country today?

I think it is first and foremost an issue of social justice. I first came across the problem when I was posted in Hyderabad in the 1980s as DIG, CBI. My batchmate Ajay Deora was DG, Intelligence and he was struggling to control things. I am from the Assam cadre and have handled insurgencies before. I was in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which was set up with the objective of fighting behind enemy lines, so we have all been trained in guerrilla warfare. Insurgencies are my abiding interest.

Most of the Maoist leadership comes from Andhra. Why do you think this is the case?

From what I saw in Andhra the primary problem is land. The upper castes have been exploiting tribals and Scheduled Castes (SCs) for generations. Before Independence there was no land ceiling, so the upper castes had huge land holdings that often ran into over a 1,000 acres, while the SCs and tribals had no land, or very small holdings. Yet even these small holdings were taken over forcibly by the upper castes who would buy their produce then fudge the accounts, to keep them indebted. The tribals were turned into tenant farmers who had to till the land but give 2/3rd of the produce to the upper castes. It is against this backdrop in 1946 that the CPI first started working in the Telangana areas. They would collect a group of tribals with bows and arrows, surround an upper caste granary and distribute the grain. Then they would tell the landowner that from now on 2/3rds would go to the tillers, 1/3rd to the landowner. Of course the landowners would complain to the police who would round up the locals and arrest and beat them.

After Independence, land ceiling laws were legislated but they were never implemented in Andhra. In 1989, when the government changed, I told my friend Deora, let’s go meet the Revenue Minister. I told the minister, you’ll never be able to solve this problem. He was very unhappy with the way I spoke and said, why not? I told him if you want to stub out this movement, impose land ceiling. He said, that’s impossible, we can never do that. He gave the example of Sudhakar Rao, one of his colleagues from Adilabad. That fellow has got 1,100 acres, he said, and he won’t be willing to part with even one.

The risk of a counter-action now is that our forces can go mad. They’ll seek
revenge for their 76 mates killed

So the caste structure in Andhra Pradesh is such. There are many police stations even today where a Scheduled Caste will not dare to file an FIR – it just won’t be registered or investigated. Then of course, the women were being misused. Labourers on a farm had to offer their bride on the first night to the landlord. This is reflected even in the folk songs of the Adivasis. There is no hope for women in this country, they sing. So unless these wrongs are righted, how are you expecting a solution to this problem? There can be no military solution to this problem.

The media has gone hoarse speaking of them as terrorists. Are you comfortable with this description?

You see everyone talks about the Naxalites but very few people understand there are two parts to this. There are the Adivasis and Scheduled Castes at the lowest strata. Then there are the leaders from the CPI, CPI Marxist-Leninist and now CPI-Maoist. These are all communists and 99 percent of them are upper caste. But because of their political philosophy they have no caste and are lending a hand to the poor. Now they have a political agenda and their objective is to come to power in this country. I don’t want to live in a Maoist State but if we continue with our current arrogance, that’s exactly what will happen. There will be great upheaval in society. Go to communist countries like Russia or China. If you look at all the top class people there now – men like Kruschev – you’ll see everyone in power today were all peasants once, and the upper class people have all disappeared somewhere. In India also, there will be a complete upheaval in society. So I don’t see why we are so hesitant to rectify our course and address issues of social justice.

You have spoken of Andhra. How do you read Chhattisgarh?

In Chhattisgarh, it’s mostly to do with rights over forests. The Adivasis have been pushed into the forests over thousands of years by caste domination, and are now almost entirely confined to it. They have no land and can only collect forest produce. But they still have to sell it and when they come out of the forest to the market place, they have to find a buyer. And who’s the buyer? The Vaishya trader. At the root of this trouble, I say, is this trio – the wily Brahmin, the arrogant Kshatriya, the avaricious Vaishya. Chidambaram, incidentally, is a Vaishya. These three social groups have been trampling on these people for centuries, so why blame them if the CPI has lent a hand? They help the poor by inspecting the Vaishya’s books and ensuring tribals get a correct price. You should investigate the tendu leaf trade – I am told the money from that reaches politicians in Delhi, while the poor man who picks the leaf gets nothing.

DEADLY CONFRONTATION A CRPF jawan keeps watch near the remains of the bus blown up by Naxals.

The point is, in any insurgency, people take to guns because they feel they have no choice. In this case, the tribals are being taught by the Maoists to fight for their rights. And in Marxist teaching, guerrilla warfare is one of the subjects. All these escalating incidents, the ambushes etc, is designed to get hold of weapons. But the risk of a counter-action now is that our forces can go beserk. They will say we’ve lost 76 people and they will just shoot anyone, they’ll kill everybody, even innocent people, unless there is a very strong leadership to keep them in control. And I am afraid that leadership does not exist. This is something the government must understand.

So what do you see as solutions? And what do you think is holding up those solutions?

There are two acts pending in Parliament – one is to do with land acquisition, the other is to do with forest rights. But the interesting thing is, minerals have been found in these forests and for the party in power, this is a big bonanza. If you sign a MOU worth millions of dollars for excavating minerals, a percentage of it will go to your Swiss Bank account. The poor man in the forest is conveniently forgotten. In Bihar, the Bhumihars openly say, “Hamare patte hum billi aur kutte ke naam pe lagate hain (We list our land titles in the names of our cats and dogs)”. How long can such a situation continue without protest? And you say you want to bring in the army? Why don’t you look inwards and rectify this? If the government has any sense in its head, it will, otherwise it will be a terrible situation. It will be a disaster.

TEHELKA has doggedly tracked stories of atrocities by the police and paramilitary. Rapes, killings, beatings, stealing of hens and goats. If one raises these issues with the government, they see it as a betrayal, as “intellectual support” for the Maoists. What is your view of the conduct of the SPOs, police and paramilitary?

The Salwa Judum was the government’s creation and it has compounded the situation badly. What the landlords were doing earlier, the police and SPOs are doing now. So is the CRPF. I believe counter-insurgencies must be fought legally. This is something most people don’t talk of. But the bible on fighting counter-insurgencies, Robert Thompson’s Defeating Communist Insurgencies starts with one line: A counter insurgency must be scrupulously legal. I was lucky because I was trained in guerrilla warfare by instructors who were trained by people like Robert Thompson. I’ve quoted this in many places and letters to the government. The quality of leadership is the most crucial thing in such conflicts. Set aside the bigger accusations of rape and killings, the Adivasis often even complain about the forces stealing their chickens and goats. This is terrible. If the company commander is good, they would not dare to do it. If ever any boys in uniform are caught doing anything wrong, they should be punished and word should go out to the villagers that such behaviour will not be tolerated. That is the only way you can get the upper hand.

Is Delhi ready to give ownership of minerals to tribals, when each MoU is attached to a Swiss Bank account?

I have worked in all these forces – the CRPF, ITBP, BSF. The CRPF used to be a law-and-order force, good at lathi charge. Now they are not even that. You must have seen what’s happening in Kashmir – they are throwing stones back at the crowd. That should never happen. Otherwise you just have two mobs on either side – one mob is in uniform, the other is not.The main problem with the CRPF is that they are handed over to the state police when they arrive anywhere, and the SHO uses them for clearing a crowd or for controlling a communal situation. This business of handling them to police has bereft them of leadership. They have functioned better in places like Mizoram and Nagaland because there they have been under army leadership which is more disciplined. But I am impressed with the training Brigadier Powar is giving in the jungle warfare school that’s been set up in Kanker.You have said bringing the army in against the Naxals will be a disaster. Can you spell out the reasons why.
The first problem the army will face is that the Bihar regiment has a very strong component of Adivasis. What do you think will happen when such a battalion is facing Adivasis on the other side? His home may be there, he may have relatives on the other side, his tribe could be involved. It’s a recipe for disaster. The army should never ever come in to this conflict. The point is very clear, there are root causes. The government has to address them.In any case, who are you going to attack? Who are you going to catch? You will not find anyone there. The moment they know such an operation is going on, they will vanish in a 100 different directions. Their weapons will disappear. You’ll find innocent people living there and our forces will go and shoot 30 of them and say we have shot so many Naxalites. Every child born in the area then will become an insurgent after that. Do you believe there can be a lasting ceasefire?

I can guarantee there will not be any ceasefire – because the Maoists organising or leading this are on the run. If they stop, it will be very difficult to start again. I don’t think they are going to give up their guns. We have to convince the cadres that the government has changed its policy on land and forest rights and mining.Wean away the support base. Make Indian democracy more attractive than Maoist revolution.

Dula Bhima of Mukram village in Dantewada shows the I-card of his son Nuppa who was picked up by the CRPF.

Absolutely right. I think the only thing to do now is raise these issues in every forum and force the government’s hand. If you don’t rectify the ground realities, you can’t turn this around. The more military force you put, the bigger the crisis will become.Have you told the government this?

I speak openly about it at every forum I can.The government says it wants to bring development to these regions.

It is not about development. It is about rights. This government has to understand – how is it that land ceiling was implemented in Kerala? Why is there no Maoist movement there? You know what happened there? Under EMS Namboodiripad, the law was so strong that anyone who was a tenant farmer for 12 years, the ownership of the land passed to him without compensation to the owner. We are now in 2010, but in most parts of the country, we are behaving as though we are in 1610 or something. Do you know in Australia and the US now, they say that if any minerals or oil is found in the Reservation areas, that resource belongs to the Aborigines and Native Americans. In India also, the first thing that should be declared is that if minerals are found in the forest, it belongs to the people of that forest. The MOUs should be signed by all the people of that village with that company. After that, give them legal guidance and see that the profit comes to their accounts. Is the government in Delhi prepared to do that? Why should they? Every MOU has a Swiss Bank account attached.You say you don’t want to live in a Maoist State. One cannot evade the fact that they have a highly efficient and armed wing, or that 200-odd districts are in their control. So to ask a question many people might have in their heads – do you think the use paramilitary or other forces has any role at all to play in containing the Maoists, even as one incorporates the issues of justice they have raised?

Let’s take a model area. I would say put about 10 battalions in that area. Have good leaders so that the jawans don’t go and steal chickens and rape women and burn houses. When I was IG, BSF in Kashmir, I had 50 BSF battalions under me. I used to go around the city everyday, visiting one or two of the battalions by turn. Then I would talk to the local people and get feedback, especially if any of my battalions had done an operation. If the public there would tell me, “Sahib sab theek gaya, aapke ladke koi galti nahi kiya”, I’d feel things were under control. That is leadership. My commanders knew that if they did anything wrong, they were going to get punished and punished hard. So they behaved. This is what you need – a strong IG or DG. And men highly trained in field craft. One mistake this government has been making is that it wants yes-men.You said army leadership is better than the paramilitary, but the army’s record in handling internal insurgencies in the Northeast or Kashmir hasn’t exactly been sterling.

Yes, the army has done wrong things in the Northeast, very wrong things. I’ve worked in Nagaland, I’ve worked in Manipur. Because it is in a remote corner, people here don’t know what’s happening there. No wonder they don’t like to be with us. But still, generally speaking, the army leadership is better because their general is not appointed by a politician. He comes on merit, on courage, on fitness, and how much he looks after his men. In the paramilitary, you get to the top by the amount of bootlicking you do. The system is different.

Shocking revelations

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An audiotape doing the rounds in the cyber world has taken the country by storm. One of the country’s top anchors and a prominent journalist, Hamid Mir, while talking to an alleged Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) member, made shocking comments about various things. A transcript of the conversation was published in this newspaper yesterday. The conversation took place a few days before Khalid Khawaja, a former ISI official, was killed last month by a militant group going by the name of the ‘Asian Tigers’. Some are speculating if Mir’s indiscretions played a role in Khawaja’s murder.

There should be a thorough investigation into the matter by the security agencies. It should first be ascertained whether it was actually Hamid Mir or an impersonator on the audiotape. If it is indeed a genuine transcript, Mir’s credentials should come under the scanner. Considering the fact that Mir is a very influential TV anchor, it comes as a surprise that he seems to be involved in murky areas where most journalists fear to tread. Being an investigative journalist does make one come in contact with militant groups so as to get exclusive scoops, but it does not give a journalist the right to incite violence and hatred. If these charges are proved against Mr Mir, he could attract the mischief of the Army Act and Pakistan Penal Code for aiding and abetting terrorists who have declared war on the state of Pakistan and against whom our forces are fighting and dying. These are serious charges and should be dealt with accordingly.

When asked by the unidentified man who Khawaja was working for, Mir opined that he was working for the CIA and not the ISI. He then went on to strengthen his allegation by citing incidents from the past and how close Khawaja was to former CIA chief William Casey and a character called Mansoor Ejaz. Mir alleges that Ejaz could have been an Israeli agent since he tried to persuade Benazir Bhutto to recognise Israel when she was in power. Mir is already on record as having written that Khawaja led a “highly complex underworld life, as a mediator, sometimes on behalf of the Americans, a power-broker, a mover and shaker”. In the audiotape, Mir discloses that Khawaja wanted him to arrange a meeting with Kashmiri mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin, but he did not because of Khawaja’s links with the Indian government. Mir also implicates Khawaja in the Laal Masjid case and hints that the reason Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi opted for death was to wipe out the humiliation of his brother fleeing the mosque wearing a burqa. Mir talks about his friendship with PML-N member Javed Ibrahim Paracha, who is alleged to have spread sectarian terrorism in Kohat and has links to al Qaeda and other terrorist outfits.

Apart from Mir’s conspiracy theories about Khawaja being an agent of the CIA, India and Israel, the most horrifying aspect was to hear Mir spewing venom against the Ahmedis in the audiotape. He alleged that Khawaja was a “Qadiyani agent” and said, “I personally believe that Qadiyanis are worse than the kuffar (infidels)”. The Ahmedis are already a persecuted community in Pakistan and such views by a prominent journalist would put them in further danger. There is already a lot of intolerance because of the extremist mindset that prevails in our society. When such a prominent television commentator and anchor makes such comments, his journalistic ethics must be questioned. These days many anchors and journalists are challenging the credibility of the government, but one must now interrogate their own credibility. It is hoped that the media group Hamid Mir works for would, in its wisdom, distance itself from Mir. Not only has Mir acted in a criminal manner, he has violated all professional ethics as well. Mir must be taken to task so that the people of Pakistan are not misled by his ilk in the future. *

Dying without a voice

It is a sad day indeed when the plight of the common man becomes so tragic and desperate. The Chief Minister’s (CM) complaint cell, established to hear and act upon the grievances of the public, has found itself in rather unforgivable hot water. Mehmood Akhtar, a 50-year-old resident of Faisalabad, set himself on fire and succumbed to his injuries outside the cell’s Model Town office, due to an agonising lack of intervention on part of the CM to address his woes. In this age of unprecedented inflation and mass frustration because of it, Mehmood went back and forth for some financial assistance and allotment of a small house in Faisalabad, first to 7-Club Road and then to the complaint cell. He was jostled to and fro with an application letter that was forwarded to the Faisalabad District Coordinating Officer (DCO) Faisalabad, which was then rejected by unconcerned officials.

On arriving at the complaint cell on Friday, he was harassed and physically abused by security personal who would not let him register his plaint. With no other option, he set himself on fire. For the poor and unconnected, death seems increasingly the only solution.

What is the point of setting up a complaint cell Mr CM – amidst much hurrahing and self-congratulatory pats on the back – when you refuse to entertain those who need you the most? It is well known that only those who possess the means and highly regarded references are allowed to step into the confines of the complaint cell. The office bearers, who are so discriminate in their dealings, must be held accountable for a death that is being registered by the police as a suicide no less. That is equivalent to taking the man out of the morgue and hanging him! It is the officials who did not entertain this man’s dejection who should be hauled up and asked why patronage and privilege are the only voices that are heard.

To now hear PML-N party chief Nawaz Sharif take note and announce ‘compensation’ for the family is sad and laughable. Would it not have been easier to hear Mr Akhtar’s problem and have it sorted out instead of becoming responsible for a man’s suicidal despair?

Mehmood Akhtar is, unfortunately, just a bitter reminder of the general malaise that has afflicted a society ‘served’ by indifferent and callous representatives. *

Written by rohitkumarsviews

May 17, 2010 at 11:39 am

Pakistan and Times Square

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If we want Times Square to be safer from terrorists, we need to start by helping make Pakistan safer as well.

People with links to Pakistan have been behind a hugely disproportionate share of international terror incidents over the last two decades: the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks; Richard Reid’s failed shoe bombing in 2001; the so-called Bojinka plot in 1995 to blow up 12 planes simultaneously; the 2005 London train and bus bombings; the 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament; and attacks on two luxury hotels and a Jewish center in Mumbai in 2008.

So it came as little surprise that the suspect in the attempted car bombing in Times Square, Faisal Shahzad, is a Pakistani-American.

Why does an ostensible “ally” seem to constitute more of a threat than, say, Iran? Or Lebanon or Syria or Iraq? Or Egypt, birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood brand of militant Islam? Or the West Bank and Gaza, where resentment of America’s Middle East policies is centered?

One answer, I think, is that Pakistan’s American-backed military leader of the 1970s and 1980s, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, drove the country off course, seeking to use fundamentalism as a way to buttress the regime. Instead of investing in education and infrastructure, he invested in religious sanctimony.

The public education system, in particular, is a catastrophe. I’ve dropped in on Pakistani schools where the teachers haven’t bothered to show up (because they get paid anyway), and where the classrooms have collapsed (leaving students to meet under trees). Girls have been particularly left out. In the tribal areas, female literacy is 3 percent.

There’s an instructive contrast with Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan until it split off in 1971. At that time, Bangladesh was Pakistani’s impoverished cousin and seemed pretty much hopeless. Henry Kissinger famously described Bangladesh as an “international basket case.”

But then Bangladesh began climbing a virtuous spiral by investing in education, of girls in particular. It now has more girls in high school than boys, according to Unicef. This focus on education has bolstered its economy, reduced population growth rates, nurtured civil society and dampened fundamentalism.

Educated girls formed the basis of a garment industry, making shirts for Americans. This brought in currency, boosted employment and provided an economic lifeline to the country. Those educated girls went to work for poverty-fighting organizations like BRAC and the Grameen Bank.

In Pakistan’s tribal areas, you can hear American drones buzzing faintly overhead, a reminder of our focus on military solutions. Drones and hard power have their place, but not to the exclusion of schools and soft power. An important 2008 study from Rand, “How Terrorist Groups End,” concluded that “military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups.”

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is on visits to rural Pakistan to see fundamentalist Wahabi-funded madrassas as the only game in town. They offer free meals, and the best students are given further scholarships to study abroad at fundamentalist institutions so that they come back as respected “scholars.”

We don’t even compete. Medieval misogynist fundamentalists display greater faith in the power of education than Americans do.

Let’s hope this is changing under the Obama administration. It’s promising that the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package provides billions of dollars for long-term civilian programs in Pakistan, although it’s still unclear how it will be implemented. One useful signal would be for Washington to encourage Islamabad to send not only troops to North Waziristan but also teachers.

We continue to be oblivious to trade possibilities. Pro-American Pakistanis fighting against extremism have been pleading for years for the United States to cut tariffs on Pakistani garment exports, to nurture the textile industry and stabilize the country. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, told me that his top three goals are “market access, market access, market access.” But Washington wants to protect North Carolina textile mills, so we won’t cut tariffs on Pakistani goods. The technical word for that: myopia.

Education and lower tariffs are not quick fixes, sometimes not even slow fixes. But they are tools that can help, at the margins, bring Pakistan back from the precipice. It has been reassuring to see the work of people like Greg Mortenson, whose brave school-building in Pakistan and Afghanistan was chronicled in “Three Cups of Tea.” Ditto for Developments in Literacy, or D.I.L., which builds schools for girls in Pakistan that are the most exhilarating things I’ve seen there.

It costs $1,500 to sponsor a D.I.L. classroom for a year, and that’s just about the best long-term counterterrorism investment available.

Over 600 suspects held in Mingora search operation

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* Curfew enforced to conduct house-to-house search
* Two houses of suspected Taliban blown up
* Former JUI-F lawmaker apprehended

MINGORA: Security forces arrested around 600 suspects during a search operation in Mingora city and blew up two homes of suspected Taliban, officials and residents said Tuesday.

A curfew was enforced from 3am until 11am to conduct house-to-house search for suspected Taliban.

The search operation followed last week’s murder of Awami National Party leader Sajjad, who was shot in Mingora bazaar on April 13.

Houses of terrorists Rahim and Sher Ali were bombed in Naway Kalay area of Mingora city, local residents said.

Meanwhile, the security forces also raided a newspaper’s office where workers were allegedly mistreated, management of the newspaper told Daily Times.

Ghulam Farooq, editor of the newspaper, said the forces raided his office at 4am without showing any warrant.

Lawmaker: The security forces also arrested former provincial assembly member belonging to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Irfanullah, during the search operation APP reported. According to party sources, he was shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation.

The JUI-F Swat chapter confirmed the arrest of their former lawmaker and said Irfanullah was on the hit list of the Taliban. They also demanded the release of their former legislator. Irfanullah was elected to the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2002.

13 Taliban killed in Orakzai, commander killed in Swat

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By: Ghulam Farooq

LAHORE: A clash between the security forces and the Taliban early on Sunday in Sangra area of Orakzai Agency resulted in the killing of 13 terrorists, while a Frontier Corps personnel was also killed in the clash, a private TV channel reported.

The forces have been engaged in operation against the Taliban in Orakzai for the last four weeks.

After the recent clashes, the remaining Taliban have fled Sangra.

Separately, the Bomb Disposal Squad defused a seven-kilogram bomb planted in a government high school in Warsata area of Orakzai.

Meanwhile, a Taliban commander was killed in a clash with security forces in Swat, officials said on Sunday.

They said the security forces and peace committee members conducted a joint raid at a house in Gandeeri area during a search operation.

The Taliban hurled hand grenade on the team from the house, and in retaliation, a key Swat Taliban commander Ibrahim alias Zubair was killed, while three others were arrested.

There were also reports that bodies of Taliban members Abu Jandal and Mullah Fazal were recovered from Ogdai, a suburb of Mingora.

A former tourist resort, Swat slipped out of Islamabad’s control in July 2007 after radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah mounted a violent campaign to enforce Islamic sharia law.

The army launched its offensive in Swat last April, killing more than 2,150 Taliban in Swat and neighbouring Buner and Lower Dir districts.

In July last year, it said most of the insurgent bastions had been wiped out.

Security forces kill 35 Taliban in Orakzai

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By Abdul Saboor Khan

* Two security personnel killed, six missing
* ISPR says 70-80 ‘heavily-rmed terrorists’ attacked the post in Shireen Darra area

HANGU: Security forces killed 35 terrorists in clashes in Lower Orakzai Agency on Monday.

The forces said two security personnel were killed, nine were injured and six went missing in the clashes.

Reports said the terrorists attacked the security forces in Shireen Darra and Songrani Feroz Khel areas and the clashes continued for three hours. The deceased security personnel were identified as Havaldar Zaman and Lance Naik Sajid.

ISPR: An ISPR press release said a group of 70 to 80 “heavily-armed terrorists” attacked the security force checkpost in Shireen Darra. “Security forces retaliated causing heavy casualties to the terrorists,” it added.

The security forces have stepped up assaults in the northwest over the past year, largely clearing Taliban from the Swat valley, South Waziristan and Bajaur agencies along the Afghan border.

Fighting has intensified in recent weeks in Orakzai and the neighbouring Khyber region, where officials said terrorists who fled the earlier sweeps had taken refuge. Military officials said a large number of Taliban terrorists are believed to have taken shelter in Tirah Valley.

Tirah is a forested area on the borders of Orakzai, Khyber and Afghanistan and is a stronghold of the Lashkar-e-Islam.

14 terrorists killed in Orakzai Agency

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* Six hideouts destroyed in airstrikes

HANGU: At least 14 Taliban were killed when security forces backed by fighter jets bombed various areas in Orakzai Agency on Tuesday.

Six militant hideouts were also destroyed in the airstrikes.

Meanwhile, terrorists attacked an FC checkpost in Shahu Khel area of Hangu. Sources said the security forces retaliated and targeted militant hideouts with artillery shells.

Militants fired three rockets at Hangu city targeting the Elite Force Headquarters, damaging the building.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

April 7, 2010 at 10:08 am

One day we all will be terrorists!

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By Dr Haider Mehdi

“Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.”

– Chris Hedges (in an article of the same title)

My generation grew up in a different Pakistan. A different Lahore, a different Karachi, a different Peshawar, a different Quetta, a different Islamabad and an entirely different country.

In Lahore, people sat in Pak Tea House and Coffee House and talked about politics, poetry, religion, culture and friendships gave birth, on a daily basis, to youthful romanticism of our times: the mutual seduction of kindred spirits within the confines of our cultural values and the gentleness of Urdu poetry, songs, geets (lyrics) and the Lahori humour. We celebrated basant (the kite-flying festival), maila-charagha (the festival of lights) and Urs Data Gung-Baksh (the festival of a saint). We observed Muharram with great reverence.

Karachi used to be alive 24 hours a day all year round. It was a city of “lights”, “fashion”, hustle-bustle of a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. Ethnic diversity and tolerance was the hallmark of this city.

Peshawar was a beacon of hospitality, a tribute to human gentleness and an affirmation of a rich community life.

Quetta’s apple-laden trees decorated its roads everywhere and the Balochis colourful existence found its spirit in its music, songs and even in its cuisine. Moreover, Pakistan’s rural society existed in purity, simplicity and the zealousness of hard working people.

Pakistan was a different country then: we lived in relative peace, tolerance and mutual harmony. A delicious puri nashta cost one rupee, petrol was Rs 2.50 a gallon, schooling was cheap, sugar and food were plenty, and a round-trip by PIA from Lahore to Karachi was Rs 250.

The majority of Pakistanis were poor even then, but there was no mass starvation, deprivation suicides, forced prostitution, massive collective depressive communities, agonising socio-psychological conditions, economic collapse, and no one knew of crippling demoralising inner fears. We did not know of institutional violence and extensive state terror – though police brutality and legal system atrocities were common, bureaucracy was horribly cruel, corrupt, inefficient and unbelievably powerful vis-à-vis the citizenry, commerce thrived on black marketing and the political class wholly and completely indulged in vested interests, inappropriate use of political power and mismanagement of state affairs.

Even though we lived with a million vices as a nation, but strangely enough, life was not as painful as it is in today’s democratic Pakistan. Neither was the entire nation, every one of its citizens, gripped with such forceful, depleting and paralysing fear – a fear that the management of the survival of this country has gone out of control. A fear that we all may be blown away from existence the next moment, if not literally then at least in a metaphorical sense!

Do you realise the seriousness of our contemporary political crisis?

The present state of our deplorable existence is the work of our decade long political leadership inclusive of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship and the incumbent political dispensation in the country.

The fundamental failure of our national policy is this country’s ruling elite’s destructive all time political-economic-military alliance with the US and its allies (now India included).

Even at the time that I have described as the “golden days” of Pakistan’s past, our ruling elite was fully and comprehensively politically engaged with the US and its allies. However the US was in a different political mode then: it was fighting its own self-invented “demons” – the communist ideology and the communist nations (though communism was not a threat – it was a political experiment to solve mass poverty). The objective of American foreign policy was global political-economic and military domination.

In the present day world, the policy objectives of the US and its allies remain same: worldwide imperialist hegemony and exploitation by the west’s multi-national corporations.

However, in the contemporary equation, the west’s enemies have been redefined: Now we are the “demons”. They have declared a war against Muslim nations, their people, their faith, their culture, their traditions, their values and customs, their history and even against their existence as we know it today. Huntington in The Clash of Civilisations warns that if we do not transform our civilisation to a western model, then we must be prepared for an ultimate obliteration through successive wars at the hands of the west: we are given no choices.

Seven hundred Pakistani citizens died in American drone attacks in 2009 alone. It is not accidental!

What the US and its western allies do not understand is that their present war is not against an economic-political ideology (communism). This war is against a people, a faith, a history, an existential reality, an entirety of a civilisation, an actual formidable historical presence and an enduring spiritual entity. They, the US and its allies (which include collaborating political elites in Muslim countries), cannot win this war. Indeed, they can unleash havoc, a wave of destruction (as they are doing now), but they cannot and will not win!

Coming back to the context of Pak-US relations, consider the following most plausible scenario in the immediate future:

Through covertly managed organised violence, collaborations, propaganda, bombings and political manipulations, the US succeeds in destabilising Pakistan to an extent of complete political chaos, limited anarchy and a near civil war situation. Under the pretext of threat to international security, American and NATO forces are moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are seized, a puppet regime is installed: Pakistan is de-nuclearised, India (the newest US ally) becomes a dominant regional power, Iran is contained, China-Russia growing political clout is checked, the US/west’s historical global dominance is achieved – the world is saved!

Is that what the Pakistani nation wants and deserves?

Imran Khan’s perspective on Pakistan’s foreign policy and domestic priorities is correct: we need to politically-militarily disengage Pakistan from the US/west’s global objectives. We need to immediately end this so-called War on Terror against our own citizens. We need to negotiate peace with political dissidents in NWFP, Balochistan and in every corner of Pakistan. We must appreciate the fact that political dissent is not terror!

We ought to, by engaging our own citizens and political dissidents, quietly and secretly do a complete “cleansing” of the foreign elements and local collaborators involved in organised violence in our country. This can only be accomplished by a determined, independent, nationalist and highly efficient political leadership that can make the national policy without American influence and interference. And this is the ultimate requirement of our times.

At last, Mian Nawaz Sharif said something right the other day: the public in Pakistan needs to think in revolutionary ways now.

Allow me to go one step further: what we need is a revolutionary political leadership in this country. We deserve a change in the political mindset and political conduct of this nation’s leaders. We need fresh leadership in Pakistan.

We all do not need to be politically loyal to our contemporary political dispensation or to our present political allies. We must completely reject a global political system of US/west’s dominance.

We all ought to be political dissidents! After all, dissent is a vital element of the democratic political process. It is a duty of an engaged citizenry!

One day we all might be considered terrorists by our western “friends”.

Never mind. So be it!

The writer is an academic, political analyst and conflict-resolution expert.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

January 15, 2010 at 5:59 am