The deadly assault in March in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, against the Sri Lankan cricket team, and the bombing last fall of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the national capital, were only the most spectacular examples of the joint campaign, they said.
Now police officials, local residents and analysts warn that if the government does not take decisive action, these dusty, impoverished fringes of Punjab could be the next areas facing the insurgency. American intelligence and counterterrorism officials also said they viewed the developments with alarm.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand the gravity of the issue,” said a senior police official in Punjab, who declined to be idenfitied because he was discussing threats to the state. “If you want to destabilize Pakistan, you have to destabilize Punjab.”
As American drone attacks disrupt strongholds of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, the insurgents are striking deeper into Pakistan — both in retaliation and in search of new havens.
Telltale signs of creeping militancy abound in a belt of towns and villages near here that a reporter visited last week. Militants have gained strength considerably in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan, which is a gateway both to Taliban-controlled areas and the heart of Punjab, the police and local residents say. Many were terrified.
Some villages, just north of here, are so deeply infiltrated by militants that they are already considered no-go zones by their neighbors.
In at least five towns in southern and western Punjab, including the midsize hub of Multan, barber shops, music stores and Internet cafes offensive to the militants’ strict interpretation of Islam have received threats. Traditional ceremonies that include drumming and dancing have been halted in some areas. Hard-line ideologues have addressed large crowds to push their idea of Islamic revolution. Sectarian attacks, dormant here since the 1990s, have erupted once again.
“It’s going from bad to worse,” said a senior police official in Dera Ghazi Khan. “They are now more active. These are the facts.”
American officials agreed. Bruce Riedel, who led the Obama administration’s recently completed strategy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the Taliban now had “extensive links into the Punjab.”
“You are seeing more of a coalescence of these militant groups,” said Mr. Riedel, a former C.I.A. official. “Connections that have always existed are becoming tighter and more public than they have in the past.”
The Punjabi militant groups have had links with the Taliban, who are mostly Pashtun tribesmen, since the 1980s. Some of the Punjabi groups are veterans of Pakistan’s state-sponsored insurgency against Indian forces in Kashmir. Others made targets of Shiites.
Under pressure from the United States, former President Pervez Musharraf cut back state support for the Punjabi groups. They either went underground or migrated to the tribal areas, where they deepened their ties with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
At least 20 militants killed in American strikes in the tribal areas since last summer were Punjabi, according to people from the tribal areas and Pakistani officials. One Pakistani security official estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent of militants in the tribal regions could be Punjabi.
The alliance is based on more than shared ideology. “These are tactical alliances,” said a senior American counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss intelligence matters. The Pashtun Taliban and Arab militants, who are part of Al Qaeda, have money, sanctuary, training sites and suicide bombers. The Punjabi militants can provide logistical help in Punjabi cities, like Lahore, including handling bombers and target reconnaissance.
The cooperation between the groups intensified greatly after the government’s siege of Islamic hard-liners at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, in mid-2007, Pakistani and American security officials say. The siege has since become a rallying cry.
One such joint operation, an American security official said, was the Marriott bombing in Islamabad in September, which killed more than 50 people.
“We are being cornered in a blind alley,” said Mohammed Ali, a local landlord. “We can’t breathe easily.”
Attacks intended to intimidate and sow sectarian strife are more common. The police point to a suicide bombing in Dera Ghazi Khan on Feb. 5. Two local Punjabis, with the help of Taliban backers, orchestrated the attack, which killed 29 people at a Shiite ceremony, the local police said.
The authorities arrested two men as masterminds on April 6: Qari Muhammad Ismail Gul, the leader of a local madrasa; and Ghulam Mustafa Kaisrani, a jihadi who posed as a salesman for a medical company.
They belonged to a banned Punjabi group called Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, but were tied through phone calls to two deputies of the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, the police said.
“The phone numbers they call are in Waziristan,” said a police official, referring to the Taliban base in the tribal areas. “They are working together hand in glove.” One of the men had gone for training in Waziristan last summer, the police said. The operations are well-supported. Mr. Kaisrani had several bank transfers worth about $11 million from his Pakistani account, the authorities said.
Local crimes, including at least two recent bank robberies in Dera Ghazi Khan, were also traced to networks of Islamic militants, officials said.
“The money that’s coming in is huge,” said Zulfiqar Hameed, head of investigations for the Lahore Police Department. “When you go back through the chain of the transaction, you invariably find it’s been done for money.”
After the suicide attack here, the police confiscated a 20-minute inspirational video, titled “Revenge,” for the Red Mosque, which gave testimonials from suicide bombers in different cities and post-attack images.
Umme Hassan, the wife of a fiery preacher who was killed during the Red Mosque siege, now frequently travels to south Punjab, to rally the faithful. She has made 12 visits in the past several months before cheering crowds and showing emotional clips of the attack, said a Punjabi official who has been monitoring her visits.
“She claimed that they would bring Islamic revolution in three months,” said Umar Draz, who attended a rally in Muzzafargarh.
The situation in south and west Punjab is still far from that in the Swat Valley, a part of North-West Frontier Province that is now fully under Taliban control after the military agreed to a truce in February. But there are strong parallels.
The Taliban here exploit many of the same weaknesses that have allowed them to expand in other areas: an absent or intimidated police force; a lack of attention from national and provincial leaders; a population steadily cowed by threats, or won over by hard-line mullahs who usurp authority by playing on government neglect and poverty.
In Shadan Lund, a village just north of here, militants are openly demanding Islamic law, or Shariah, said Jan Sher, whose brother is a teacher there. “The situation is sharply going toward Swat,” Mr. Sher said. He and others said the single biggest obstacle to stopping the advance of militancy was the attitudes of Pakistanis themselves, whose fury at the United States has led to blind support for everyone who goes against it.
Shabaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, said he was painfully aware of the problems of insurgent infiltration and was taking steps to restore people’s faith in government, including plans for new schools and hospitals. “Hearts and minds must be won,” he said in an interview Monday. “If this struggle fails, this country has no future.”
But people complain that landowners and local politicians have done nothing to stop the advance and, in some cases, even assist the militants by giving money to some of the religious schools.
“The government is useless,” said Mr. Ali, the local landlord. “They live happy, secure lives in Lahore. Their children study abroad. They only come here to contest elections.”
The police are left alone to stop the advance. But in Punjab, as in much of the rest of Pakistan, they are spread unevenly, with little presence in rural areas. Out of 160,000 police officers in Punjab, fewer than 60,000 are posted in rural areas, leaving frontier stations in districts virtually unprotected, police officials said.
Locals feel helpless. When a 15-year-old boy vanished from a madrasa in a village near here recently — his classmates said to go on jihad — his uncle could not afford to go look for him, let alone confront the powerful men who run the madrasa.
“We are simple people,” the man said. “What can we do?”
Aamir Mughal said…
Amir Mir: Punjabi and Pushtun militants behind Manawan attack
14 APRIL 2009 10:48
Aamir Mughal said…
REALITY OF RED MOSQUE MULLAHS.
How Ghazi brothers got hold of seminaries By Umar Cheema
Sunday, July 08, 2007, Jamadi-us-sani 22, 1428 A.H
ISLAMABAD: There is a general misconception that the Lal Masjid clerics who are making the headlines nowadays owe their ‘glory’ to the blessings of intelligence agencies. The facts tell a different story.
It would be interesting to know how Maulana Abdullah, the late father of the Ghazi Brothers ‘maneuvered’ to get the Khitabat of Lal Masjid and Jamia Faridia. Equally interesting would be to know why masjid and madrasah were respectively named as Lal Masjid and Jamia Faridia. It was the late Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the country’s first military ruler, who got appointed late Maulana Abdullah as the prayer leader of Lal Masjid, on the advice of his spiritual guide, Pir Sahib of Deval Sharif.
Jaafar Brothers, one of the leading industrialist groups of the country who had constructed Jamia Faridia, in order to show reverence to the great Sufi Saint Khawaja Ghulam Farid named the seminary after him. It was handed over to the Maulanas by the then secretary CBR, Syed Hassan Akhtar. The land for Jamia Faridia was allotted during the late Gen Zia’s regime.
This was due to the blessing of Pirs that Lal Masjid Maulanas could manage to take over these religious seats. A graduate of Jamia Binnoria, Karachi, late Maulana Abdullah landed in Rawalpindi soon after President Ayub Khan took the decision to shift the capital to Islamabad. He took oath of allegiance to the then Pir of Deval Sharif, Muhammad Abdul Majid. This was a significant move on part of a Deobandi Maulana.
The information has been verified by the son of Pir Deval Sharif, Rooh-ul-Husnain Moeen and coordinator of Auqaf Department, Syed Muhammad Ali Wasti who says that many people told his father about the religious school of thought of late Maulana Abdullah, but Pir Sahib gave no importance to the point and considered and treated him like a changed man.
Maulana Abdullah served as the prayer leader in the mosque of Pir Sahib and later requested him to exercise his spiritual influence over his disciple, Gen Ayub.
Pir Sahib Deval Sharif helped Maulana Abdullah in his appointment as Khateeb of Lal Masjid. The Auqaf Department later took over Lal Masjid, but Maulana’s religious dynasty kept on flourishing unhindered. It was during Zia regime that Jamia Faridia was established. As the story goes, a partner of ‘Jaafar Brothers’ dreamed that he was at the tomb of Khawaja Ghulam Farid and that a river full of water was flowing around. He shared the dream with Syed Akhtar
Hassan, the-then secretary CBR, and sought his interpretation of the dream.
Akhtar termed the dream as a good omen and advised him to build a seminary and name it after Khawaja Ghulam Farid. Jaafar did accordingly. Akhtar helped him acquire the land from the government of late Gen Zia. Admiral (retd) Muhammad Sharif, whose son-in-law (Sha’aban Shoukat) these days is running a massage center (spa) in Super Market, had then allotted this
land. Interestingly, Lal Masjid brigade had raided an alleged prostitution den and then a massage center. However, the massage centre of Sha’aban Shoukat was not touched. Sha’aban was a CBR officer and left the CBR job to start this apparently lucrative business. The CBR secretary handed over the management of the Jamia to Maulana Abdullah and since-then the seminary
has been under the command of the family.
Why Lal Masjid was so called? Some say that it was named after Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a highly revered saint of Sindh buried in Sehwan Sharif. This may well have been a ploy of the military government of Ayub Khan to please the people of Sindh who were not at all happy with the shifting of the capital from Karachi to Islamabad. It was most probably due to this reason that its walls were painted with red colour.
14 APRIL 2009 11:17
Aamir Mughal said…
Pakistan: Trouble in the mosque By Syed Saleem Shahzad South Asia Apr 12, 2007
Maulana Abdullah was assassinated in the Lal Masjid in the late 1990s, and since then the complex has been run by his sons, Aziz and Ghazi, both in their 40s. The brothers were active in the mujahideen struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The brothers come from Balochistan province’s Mari tribe, which is the most active component of the ongoing Baloch insurgency. Maulana Abdullah was known for his critical speeches in Friday prayers, even against the late president Zia ul-Haq, who provided Maulana Abdullah with the land in the most expensive sector of Islamabad to construct Jamia Fareedia. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was widely blamed for Maulana Abdullah’s killing. Maulana Abdullah was a highly respected figure, known for his piety, knowledge and struggle for an Islamic way of life. Many top generals and bureaucrats attended his Friday prayers. These included disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who frequently contributed to the needs of seminary by donating books, food and construction material.
14 APRIL 2009 11:18
Aamir Mughal said…
Ejaz says he helped release Ghazi in terror cases
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Ejaz-ul-Haq has admitted that he had made personal efforts to get Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, Naib Khateeb of Lal Masjid, released in cases of terrorism.
Expressing his views in a talk show on Geo TV alongside Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Information Secretary Ahsan Iqbal, Nayyar Bukhari of the Pakistan People’s Party and Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi on Tuesday, the minister said he took the action after a written confirmation from the Maulana guaranteeing his good behaviour.
Giving his side of the story in the programme, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi denied the minister’s claim, saying he was never indicted in any terrorism case, while his car was impounded by police, which was never returned.
He failed to give a satisfactory answer when asked about the fact that former chairman National Book Foundation Ahmad Faraz had registered an FIR against him on charges of forced occupation of land belonging to the Ministry of Education, but still no action was taken against him.
Taking part in the debate, Ahsan Iqbal and Nayyar Bukhari accused Ghazi Abdur Rashid of conniving with the government to stage a socio-political drama to divert public attention from the ongoing judicial crisis.
Ghazi said he has made it clear to PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain that the occupation of Children’s Library would continue until their demands for implementation of Islamic Shariah were fully met.
Upon the terse comments, Ejaz-ul-Haq said if the Shujaat-Ghazi talks failed, the government would have no other option but launch a full-fledged operation at Lal Masjid. Meanwhile, Khateeb of Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz has started writing to the Ulema and the seminary students nationwide to seek their support in the ongoing row with the government.
In his letters he urged the Ulema and students to rise against such social evils like liquor, obscenity and so-called “liberalisation”. The letters also urged all the students and the Ulema to proceed to Lal Masjid unarmed but with their batons and baggage for Aitekaf and speeding up their services for promulgation of Islamic values.
They have been advised to avoid any prolonged bickering with personnel of the law-enforcement agencies and limit themselves to self-defence, refrain from rioting and destroying and burning public property at all costs.
They have further been advised to rather offer themselves for jails but try to preach Islam and Islamic values, including Jihad to jail inmates, if detained by the government. On the other hand pamphlets have been distributed in Karachi by Tehrik-e-Talaba urging all to proceed to Islamabad on the call of Maulana Abdul Aziz. —Online
Monitoring desk adds: talking to Geo News correspondent, Ejaz said that the administration of Lal-Masjid and the Jamia Hafsa was not showing flexibility in talks with the government. The minister warned of operation against it, which could result in the loss of lives if the matter remained unresolved. The federal minister said that senior Ulema, including scholars from Waziristan and Hangu, have been disappointed after failure of their efforts to convince Ghazi Abdul Rasheed and Maulana Abdul Aziz.
Ejaz believed that restoring the writ of the government was not a difficult task, however, he added, the establishment was not willing to do it at the cost of human lives. Ejaz urged both Maulanas Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi of Lal Masjid to adopt sagacious approach and avoid confrontation with the people. “Both the brothers should negotiate with the government and help reach a peaceful settlement of the issue as it is creating doubts in minds of the people of the country, he added.
The people from various walks of life and the Ulema and Madrassa students persuaded them to give up but alas they did not pay heed to, he said. Terming one-month ultimatum issued by Lal Masjid absurd he said the Objective Resolution is the part of the Constitution and ensured that no law contrary to the Islamic injunctions can be enacted in the country. Responding to a question, he said enlightened moderation is not contrary to Islamic teachings as Islam stands for acquiring knowlege. It also preaches moderation as the best way of life.
14 APRIL 2009 11:20
Daily News & Analysis – Mumbai,India
Red shirts, long beards
Ani ZaiFriday, April 24
It is surprising to see how little the lives of ordinary citizens of FATA and NWFP figure in the currently heated discussions of Pakistan.
Many fail to recognise the toll the ensuing militarisation of the border region has had on the lives of people there. Since Partition, the relationship between many living west of Punjab and the state has been marked by mutual suspicion.
Ordinary Pakistanis in the northwest of the country have been unable to rely on the central government for much but differential development policies and an intensified army presence. An entirely new social fabric was manufactured in the FATA and NWFP region from the billions of dollars and the sophisticated weapons that were poured into these regions by the Pakistan state on behalf of the US and Saudi Arabia.
The Awami National Party (ANP) signed the Nizam-e-Adl in February to bring a long-awaited peace to the people who had been caught between the army and the Taliban.
The ANP themselves have suffered tremendously at the hands of the Taliban with hundreds of their cadres either dead or dead men walking. As we try to understand Pakistan, it might be worth noting that the ANP (and its predecessors) has been a political movement committed to non-violent anti-imperialist struggles and to the masses.
The people in FATA and NWFP realised long ago the dangers of debasing religion by using it for political gains, as had been done by the Muslim League in the creation of Pakistan. In response to the secular stance of the ANP and its opposition to a division of the subcontinent along religious lines, the Pakistani state had levelled prison terms on ANP supporters and engineered collective amnesia with regard to the historical struggles of the people of NWFP and FATA in gaining independence from the British.
One casualty of this state-engineered amnesia was Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the ancestor of the ANP and the founder of the peaceful army of the Khudai Khidmatgars, which — made up primarily of Pashtuns from NWFP — fought with an unwavering ideology of non-violence against British imperialism. Yet these masses and their leaders have not been venerated like other freedom fighters of the subcontinent.
On the contrary, the newly found freedom for the subcontinent meant continued subjugation for Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the Pashtuns. While people from NWFP built the core of the masses who fought against British imperialism, the state of Pakistan made sure that there would be no rightful place in the country’s memory for those who opposed bifurcating (or, in ANP language “balkanising”) the subcontinent along religious lines. As a result, Abdul Ghaffar Khan spent 15 years behind bars after independence as did his followers. The Pakistani state has since Partition ensured that the Pashtuns remain under-developed and under suspicion.
The ‘peace’ rallies springing up in urban centres of Pakistan to protest the government deals with the Taliban ironically demand peace derived through acts of violence: although some advocate peace and oppose US drones, there are too many who support the drones and want heightened attacks on the Taliban. These demonstrations occur because Lahore and beyond are now also getting a glimpse of the threats ordinary and peaceful inhabitants of FATA and NWFP have experienced for decades.
Many Pakistanis — parroting Western opinions — refer to Pashtun tribal codes and Pashtun ‘culture’ to explain the ruthless behaviour of the Taliban. Yet the Taliban have little to do with Islam or with Pashtun ‘culture’ regardless of the claims they make.While the Taliban are comprised of Pashtuns there is nothing Pasthun about them. In their recruitment practices, the Taliban have skilfully played upon the economic disenfranchisement of people in FATA and NWFP, as well as on the long-term political and social alienation of the inhabitants of these areas (similar to the ways in which many in disenfranchised areas of rural India join Naxal movements in hope for more justice and a better livelihood).
Must the innocent masses throughout the FATA and NWFP continue to bear the brunt of the violence as Lahore demands continued drone attacks and swift and massive military action on the Taliban? Can Pakistan and the international community not find other ways besides enhancing state violence? If they do not acknowledge the decades of unjust policies and machinations imposed on the people of FATA and NWFP, the Taliban will continue to wreak havoc and will eventually find themselves in Islamabad in greater numbers performing even more spectacular acts of violence than the flogging of young girls.
25 APRIL 2009 15:19
Frontier Post – Peshawar,Pakistan
Sufi Muhammad’s new song
Sufi Muhammad while addressing a big public meeting in grassy ground, Mingora, ordered the judiciary officers to quit Swat within days. He gave a deadline for the appointment of Qazis and for the establishment of Darul Qaza. He also gave Fatwa against the parliament and elections and declared all the parliamentary process as Kufr. His strange pronouncements have astonished the saner elements and made them concerned that whether the Sufi is serious about peace in Swat as he has become more aggressive after the President approved the deal which was originally signed between the Provincial government of Pakhtunkhwa and the Chief of TNSM. The deal allowed the introduction of Nizam-e-Adl in Malakand Division which envisaged the appointment of Qazis in order to make justice quick and cheap. There was a justification for the demand of Sharia system as the English Law governing the process of justice has failed to deliver justice to people throughout the country. The Sufi rose against the English law because the people of Swat and Dir in particular were used to a people-friendly justice system. The introduction of English law in Swat valley in 1969 disturbed the entire system of justice and proved detrimental to the concept and practice of justice. The ANP-led coalition government of the province signed a deal with Sufi Muhammad in order to restore peace in Swat. The people of Swat also needed peace as they had suffered a lot during the last two years and therefore the ANP’s peace deal was not an act in the wrong direction although the party is accused of too many ifs and buts for signing the peace deal. However peace was preferable than death and destruction and above all the people of Swat welcomed the deal and that was sufficient justification for the ANP led government to sign the deal. No party can remain committed to its ideals and specially Pakistani party politics is conflictful. No party has ever been able to honor its ideals and agenda, therefore accusing ANP of deviation from its secular ojectives is misplaced. However, the provincial administration showed bit of haste by not taking into confidence the provincial assembly. Besides they ignored as an important leader as Muhammad Afzal Khan lala who not only belonged to their own ranks but was the most senior member of the party with vast political experience. Taking him into confidence during the process of peace deal will have benefited the ANP but it is sad to note that like all other political parties ANP also does not believe in wide consultations without which problems of life and death faced by contemporary Pakhtuns cannot be tackled. The Sufi’s declarations in the Public meeting have angered both the houses of the Parliament and there are demands for not honouring the agreement. Besides the doors of the Supreme Court of Pakistan are also being knocked against the peace deal. It appears that the deal will be faced with difficulties in the process of implementation. The leadership of TNSM seems to have gained too much confidence after the deal and obviously is going beyond decency by throwing deadlines at the government which shows that they want to achieve their objectives by the use of force. After the President put his signatures on the deal, there was no need for the fighters of the TNSM to enter into Buner as conquerors and occupy properties of the people of the area.Their acts and behaviour is leading the deal towards failure which they should have avoided in order not to push the ANP towards the wall. The good and sincere intentions of the coalition government may not be deemed as their weakness. Sufi Muhammad is not a politician as he considers politics related processes as kufr. For him Parliament and decisions of the Parliament have no meaning and he declared in his public meeting that in Islam there was no scope for politics and the laws have already been ordained by God so human beings need not to indulge in difficult process of evolving new laws. We believe that whatever he is saying is not joke as he is a serious person and may not be saying things for public consumption. Keeping in view his recent announcements, it is quite apparent that whenever there is election, the Qazi Courts or Darul Qaza will issue decree against parliamentary elections in Malakand Division and such a development is bound to create problems for both the Provincial and Federal Governments in the near future. Sufi Muhammad may be aiming at establishing his writ on Malakand division as its Amirulmumineen and the TTP is already enjoying power in tribal areas. Muslim Khan of TNSM has also went out of bounds by inviting Osama bin Laden to Swat and by doing so he is not only posing to be above law of the land and sovereign of Swat but is also inviting drone attacks on Swat. The TTP and TNSM may be considering themselves only Muslims like Jihadis of Afghan war who never acknowledged themselves to be Afghans, however, their contention is wrong and everybody is not thinking like them. They might be only Muslim but there are Pakhtuns in Swat as well as in tribal areas therefore they must abstain from encouraging Osama bin Laden to come to Swat. He is better left wherever he may be and it appears that he is quite at peace and protected but Muslim Khan is bent on endangering his head. He must remember that because of Osama, America came to Afghanistan and now the entire Pakhtun area is facing hell like situation because of his attacks on America which he could have launched from his own country. He should better not use Pakhtuns territory for his unwanted activities.
26 APRIL 2009 17:23