bangash


By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH
Published: January 11, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/world/asia/12pstan.html?hp

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan
At the same time, a separate and equally deadly battle played out just 60 miles to the south. Gangs of Sunnis and Shiites fought each other, rampaging through the villages of the Hangu district over the weekend, destroying dozens of homes and leaving at least 40 people dead between the rival groups, according to reports from authorities carried by Pakistani news media and accounts from local residents. Hundreds of Taliban fighters rushed in to support Sunni gangs, as government attack helicopters hovered overhead, trying to intimidate gunmen into withdrawing.
“Both sides are trying to overrun each other’s villages,” said Abdul Rehman, a Sunni and resident of Hangu. He estimated that 60 people had died and said the incoming Taliban fighters appeared eager to drive Shiites out of the region. “They seem to be bent on settling this Shia question for good.”
Taken together, the battles underscored the persistent lawlessness in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan, where Taliban militants and other warlords have tightened their grip despite the Pakistani military’s attempts to make inroads in the past year.
The assault in Mohmand was particularly troubling. In the past, militants have often pulled away from high concentrations of Pakistani troops, only to return later. But this time, an estimated 600 Taliban fighters directly assaulted a paramilitary base at Mamad Gatt, according to Frontier Corps officials.
The western tribal areas have been a haven for Pakistani Taliban forces who stage attacks in Afghanistan, and they have been a focus for American diplomats, who have pressed the Pakistani government to do more to disrupt the flow.
But this attack involved mostly Taliban from the Afghan side of the border, who flooded into the mountainous area and joined with Pakistani fighters in the assault.
Armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns, the militants swarmed the Mamad Gatt fort on Saturday night and fought heavily through the morning, according to one Frontier Corps officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information. By Sunday afternoon, he said, most militants had left, though there were still scattered skirmishes.
The battle took place in a district formally known as the Mohmand Agency, one of seven semiautonomous agencies along the border. Mohmand is northwest of Peshawar, the frontier hub city of three million that has come under increasing pressure from Taliban encroachment.
The Frontier Corps’ estimate of 40 dead militants could not be independently confirmed. According to some local reports, a number of Pakistani soldiers were captured, in addition to the six killed and seven wounded.
According to a Pashto-language television channel, one Taliban fighter who was killed was a midlevel commander in his 20s, Muslim Khan, also known as Garang, who was responsible for detaining a reporter and photographer for The New York Times in Mohmand in July.
The fighting over the weekend also followed the Pakistani military’s decision in late December to move about 5,000 troops abruptly from deployments in western Pakistan eastward to locations that would allow the military to defend the border with India more quickly if armed conflict broke out. Pakistani officials say more than 100,000 troops remain in the west.
The separate violence, in the Hangu district, involved a flaring of sectarian tensions after Shiites protested that a curfew forbade them from turning out for an important religious procession.
According to local residents, a large number of Shiites who live on the road from Hangu to Kohat marched toward Hangu to confront authorities about the curfew. Fighting then erupted with Sunnis who live in the area.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters — some in pickups with truck-bed-mounted machine guns — flooded into Hangu from the neighboring Orakzai district prepared to fight on the side of the Sunnis, despite reports that an assembly of local tribal elders had agreed to a cease-fire on Sunday. Sunni guerrillas fired on Shiite enclaves with mortars and reportedly seized a Shiite mosque and madrasa.
The Taliban from Orakzai Agency are under the command of Hakimullah Mehsud, a lieutenant of the warlord
Baitullah Mehsud. Most of the Sunnis in Hangu belong to the same tribe as the Orakzai fighters.
The Shiites got help from members of the Turi tribe from another adjoining district, Kurram Agency, some residents said.
“Our force consists of young and inexperienced boys who are educated and as such don’t know the art of fighting heavily armed Taliban,” said one Shiite resident, Muzaffar Khan

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By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH
Published: January 11, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/world/asia/12pstan.html?hp

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan
At the same time, a separate and equally deadly battle played out just 60 miles to the south. Gangs of Sunnis and Shiites fought each other, rampaging through the villages of the Hangu district over the weekend, destroying dozens of homes and leaving at least 40 people dead between the rival groups, according to reports from authorities carried by Pakistani news media and accounts from local residents. Hundreds of Taliban fighters rushed in to support Sunni gangs, as government attack helicopters hovered overhead, trying to intimidate gunmen into withdrawing.
“Both sides are trying to overrun each other’s villages,” said Abdul Rehman, a Sunni and resident of Hangu. He estimated that 60 people had died and said the incoming Taliban fighters appeared eager to drive Shiites out of the region. “They seem to be bent on settling this Shia question for good.”
Taken together, the battles underscored the persistent lawlessness in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan, where Taliban militants and other warlords have tightened their grip despite the Pakistani military’s attempts to make inroads in the past year.
The assault in Mohmand was particularly troubling. In the past, militants have often pulled away from high concentrations of Pakistani troops, only to return later. But this time, an estimated 600 Taliban fighters directly assaulted a paramilitary base at Mamad Gatt, according to Frontier Corps officials.
The western tribal areas have been a haven for Pakistani Taliban forces who stage attacks in Afghanistan, and they have been a focus for American diplomats, who have pressed the Pakistani government to do more to disrupt the flow.
But this attack involved mostly Taliban from the Afghan side of the border, who flooded into the mountainous area and joined with Pakistani fighters in the assault.
Armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns, the militants swarmed the Mamad Gatt fort on Saturday night and fought heavily through the morning, according to one Frontier Corps officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information. By Sunday afternoon, he said, most militants had left, though there were still scattered skirmishes.
The battle took place in a district formally known as the Mohmand Agency, one of seven semiautonomous agencies along the border. Mohmand is northwest of Peshawar, the frontier hub city of three million that has come under increasing pressure from Taliban encroachment.
The Frontier Corps’ estimate of 40 dead militants could not be independently confirmed. According to some local reports, a number of Pakistani soldiers were captured, in addition to the six killed and seven wounded.
According to a Pashto-language television channel, one Taliban fighter who was killed was a midlevel commander in his 20s, Muslim Khan, also known as Garang, who was responsible for detaining a reporter and photographer for The New York Times in Mohmand in July.
The fighting over the weekend also followed the Pakistani military’s decision in late December to move about 5,000 troops abruptly from deployments in western Pakistan eastward to locations that would allow the military to defend the border with India more quickly if armed conflict broke out. Pakistani officials say more than 100,000 troops remain in the west.
The separate violence, in the Hangu district, involved a flaring of sectarian tensions after Shiites protested that a curfew forbade them from turning out for an important religious procession.
According to local residents, a large number of Shiites who live on the road from Hangu to Kohat marched toward Hangu to confront authorities about the curfew. Fighting then erupted with Sunnis who live in the area.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters — some in pickups with truck-bed-mounted machine guns — flooded into Hangu from the neighboring Orakzai district prepared to fight on the side of the Sunnis, despite reports that an assembly of local tribal elders had agreed to a cease-fire on Sunday. Sunni guerrillas fired on Shiite enclaves with mortars and reportedly seized a Shiite mosque and madrasa.
The Taliban from Orakzai Agency are under the command of Hakimullah Mehsud, a lieutenant of the warlord
Baitullah Mehsud. Most of the Sunnis in Hangu belong to the same tribe as the Orakzai fighters.
The Shiites got help from members of the Turi tribe from another adjoining district, Kurram Agency, some residents said.
“Our force consists of young and inexperienced boys who are educated and as such don’t know the art of fighting heavily armed Taliban,” said one Shiite resident, Muzaffar Khan

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By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH
Published: January 11, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/world/asia/12pstan.html?hp

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan
At the same time, a separate and equally deadly battle played out just 60 miles to the south. Gangs of Sunnis and Shiites fought each other, rampaging through the villages of the Hangu district over the weekend, destroying dozens of homes and leaving at least 40 people dead between the rival groups, according to reports from authorities carried by Pakistani news media and accounts from local residents. Hundreds of Taliban fighters rushed in to support Sunni gangs, as government attack helicopters hovered overhead, trying to intimidate gunmen into withdrawing.
“Both sides are trying to overrun each other’s villages,” said Abdul Rehman, a Sunni and resident of Hangu. He estimated that 60 people had died and said the incoming Taliban fighters appeared eager to drive Shiites out of the region. “They seem to be bent on settling this Shia question for good.”
Taken together, the battles underscored the persistent lawlessness in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan, where Taliban militants and other warlords have tightened their grip despite the Pakistani military’s attempts to make inroads in the past year.
The assault in Mohmand was particularly troubling. In the past, militants have often pulled away from high concentrations of Pakistani troops, only to return later. But this time, an estimated 600 Taliban fighters directly assaulted a paramilitary base at Mamad Gatt, according to Frontier Corps officials.
The western tribal areas have been a haven for Pakistani Taliban forces who stage attacks in Afghanistan, and they have been a focus for American diplomats, who have pressed the Pakistani government to do more to disrupt the flow.
But this attack involved mostly Taliban from the Afghan side of the border, who flooded into the mountainous area and joined with Pakistani fighters in the assault.
Armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns, the militants swarmed the Mamad Gatt fort on Saturday night and fought heavily through the morning, according to one Frontier Corps officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information. By Sunday afternoon, he said, most militants had left, though there were still scattered skirmishes.
The battle took place in a district formally known as the Mohmand Agency, one of seven semiautonomous agencies along the border. Mohmand is northwest of Peshawar, the frontier hub city of three million that has come under increasing pressure from Taliban encroachment.
The Frontier Corps’ estimate of 40 dead militants could not be independently confirmed. According to some local reports, a number of Pakistani soldiers were captured, in addition to the six killed and seven wounded.
According to a Pashto-language television channel, one Taliban fighter who was killed was a midlevel commander in his 20s, Muslim Khan, also known as Garang, who was responsible for detaining a reporter and photographer for The New York Times in Mohmand in July.
The fighting over the weekend also followed the Pakistani military’s decision in late December to move about 5,000 troops abruptly from deployments in western Pakistan eastward to locations that would allow the military to defend the border with India more quickly if armed conflict broke out. Pakistani officials say more than 100,000 troops remain in the west.
The separate violence, in the Hangu district, involved a flaring of sectarian tensions after Shiites protested that a curfew forbade them from turning out for an important religious procession.
According to local residents, a large number of Shiites who live on the road from Hangu to Kohat marched toward Hangu to confront authorities about the curfew. Fighting then erupted with Sunnis who live in the area.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters — some in pickups with truck-bed-mounted machine guns — flooded into Hangu from the neighboring Orakzai district prepared to fight on the side of the Sunnis, despite reports that an assembly of local tribal elders had agreed to a cease-fire on Sunday. Sunni guerrillas fired on Shiite enclaves with mortars and reportedly seized a Shiite mosque and madrasa.
The Taliban from Orakzai Agency are under the command of Hakimullah Mehsud, a lieutenant of the warlord
Baitullah Mehsud. Most of the Sunnis in Hangu belong to the same tribe as the Orakzai fighters.
The Shiites got help from members of the Turi tribe from another adjoining district, Kurram Agency, some residents said.
“Our force consists of young and inexperienced boys who are educated and as such don’t know the art of fighting heavily armed Taliban,” said one Shiite resident, Muzaffar Khan

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Thursday, December 25, 2008
PARACHINAR: The political administration (PA) of the Kurram Agency has made foolproof security arrangements for peaceful observance of Muharram in the agency, a senior government official said here on Wednesday.

Talking to reporters here, Political Agent Arshad Majeed said meetings were held with religious scholars of both the sects and they assured full cooperation to the political authorities for maintaining sectarian harmony and brotherhood.

The Pak-Afghan border areas would be sealed from 7th-12th of Muharram for security purposes, while check-posts have been set up at various important places to foil designs of saboteurs and anti-state elements.

Special directives have been issued to the law-enforcing agencies to take extra security measures during Muharram, he added. Majeed said the political administration has been asked to keep close vigil on movement of suspects.

He said the Parachinar-Chappry Road would be closed for traffic on Muharram 9 and 10. He said that he was in close contact with the Tesco, the Wapda and the PTCL authorities to ensure their services during Muharram.

Thursday, December 25, 2008
PARACHINAR: The political administration (PA) of the Kurram Agency has made foolproof security arrangements for peaceful observance of Muharram in the agency, a senior government official said here on Wednesday.

Talking to reporters here, Political Agent Arshad Majeed said meetings were held with religious scholars of both the sects and they assured full cooperation to the political authorities for maintaining sectarian harmony and brotherhood.

The Pak-Afghan border areas would be sealed from 7th-12th of Muharram for security purposes, while check-posts have been set up at various important places to foil designs of saboteurs and anti-state elements.

Special directives have been issued to the law-enforcing agencies to take extra security measures during Muharram, he added. Majeed said the political administration has been asked to keep close vigil on movement of suspects.

He said the Parachinar-Chappry Road would be closed for traffic on Muharram 9 and 10. He said that he was in close contact with the Tesco, the Wapda and the PTCL authorities to ensure their services during Muharram.

>

Thursday, December 25, 2008
PARACHINAR: The political administration (PA) of the Kurram Agency has made foolproof security arrangements for peaceful observance of Muharram in the agency, a senior government official said here on Wednesday.

Talking to reporters here, Political Agent Arshad Majeed said meetings were held with religious scholars of both the sects and they assured full cooperation to the political authorities for maintaining sectarian harmony and brotherhood.

The Pak-Afghan border areas would be sealed from 7th-12th of Muharram for security purposes, while check-posts have been set up at various important places to foil designs of saboteurs and anti-state elements.

Special directives have been issued to the law-enforcing agencies to take extra security measures during Muharram, he added. Majeed said the political administration has been asked to keep close vigil on movement of suspects.

He said the Parachinar-Chappry Road would be closed for traffic on Muharram 9 and 10. He said that he was in close contact with the Tesco, the Wapda and the PTCL authorities to ensure their services during Muharram.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Wajih Abbasi

The United Nations Security Council’s ban on Jamaatud Dawah (JuD) and four other personalities associated with it, including its Amir, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, is a new twist to the events which started after terrorist attacks on Mumbai last month. Even before the UN decision, Pakistan government had started operation against the camps maintained by JuD) and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) in Azad Kashmir during which several people, including operational head of LeT was arrested. The operation was intensified after the UN resolution and was extended to the Punjab and other provinces where bulk of assets of at least JuD are situated.

This is not for the first time that such actions against militant outfits have been taken in response to the international pressure after major terrorist acts in different parts of the world. Similar actions were taken after 9/11 attacks in New York in September 2001 and attacks on the Indian Parliament later in December that year as well as attacks in London and Madrid. Irrespective to the veracity of accusation being pointed towards Pakistan from time to time and after every major terrorist incident in the world, it is unfortunate that the name of Pakistan has been made synonymous with terrorism and militancy turning the country into nearly an international pariah. The accusations have put the security and integrity of the country and well being of its people under constant threat. Every terrorist incident allows the enemies of the country to point their guns towards Pakistan and try to array an international coalition to punish Pakistan.

The danger posed by these accusations needs soul-searching and making strategic decisions about the whole issue of militancy and jihad and its utility to our national security objectives. We have to ask ourselves whether the policies started after the Sour Revolution in Afghanistan in 1978 which were continued to be tolerated after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from that country in 1989 and collapse of the PDPA government in 1992 have anyway helped Pakistan in the attainment of its strategic and security interests or these policies tarnished Pakistan’s image, made it less secure and increasingly isolated it in the comity of nations.

A lot has been written in Pakistan as well as internationally on how the US planned and executed its proxy war against former Soviet Union in Afghanistan and how militants and weapons from across the world were collected in the name of jihad to bleed the Russians in order to avenge the US defeat in Vietnam. Pakistan’s territory and its institutions were used for this purpose. Pakistan, then ruled by short sighted military junta, groping for its own survival needlessly pushed the country into a quagmire which is constantly pulling Pakistan into an abyss despite best efforts of the country to extricate itself.

The chaos that the US financed jihad created in Afghanistan has engulfed the length and breadth of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and NWFP. The menace is threatening the whole country seven years after the US decision to invade Afghanistan under the UN banner to fight the same forces it had created during the heydays of the Cold War. We should look back and ponder whether a modern, liberal and forward looking Afghanistan which the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan wanted to establish would have served Pakistan better than the lawless swath of territory we have today.

The Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent dismemberment of the Soviet Union coupled with collapse of communism in the whole Eastern Europe and North and Central Asia gave a sense of false victory to the Muslim radicals and extremists and their supporters in the country. They soon started to propagate similar type of operations in other parts of the world, including the Central Asia, China and Eastern Europe as well as Kashmir. Their activities estranged Pakistan’s relations with the newly independent states in the Central Asia and deprived the country of the vast potential which the collapse of Soviet empire had created in terms of trade and commerce and as a conduit of petroleum exports from the region. They also created wedge between Pakistan and its times tested friend China besides raising concerns in certain Muslim countries as Egypt and Jordon. The genuine desire of the people of Kashmir for independence or merger with Pakistan has also given a bad name by these organisations allowing India to use unprecedented repression against the Kashmiris in which over 0.1 million people were killed. Last but not the least it tarnished the image of the ISI, an inseparable arm of Pakistan’s defence apparatus, to the point where these organisations are being used by the enemies of Pakistan to pressurise the country.

The militant organisations, militancy, terrorism and extremist generated by these groups have created doubts among the international community about stability of the country. It allows different organisations to dub Pakistan as failing state. The voices become even stronger because of the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear armed country with big arsenal of short and medium range missiles. Recently a report to the US Congress has described Pakistan as a place where weapons of mass destruction and terrorism intersect. The enemies of Pakistan would like to use these voices against Pakistan to deprive the country of its strategic weapons and take other punitive measures to destroy whatever has been built during last 60 years.

Internally, the forces unleashed by Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan war have unleashed the forces of sectarian extremism, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, militancy and lawlessness. Leaders of militant organisations are behaving like warlords, who have established their own zones and consider themselves as above the law of the land and norms of society. During last three decades the country has witnessed the growing menace of not only Shia-Sunni but even intra-Sunni terrorism. Each pronouncing the other infidel and calling for jihad against the same. The weaponry used in Kurram Agency in Shia-Sunni feud recently was not even witnessed in the African civil wars.

In this situation, it is important for us as a nation to rethink our priorities and policies and put our house in order. The action taken against the JuD and LeT should be expanded to other militant organisations and individuals. Nobody should be allowed to keep and raise private armies in the name of ‘lashkars’, Jaish, sipha or whatever. The religious schools throughout the country should be brought under the law. The government should get their accounts audited every year and should have complete data of staff and students as well as the curriculum being taught in these institutions. The madrassas not complying with the government orders should be taken over and converted into schools where students should be imparted the religious education along with the normal education.

Financing of madrassas and religious organisations by some oil rich nations of the Middle East has worsened the situation. In most of the cases such aid has sectarian connotations and helps promote that sect in Pakistan which is dominant in the donor country. On the one hand, it provides undue influence to the donor government in the internal affairs in Pakistan. On the other hand, the aid promotes sectarian strife in the country. It is high time that the Pakistan government take bold stance on the issue to stop direct foreign donations to religious and sectarian organisations.

The writer is a former APP staffer and a freelance columnist based in Islamabad

SOURCE: http://thepost.com.pk/OpinionNews.aspx?dtlid=196894&catid=11

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