Archive for July, 2011

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Report by Zia Ur Rehman

The Friday Times

July 29 – Aug 04, 2011

Cross-border attacks show that Swat Taliban, who had fled to Afghanistan during the 2009 army operation, are now gaining foothold in Malakand

A graphic video footage was posted on the LiveLeak website on 18 July, showing militants executing 18 Pakistani policemen who were captured from Upper Dir. In the video, the Taliban militants first accuse the policemen of being enemies of God and of killing six children during the military operation in Swat, and then fire at the policemen, killing them all.

The policemen were captured on June 1 after around 300 Taliban militants crossed the border from Kunar province of Afghanistan and attacked police checkposts and villages in the Shaltalu area of Upper Dir, killing 75 people including 30 paramilitary and police personnel, according to locals and police officials. The video has not been attributed to a specific Taliban faction, but police officials and locals believe that the killings were carried out by the militants of Swat and Dir who had dispersed and fled to Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan during the military operation in 2009. They are now regrouping and trying to regain a foothold in the region. “In the video, the faces of militants were covered, but their Pashto accent clearly showed they belong to Swat or Dir,” a parliamentarian elected from Upper Dir told TFT.

In the past four months, 14 cross-border incursions allegedly carried out by Pakistani militants with the help of Afghan Taliban demonstrated the continued strength of the militants in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas, in spite of several recent Pakistani military operations and the presence of NATO troops across the border. Most of the attacks took place in Dir region while other incursions have occurred in Bajaur Agency, Mohmand Agency, Chitral and South Wazirstan Agency. Dozens of people, including security personnel and members of anti-Taliban Lashkars, have been killed. The most recent attack occurred on July 24 when more than 50 militants crossed the border from Afghanistan and stormed the Kitkot village in Mamond Tehsil in Bajaur Agency. Residents of the bordering areas, especially Upper Dir and Bajaur, are now asking the government not to install additional security posts in their areas for fear of new attacks.

The government believes Pakistani Taliban have hideouts in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces from where NATO had pulled out its troops. “Terrorists from Swat had found safe havens these areas in Afghanistan and are launching cross-border attacks inside Pakistan from there,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general Maj Gen Athar Abass told BBC Urdu. Many security analysts believe that militants led by Maulvi Fazlullah, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad and Hafizullah (heads of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in Swat, Bajaur Agency and Dir region respectively) who fled to Afghanistan during the 2009 military operation, have started returning and are now targeting their rivals, especially the security forces. The assertion was seemingly corroborated by the TTP leaders when they claimed responsibility for the attacks in Dir. Omar Hassan Ahrabi, a spokesman for TTP in Malakand division, said his organisation had carried out the attack “with Afghan allies”.

The attacks also show that the militants are not only regrouping but also adopting a new strategy of large-scale attacks on government and security forces. TTP Bajaur leader Faqir Muhammad, previous thought dead, recently told The News that his group, in collaboration with Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban, had changed its strategy and would now focus on large-scale attacks on state targets and security agencies like it did in Dir.

Hafizullah, who hails from Nihag Darra in Upper Dir, heads the TTP in Dir region, but Qari Abdul Jabbar from Timergara is emerging as a new leader, said a TTP militant from the region. He said Jabbar heads a small group of around 400 militants chased out of Malakand during the military operation. Elders and police officials in Upper Dir say militants are hiding in and operating from Kunar and Nuristan with the help of Qari Ziaur Rehman, a key commander of Al Qaeda who hails from Kunar. Rehman operates in Pakistan’s Bajaur and Mohmand tribal regions as well as in Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan.

“The presence of the militants in three areas in Upper and Lower Dir has already been reported: the Osherai pass that links Swat with Upper Dir, Barawal that borders with Afghanistan’s Kunar province, and the Maidan area of Lower Dir that borders with Bajaur Agency”, said Khadim Hussain, a security expert who has worked extensively on militancy issues in the Tribal Areas.

Locals claim that the militants have begun roaming in their hills, 12 schools in the area have been reportedly destroyed, and many pro-government people have been killed in the last few months. That sends shockwaves through the region and belies the military’s claims of having cleared the area.

Instead of weakening the militants, the army operation seems to have shifted the hub of militancy from settled areas of Swat and Dir to the border areas, said Bahram Khan, a leader of anti-Taliban militia in Upper Dir.

The alliance between the leadership of Al Qaeda, the TTP, Afghan Taliban and other national and transnational militant groups might be looking for a new but familiar safe haven in Malakand before starting a military offensive in North Waziristan, Khadim Hussain told the TFT. He said the recent cross-border attacks may be precursors to a battle between the security forces and the Taliban for the social and administrative control of Malakand division after high-profile targets were targeted by Drone attacks in FATA.

Afghan authorities have also expressed concerns over infiltration from the Dir and Chitral areas of Pakistan to Afghan provinces of Nuristan ad Kunar. “Both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban from the bordering areas are regularly attacking the Afghan security officials and people in Nuristan’s Bargmatal and Kamdesh districts,” Nuristan governor Jamaluddin Badar told Afghan media.

Security officials say the militants will not be able to regain control of Dir. Instead, they will continue the hit-and-run tactics, an ideal guerrilla-warfare approach in the rocky terrain. There will be significant impact on the neighbouring Bajaur Agency, Swat and Chitral districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan. Dir will be a strategic base for attacks in these areas and a safe haven for militants fleeing military operations in these regions.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and a researcher who works on militancy and human rights. He can be contacted at

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 29
July 22, 2011

Eleven cross-border incursions over the last four months in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region have taken place despite several army operations in Pakistan and the NATO presence across the border in Afghanistan, demonstrating the continued strength of militants in the border region. The incursions, allegedly carried out by Pakistani militants with help from Afghan allies, have killed 56 people, including security personnel and members of anti-Taliban militias (The News [Islamabad], July 9). Most of the attacks were carried out in Dir region where militants of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who had dispersed and fled to Afghanistan and adjacent tribal areas during military operations are regrouping and trying to regain a foothold in the region (see Terrorism Monitor, March 3). Other incursions have occurred in Chitral, Bajaur Agency, Momand Agency and South Waziristan Agency.

An account of the largest of these cross border attacks depicts militant groups operating with greater frequency while facing only minimal interference in the frontier region:

• On April 22, a border security post in the Lowere Dir village of Kharkhai came under attack by militants, resulting in the death of more than 16 security personnel (Daily Azadi, April 29).

• On June 1, the deadliest of the cross border raids was carried out in Upper Dir’s Shaltalo village, where hundreds of heavily armed militants targeted a poorly defended security post. They killed 34 people, 26 of them security officials, and captured 16 policemen (Express Tribune [Karachi], June 3). On July 18 the Afghan Taliban released a video showing the bound policemen being executed somewhere inside Afghanistan, allegedly as retribution for the death of six Pakistani children killed during security operations in Swat district (Daily Azadi [Swat], July 19;  BBC Urdu, July 19;

• On June 6, over 200 militants crossed the border and raided the homes of local anti-Taliban militia members in the Mamond area of Bajaur, killing roughly 15 people (Daily Azadi [Swat], June 7).

• The latest of the cross-border attacks was launched in the Nusrat Darra area of Upper Dir on July 6. A member of the local anti-Taliban militia was killed, several others injured and three schools destroyed during the attack (The News, July 9). [1]

Residents of Pakistan’s border areas are now requesting the government not install additional security posts in their areas for fear of inciting new attacks while migrations have started abruptly from the border villages.  [2]

Although the Pakistani government blamed the Afghan Taliban for carrying out the cross-border attacks, local security analysts and tribal elders say that the attacks were carried out in Dir region and other tribal areas by Pakistani militants, especially accomplices of Maulana Fazlullah and Maulana Faqir Muhammad, the heads of the TTP in Swat and Bajaur region respectively, with the help of Afghan militants. [3] Media reports claimed that Fazlullah and several high-profile TTP commanders had fled to the Nuristan or Kunar provinces of Afghanistan due to military operations in Swat in 2009. However, it is possible Fazlullah’s group members have started returning and are now targeting their enemies, especially the security forces. This was seemingly confirmed by TTP leaders when they claimed responsibility for the attacks in Dir region. Omar Hassan Ahrabi, a spokesperson for the TTP Malakand Division, said that his organization had carried out the attack “with Afghan allies” (Pak Tribune, July 7). However, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, denied involvement in the attack on Pakistani territory, describing it as an internal matter for Pakistan. He further stressed that the Afghan Taliban insurgents limit their operations to Afghanistan and never launch attacks in Pakistan or any other country (The News[Islamabad] July 12).

Current attacks in Dir and adjacent tribal areas might also indicate that Pakistani militants are not only regrouping in these areas, but also adopting a new strategy of large-scale attacks on government targets and security forces. TTP Bajaur leader Faqir Muhammad says their forces have joined with al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in changing their strategy to focus on large-scale attacks on state targets and security agencies, such as Dir attacks (The News, June 3).

The recent cross-border attacks may be precursors of a battle between the security forces and the Taliban for the social and administrative control of Malakand division and the Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies after high-profile militants were targeted by CIA Predator drones in FATA. One Peshawar-based security analyst suggested that the alliance between the leadership of al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and other national and transnational militant organizations might be looking for a new but familiar safe haven in the shape of Malakand division prior to starting a military offensive in North Waziristan. [4] Local elders believe the Taliban’s combination of targeted attacks on security forces and indiscriminate assaults on civilians seem designed to create fear amongst the local population so that they do not create armed militias to defend their territory. [5]

Reports from Afghanistan suggest that the cross-border attacks run both ways, especially in the remote regions of eastern Afghanistan. Afghan authorities, including the governors of Kunar and Nuristan, complain regularly about the incursion of militants from Pakistan, especially from the areas of Dir, Chitral and Bajaur. The largest attack took place in Kamdish district in Nuristan, where hundreds of militants, most of them alleged to be Pakistanis, crossed the border from Dir in Pakistan and targeted the district, killing scores of people, including 23 policemen (Pajhwok Afghan News, July 5). Afghan officials also claim that 760 rockets have been fired by Pakistani security forces into eastern Afghan border provinces of Kunar, Nangahar and Khost in the past six weeks, killing at least 60 people and wounding hundreds more (Wakht News Agency [Kabul], June 24).  In the past three months, up to 12,000 civilians in eastern Afghanistan have been displaced by increasingly regular shelling from the Pakistan side of the border.

The attacks on both sides of the border appear to be intended to disrupt the relationship between the two countries and create mistrust at the highest levels. [6] If this is the case, the strategy seems to be a success; instead of tackling the issue of cross-border incursions directly or cooperatively, both countries are busy lodging official protests against each other, both accusing their neighbor of being responsible for harboring militant groups operating along the border. Pakistani army officials have also said that NATO forces were failing to crack down on militants seeking shelter on the Afghan side of border.

The recent cross-border incursions on both sides of the border clearly show that Pakistan, Afghanistan and NATO have all failed badly in clearing the strategically important border areas of militants, permitting previously dispersed extremist organizations to regroup and prepare new, large-scale attacks on the soil of both countries. Though the security forces of both countries have begun operations to repel further attacks, the Islamabad and Kabul governments are unlikely to be successful until they deal collectively with the issue of cross-border militancy.


1. Author’s telephone interviews with Upper Dir locals, July 12, 2011.
2. Author’s telephone interviews with tribal elders of Upper Dir and Bajour, July 12, 2011.
3. Author’s telephone interview with Aqeel Yousafzai, a Peshawar-based journalist and security analyst, July 11, 2011.
4. Author’s interview with Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar-based security analyst, July 13, 2011.
5. Author’s telephone interviews with elders of Upper Dir and Bajaur, July 12, 2011.
6. Author’s interview with Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar-based security analyst, July 13, 2011.

By Zia Ur Rehman

QUETTA – Targeted killings are driving Hazaras, a Shia ethnic minority, to leave Quetta for safer areas.

About 25 Hazaras have been killed in three different attacks in Quetta over the past two months, Amjad Hussain, a senior journalist, told Central Asia Online. Some 300,000 Hazaras live in Quetta. Most recently, Hazara police officers Aashiq Hussain and Amjad Ali were killed July 10.

”]Hazara athlete Syed Abrar Hussain Shah, a former Olympic boxer and deputy director general of the Pakistan Sports Board, was gunned down in Quetta June 16. Shah represented Pakistan three times at the Olympics and won a gold medal at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, Hussain said.

In another sectarian outburst May 18, unidentified men shot and killed seven members of the Hazara community, including a baby, and critically wounded five others in Mirgahi Khan Chowk, Quetta.

Similarly on May 6, a rocket barrage killed seven Hazara men and injured several others in Hazara Town.

LeJ is blamed

Government officials and locals blame al-Qaeda linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and other militant groups for trying to fan sectarian violence in the city.

“The nature of the killings of Hazaras in Quetta is sectarian, not ethnic, and it seems the LeJ-linked militants are involved in these killings,” said Quetta police official Ameer Muhammad Dashti said, adding that law enforcement agencies have arrested many suspects. Investigations are under way to unearth the real motive, he said.

The LeJ has taken responsibility for the attacks cited above as well as others.

The LeJ’s spokesman in Balochistan, who identified himself as Ali Sher Haidri, threatened to avenge the May 2 killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by targeting not only government ministers and security personnel but also Hazara Shias, media reported.

Recently, threatening letters have circulated in Hazara areas in Quetta, warning residents to prepare for more violence. Such letters have promised to continue a so-called holy war against the Shia Hazaras, much like that carried out by the Afghan Taliban against that country’s Hazara minority.

Usman Saifullah Kurd and Shafiqur Rehman Rind lead the LeJ network in Quetta, said Iqtidar Ali, a Hazara political analyst. Police arrested Rind in 2003 and Kurd in June 2006. Both escaped from a Quetta jail in January 2008. Rind was recaptured in July 2008, but Kurd remains at large.

Oppression during Taliban rule

In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime oppressed Hazaras in Bamiyan and Ghazni provinces and parts of Uruzgan that later became Daykundi Province, Ali told Central Asia Online.

The LeJ and other banned sectarian outfits – especially Jundullah and Jaish-e-Muhammad – are linked with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban and are involved in killings of Hazara Shias, he added.

Terrorists have targeted the Hazara community for years and have assassinated its leaders, Abdul Khaliq, head of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), told Central Asia Online, adding that such incidents were desperate attempts to destroy the peace of Balochistan and instigate sectarian riots. One high-profile assassination was that of Hussain Ali Yousafi, then chairman of the HDP, in Quetta in January 2009.

“Our people happen to be an easier target … because of our distinct Mongolian features,” Khaliq said.

The recent killings are meant to widen the gulf between the Sunni and Shia sects, as well as between the Hazaras on one side and the local Pashtuns and Baloch on the other, said Syed Nasir Ali Shah, a Quetta member of the National Assembly. The terrorists want to convert progressive and liberal Balochistan into a “religious and Talibanised” province, he said.

Some Hazaras said that the LeJ has given them until 2012 to leave the area and have warned of more violence. The threat has caused many of them to leave Quetta for safer places in Pakistan such as Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and elsewhere.

“We were compelled to leave for Karachi after several family members were attacked by the LeJ terrorists in past few years,” said one man who reached Karachi recently on condition of anonymity to protect his family. “We had only two options: choose our lives or our native town of Quetta.”



Weekly Friday Times , July 15-21, 2011

Karachi’s system of governance has long ignored mass migration and settlement patterns that resulted in a serious societal breakdown

Karachi is in the throes of violence yet again. More than 120 people have been killed and dozens others injured in the recent spate of violence that began on July 5. In addition, around 1,138 people have been killed between January and June 2011, of which 490 were target killed on political, ethnic and sectarian basis, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) recent statistics revealed. Observers say Karachi is becoming another Mogadishu.

Karachi is not only the largest metropolis of Pakistan and its commercial hub, it is also known as a ‘mini-Pakistan’ because of the ethnic and religious diversity of its population. The city has a history of urban ethnic and sectarian violence and there has increased since 2007. Now, conflicts in Karachi generally erupt over ethnic issues and the struggle for power and resources in the city. Relations between Mohajirs (Urdu speaking community that migrated at the time of Partition) and other ethnic communities (including Pashtuns, Sindhis and the Baloch) have remained tense.

Some analysts have said the recent violence in Karachi is a result of clashes between gangs involved in drug trade, land grabbing, extortion and gunrunning, under cover of political parties. But there are clear signs it is being fuelled by ethnic and sectarian tensions, political fragmentation, economic disparity, mass migration that rapidly changes the demography of the city, and bad governance.

During the last 10 years, mass influx of Pashtuns and Sindhis to Karachi owing to military operations and the recent flooding has changed the political realities in the city. Farrukh Saleem, an Islamabad-based political analyst, thinks Karachi’s system of governance has long ignored mass migration and settlement patterns which resulted in a serious societal breakdown, leading to even more serious conflict.

With a Pashtun population ranging from 4 to 5 million according to an estimate, Karachi is now considered the world’s Pashtun capital. After 50 years of economic migration from Khyber Pakhtukhwa and FATA, there was a new wave of displaced Pashtuns moving into Karachi particularly after military operations in the north. That has changed the demographic equation.

Pashtuns are about 25% of Karachi’s population and around 15% of the entire population of Sindh. Karachi’s Mohajir population stands somewhere between 7 and 9 million – about 45% of the total population of the city, and about 23% of the population of Sindh.

Of the 168 seats in Sindh Assembly, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), representing the Mohajir population, has 50. The Awami National Party (ANP), representing the Pashtun population, has only two seats. “Based on demographics, the Pasthuns of Karachi could have up to 25 seats in the provincial assembly, but they have only two,” Saleem wrote in The News.

According to Ismail Mehsud, an ANP leader in Karachi, Pashtuns are politically underrepresented and have been deliberately kept backwards by the district government run by the MQM. They had now started fighting for their rights, he said.

Sindhi nationalist parties have their own fears. They have expressed concerns that large-scale migration of IDPs would alter the already disturbed ethnic balance of the city.

“Sindh has become an international orphanage where refugees not only from within the country but also from the neighbouring countries including India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Burma are coming to settle. Because of that, Sindhis are on the verge of turning into a minority in their own province,” said a leader of Jeay Sindh Mahaz.

In 1947 Sindhis were 60% of Karachi’s population, but today they are no more than seven percent, he said.

The Baloch, who are among the indigenous population of Karachi, express similar fears. Lyari, one of the 18 towns of Karachi, is a Baloch majority area. It is considered one of the most neglected in terms of state-funded development in education, health, sanitation and employment, residents complain.

“From the beginning, the establishment’s policy is to keep the Baloch of Lyari hooked on drugs and other criminal activities because the residents of the area are staunch supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP),” said Habib Jan Baloch, a PPP leader from Lyari. The radicalisation of these ethnic grievances is the cause of violence in the city, he said.

In a proxy war over control of Lyari, the PPP and the MQM are said to support armed gangs of criminals – the People’s Aman Committee (PAC) and the Arshad Pappu Group. This has often caused Baloch-Mohajir ethnic clashes, according to police officials in Lyari.

The MQM accuses the government of supporting criminals who target its supporters. “We are not afraid of any demographic changes happening due to the mass influx of IDPs in Karachi. Our party is now also becoming popular among Pashtun and Baloch people,” said an MQM legislator.

The PPP government’s recent move to revive the old commissionerate system has also angered the MQM as it will lose control not only of Karachi but also Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas. “The local bodies system was introduced during Pervez Musharaf’s dictatorship at the MQM’s behest, to weaken the PPP,” Habib Jan Baloch said. “There was immense pressure on the PPP leadership by the people of Sindh to abolish the system.”

The move has also resulted in renewed calls for making Karachi a province of Mohajirs. “The PPP’s one-sided move has created ethnic divisions in the city,” MQM leader Waseem Aftab told reporters. “These measures are forcing people to call for making Karachi a Mohajir province where they could get their rights.”

Analysts say the ghettoisation of Karachi along ethnic lines is the main reason behind the increase in violence in the city. It will be impossible to bring peace in the city without strengthening the administrative capacity of the government to deal with the change in the demographics and addressing the fears it gives rise to.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and a researcher based in Karachi