Archive for the ‘Jamestown Foundation’ Category

By Zia Ur Rehman

September 12, 2013

Though the al-Qaeda network is anxious to win recruits and build influence in India, its recruitment efforts in the South Asian country have largely failed, analysts say.

In June its media arm, As-Sahab, released an Urdu-language video entitled “Why is There No Storm in Your Ocean?” It featured militant cleric Maulana Aasim Umar, who called on Indian Muslim youth to join campaigns of violent jihad.

Muslims embrace each other after offering Eid ul-Fitr prayers at the Qutub Shahi tomb in Hyderabad on August 9th. Although the al-Qaeda terror network has sought to find recruits among Indian Muslims, the effort has mostly failed, analysts say. [Noah Seelam/AFP]

“It was a desperate move by al-Qaeda and the [cleric’s] speech said it all,” New Delhi-based security analyst Aminesh Raol told Khabar South Asia, adding that the extremist network has been unable to stir up jihadi sentiment in locations such as Gujarat, Bihar, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Its failure is even more striking because India has been prone to bouts of intercommunal strife, including riots this month in Uttar Pradesh that left at least 40 dead. Such strife would seem to provide fertile ground for al-Qaeda recruitment, and yet the group has not been able to capitalise on the opportunity.

Al-Qaeda’s message does not really resonate among Indian Muslims because they have experienced democracy and political freedom for more than half a century, according to Tufail Ahmed of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

As a result, Muslims in the country have a sense of liberty and opportunity that makes them feel more secure than in other Islamic nations, said Tufail, who directs the think tank’s South Asia Studies project.

In addition, he said, Muslims in India have wider access to the media and are more aware of national and international affairs, enabling them to see through Al-Qaeda’s jihadist arguments.

“Indian Muslims have generally shunned the message of jihad — this is because they feel integrated in Indian society due to its plural ethos and hopes of better future in a thriving democracy and economy, offering a scale of opportunities not matched by any Muslim country,” Tufail wrote recently in The New Indian Express.

Besides al-Qaeda, groups such as Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have also sought to win recruits. According to Tufail, JeM and LeT have been more successful because they work through local contacts, targeting specific individuals who have become disaffected.

But even these groups have only succeeded attracting a tiny fringe element of the Muslim community.

“Although there have been bombings claimed by some local jihadi groups in India, their strength is very weak and number of their supporters are very low,” Lucknow-based Urdu journalist Jabbar Siddique told Khabar. Indian Muslims, he added, have shown little interest in going off to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.

Fundamentalism and Islamic religious extremism have not taken roots in India because Indian Muslims believe in their nation’s democracy despite the flare-ups, and despite the activities of Hindu nationalist groups such as Shiv Sena, he added.

“Indian Muslims looked across to other Muslim majority areas and concluded they are better off here in India,” Siddique told Khabar.



Pakistan’s Tribal Militants: A Militant Leadership Monitor Special Report

Profile of Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, Leader of Baloch Liberation Front

by Zia Ur Rehman


Please Subscribe here so that you can read the full article.

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 45
December 9, 2011 02:11 PM Age: 1 days

Following the November 26 incident in which two Pakistani Army check posts in the Salala area of the Mohmand tribal agency were hit by a NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, Islamist religious parties and banned militant organizations have joined Pakistani authorities in reacting with outrage to what they perceive as a violation of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty. The Islamabad government has already closed NATO/U.S. supply routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan and has also banned the commercial sale of fuel to Afghanistan, citing domestic shortages and high prices (Daily Times [Lahore], December 4).

Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas claimed that NATO helicopters carried out an unprovoked and indiscriminate attack on a military post in Mohmand Agency, adding that he didn’t believe NATO or Afghan forces had received fire from the Pakistani side, raising the possibility that the attack was a deliberate strike by NATO (Express Tribune [Karachi] November 27; Daily Jang [Karachi] November 27, Guardian, November 27).

On the other hand, Afghan and NATO officials claimed that a small group of U.S. and Afghan forces conducting a nighttime raid on a suspected Taliban insurgent base in Afghanistan’s Kunar province near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border were fired upon from a position inside Pakistani territory, prompting calls for the close air support that wiped out the two Pakistani mountain posts (Tolo News [Kabul], November 27).

Abu Hamza, a senior Afghan Taliban commander who leads the militants in the Kunar Khas area of Kunar province, strongly denied having carried out any attack on NATO or Afghan forces in Kunar the night NATO helicopters bombed the Pakistani military posts. However, Abu Hamza said that a group of Pakistani militants led by Omar Khalid (real name Abdul Wali Khan), a key leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), planted an improvised explosive device during the day of November 25 on Kunar’s main road which later struck a U.S. tank (The News [Islamabad] November 30).

Although the Pakistani military claimed that there was no militant activity in the area at the time of the attack, Mohmand is a well-known hub of militancy which has a significant impact on the security situation on both sides of border. Omar Khalid heads the network of Mohmand militants that carries out terrorist attacks in both countries. [1] The Pakistani military claimed that it had cleared 80% of the Mohmand area of militants and the operation would be completed in a few days. Seventy-two soldiers, including three officers, have been killed during the operation (Dawn [Karachi] September 1).

Afghan officials also regularly complain about cross-border incursions in Kunar province originating in the Mohmand tribal agency. Kunar’s governor says that the Dangam, Shigal and Sarkan districts of Kunar have suffered casualties and losses from cross-border missile attacks from Mohmand Agency (Pajhwok Afghan News, June 18). Former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh accuses Pakistan of creating the problem that led to the recent NATO attack in Mohmand, asking who is supporting Omar Khalid and who is supporting unrest in Kunar? (Friday Times [Lahore] December 2-8). Many security experts are of the view that Pakistani and Afghan militants have teamed up to attack each other’s border areas, killing civilians and military officials and aiming to disrupt security co-operation between Islamabad and Kabul (see Terrorism Monitor, July 22).

Maulvi Fariq Muhammad, deputy head of the TTP, has said that the recent NATO attack on Pakistani check posts proved that “the United States can never be a friend of Pakistan” and that Islamabad should accept Taliban’s stance after this attack (BBC Urdu, November 29). Mukarrum Khurasani, an aide to Mohmand Agency TTP leader Umar Khalid Khurasani, has said that Pakistan should sever its relationship with the United States. Instead of merely stopping NATO supplies, Mukarrum said Pakistan should take revenge for every person killed (Express Tribune, November 28).

The heated diplomatic row between Pakistan and NATO has escalated since the attack, with Pakistan ordering the United States to vacate the important Shamshi Air Base in Balochistan, closing NATO’s supply routes through Chaman and the Khyber Agency and boycotting an international conference on the future of Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany (Daily Jang, November 27).

The retaliation taken by Islamabad in the aftermath of the NATO attack clearly matches the demands recently made by the TTP as a prerequisite for holding peace negotiations with the government. TTP demands for Islamabad to halt NATO supply convoys and evict U.S. forces from the Shamshi Air Base were made public on November 19 (Daily Aaj [Peshawar), November 20). Speculation regarding TTP-Government peace talks has been widespread since the passage of a resolution endorsing talks with the Taliban at an All-Party Conference held in Islamabad on October 18. The conference was chaired by Pakistani Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani and attended by all the key political parties of the country in a bid to bring peace (The News, December 1).

Following the NATO attack, thousands of enraged Pakistanis, including members of religious parties and banned militant outfits, took to the streets across the country, setting fire to American flags and shouting anti-American slogans. Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a banned outfit whose previous name was Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been in the forefront of protests against the NATO operation.

In rallies across the country, JuD leaders urged the young protestors to prepare for jihad and called on the Pakistani military to give a “befitting response” to the NATO attack. Ahl-e-Sunnat wa’l-Jamaat (ASWJ), the new name of the banned Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), also organized anti-NATO protests in various cities. Opposition parties are also supporting the government’s stance by condemning the NATO attack (Daily Umamt [Karachi] November 29).

Although it is currently unknown what triggered what one analyst described as the “tactical development” along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, it seems the only way to prevent cross border attacks is to tackle the militants operating in the border areas of both countries. [2] Though the security forces of both countries have begun operations to repel further attacks, the Islamabad and Kabul government as well as NATO must deal collectively with the issue of cross-border militancy in order to avoid the mistrust created by incidents like that of November 26.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher and works on militancy, human rights and development in Pakistan’s tribal areas. He is a Pakistan Pashtun belonging to the Swat Valley and has written for The Friday Times, Central Asia Online, Himal South Asian, New York Times, The News and other media publications.


1. Telephone interview with a Mohmand Agency-based journalist who requested anonymity, November 29, 2011.

2. Telephone interview with Raees Ahmed, a Karachi-based political analyst. December 2, 2011

The Jamestown Foundation

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 39
October 28, 2011 01:11 PM Age: 1 days

While Pakistan has directed its focus and significant resources to fighting terrorism in theFederally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), the growing activities of banned militant organizations and their influence in Punjab, the country’s most populous province, have been largely ignored.  Militants, most trained in Afghanistan and others ex-inmates of Afghan prisons, have recently surfaced in Punjab and become active in Punjabi jihadi groups.

The Punjabi militant network is a loose conglomeration of members of banned militant groups of Punjabi origin that have developed strong connections with the Tehrki-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups based in FATA and KPK. Members shuttle between FATA and the rest of Pakistan, providing logistical support to FATA and Afghanistan-based militants to conduct terrorist operations deep inside Pakistan.

The main banned organizations with leadership and headquarters in Punjab include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Jummat ud-Dawa (JuD), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Harkatul Jihadul Islami (HJI), all working in collaboration with the TTP and al-Qaeda (Central Asia Online, May 10). These sectarian groups are active in the Punjabi cities of Jhang, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Khanewal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahimyar Khan, Muzaffergarh, Layyah, and Gujranwala, leaving the government with the difficult task of eliminating these groups with actions other than those already taken in the tribal areas. [1] The LeT’s governing offices are located in Muridke and Lahore while the SSP is controlled from Jhang district. Similarly, LeJ takes directions from Rahimyar Khan and the JeM is linked with its center in Bahawalpur (Viewpoint Online [Pakistan], July 16, 2011). [2]

Media reports suggest that a large number of militants from Punjab have joined hands with the TTP as well as the Afghan Taliban in recent years. With significant numbers of recruits from Punjab-based sectarian organizations, the TTP has proved to be lethal to government efforts to establish order on the frontier (Outlook [Kabul] May 6). According to the figures of the ten largest jihadi organizations, the number of “martyrs” from Punjab is more than 12,000, of which roughly 4,000 have lost their lives in Afghanistan. [3] An intelligence report recently prepared by the provincial government’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) revealed that 2,487 militants trained in Afghanistan and 556 militants released from Afghan prisons have surfaced in the province and are now active in the Punjabi Taliban Network (Express Tribune [Karachi] August 30).

Terrorist and suicide attacks inside Punjab have increased significantly since the Pakistan military’s offensive in South Waziristan in October 2009.  Most of the terrorists involved in the attacks belonged to a variety of Punjabi cities, with most hailing from the province’s southern region:

  • The terrorists involved in the September 20, 2008 suicide attack on the Marriot Hotel Islamabad belonged to Toba Tek Singh, Attock and Chakwal. These militants were members of the HJI, headed by Qari Safiullah (Asia Tribune, July 28, 2009).
  • Dr Usman, who masterminded the October 10, 2010 attack on the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarter (GHQ) as well as several other suicide attacks, is a native of Kabirwala.
  • Asmatullah Muwaia, a key leader of the TTP in South Waziristan and master trainer of suicide bombers, also belongs to Kabirwala.
  • Osman, the head of a LeJ splinter group operating in the southern region of Punjab, was wounded and arrested in the GHQ attack. Recently a military court pronounced a death sentence on the LeJ commander (The News [Islamabad] August 13).
  • Similarly, the persons attacking the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in Lahore also belonged to cities in South Punjab.

A large number of “Punjabi Taliban” belonging to the LeJ, the SSP, the JuD, the HJI and other splinter groups, are especially active in the tribal region (The News [Islamabad] August 18). [4] Interior Minister Rehman Malik has also written to the Punjab government asking them to take action against the anti-Shi’a militants based in Jhang district, following a September 20 attack on an Iran-bound bus in the Mastung district of Balochistan that killed 29 Shi’a pilgrims (BBC, October 4).

According to security officials, Shehbaz Taseer, son of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was abducted from the provincial capital of Lahore on August 6 by Punjab-based militants. [5] Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that Taseer has been shifted to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, most probably to North Waziristan (Dawn [Karachi], October 17). The abductee’s family members disclosed that they had received threats from militant groups since Governor Taseer was shot dead earlier this year for urging reforms to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws (see Terrorism Monitor, February 24). Similarly, responsibility for the killing of Pakistan’s Christian Minorities minister Shehbaz Bhatti was claimed by a group calling itself the “Punjabi Taliban” (AP, March 2). Punjabi militant groups have also played an important role in attacking Ahmadis, Shi’a, Sufis and other civilian targets in the province (see Terrorism Monitor, June 12, 2010).

The main reason for the emergence of a militant mind-set in Punjab is the rapid growth of religious madrassas (seminaries), most of them tied to militant organizations. There are a total of 5,500 religious madrassas in the Punjab, the majority of them belonging to the Deobandi sect. Students enrolled in these madrassas are from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and KPK as well as Punjab. Religious madrassas based in Punjab provide 40% of recruits to the jihadi outfits. [6] A Punjab CTD report reveals that at least 170 madrassas in Punjab are involved in “suspected activities,” a reference to their role in militant networks, preaching of jihad and spreading sectarian violence against the Punjab’s Shi’a and Ahmadi communities (Express Tribune, August 30).

It is also believed that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and Punjab’s ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), have good relationships with the banned militant organizations. The Punjab government is known to have provided nearly $1 million worth of financial assistance to JuD in its provincial budget while senior leaders of PML-N (particularly law minister Rana Sanaullah) are seen campaigning with militant leaders and aggravating interfaith harmony (Express Tribune, June 18, 2010).

Although Punjab is not in imminent danger of a Taliban takeover, the expansion of militant activities in the province, if unchecked, could have serious outcomes for Pakistan’s stability, the war in Afghanistan, the Indo-Pakistani relationship and the future of international terrorism. Unlike the Taliban entrenchment in South Waziristan and Swat, Punjabi militants are scattered across a large province instead of being concentrated in a single region where effective counterterrorism, intelligence and police operations are more likely to be able to contain their operations without massive military intervention. An initial step to dealing with the security crisis in Punjab would involve the provincial government and the national intelligence agencies abandoning their “strategic partnership” and selective attitude in dealing with banned militant groups.


1. Mujahid Hussain, Punjabi Taliban, Nigharshat Publishers, Lahore, 2009.

2. Interview with Muhammad Amir Rana, Director of Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), August 16, 2011. A government ban on these jihadist organizations merely led them to operate under different names. SSP began operating under the names of Millat-e-Islamia and Ahle-e-Sunnat Wal Jammat, JeM as al-Furqan and Khuddamul Islam, and JuD or Lashkar-e-Tayyaba as Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

3. Muhammad Amir Rana, A to Z of Jihadi Organizations in Pakistan, Mashal Books, Lahore, 2009.

4. Interview with a Bannu-based journalist who requested anonymity, October 16, 2011.

5. Interview with a Lahore-based senior police official who requested anonymity, October 16, 2011.

6. Muhammad Amir Rana, A to Z of Jihadi Organizations in Pakistan, Mashal Books, Lahore, 2009.

The Jamestown Foundation
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 34
September 9, 2011

While U.S. pressure on Pakistan for a full-scale operation against the Haqqani Network and other militant groups in the North Waziristan Agency is growing, the Pakistani military is urging the local Wazir and Dawar tribes of the North Waziristan to initiate a “Wana-like uprising” to expel foreign militants from their area and minimize the chance of the government taking military action should the situation grow worse (Daily Times [Lahore] August 18).

With the help of militants led by South Waziristan’s Maulvi Nazir, the Ahmadzai Wazir tribes of South Waziristan successfully flushed out Uzbek militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) from Wana and other Wazir-dominated areas of South Waziristan in a spring 2007 popular uprising sparked by the brutality of the Uzbeks. [1] Many of the Uzbek militants who arrived in the area when their bases in Afghanistan were closed in late 2001 relocated to North Waziristan after their eviction from South Waziristan.

Elders of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribes said that they would not allow fleeing Uzbeks and militants of the Mahsud tribe in their areas who might attempt to sneak in from North Waziristan if the military goes on the offensive against the Haqqani Network and other local militant groups (Daily Times, June 1).

Located between the Khost Province of eastern Afghanistan and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of northwest Pakistan, North Waziristan is the second largest tribal region of Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA). It is considered today to be the epicenter not only of violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also a major source of international terrorism. Along with its geographic isolation, difficult terrain, and relatively stable coalition of tribal militants, the region has become the most important center of militancy in FATA because of the impunity with which militants in the area have operated. [2]

The most important militant group operating in the region is the Haqqani Network, an Afghan insurgent group led by Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani. Haqqani left his native Khost province and settled in North Waziristan as an exile during the republican Afghan government of Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan in the early 1970s. His son Sirajuddin, who became a key insurgent leader in Afghanistan in mid 1980s, manages the network’s organization from the North Waziristan and carries out attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan (see Terrorism Monitor, March 24, 2008; August 4). [3]

The second most important North Waziristan-based militant group is led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a key militant leader known for hosting foreign fighters belonging to al-Qaeda and other Arab groups as well as the Haqqani Network (see Terrorism Monitor, April 10, 2009). Bahadur was announced as Naib Amir (deputy head) under the leadership of Baitullah Mahsud upon the formation of the 2007 Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella organization of various militant groups operating in FATA (The News [Islamabad], December 15, 2007). However, Bahadur later formed an anti-TTP bloc by joining hands with Maulvi Nazir’s South Waziristan-based group because of tribal rivalries with the Mahsuds and disagreements over TTP attacks against Pakistan security forces, stating that the bloc had been formed to defend the Wazir tribes in North Waziristan and South Waziristan (Daily Times, July 2, 2008). Bahadur and Nazir belong to the Utmanzai and Ahmadzai sub-clans of the Wazir, respectively. [4] The Haqqani Network and Bahadur are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistan military authorities as they don’t carry out attacks inside Pakistan and focus only on Afghanistan.

Besides the Haqqani Network and Bahadur’s group, North Waziristan also provides shelter to several local and foreign militant groups, such as the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Army of Great Britain,  Ittehad-e-Jihad Islami (IJI), the TTP, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Harkatul-Jihad-al-Islami, the Fidayeen-e-Islami, Harkat-ul Mujahideen, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (The News [Islamabad] August 18). Mir Ali area and Shawal valley of North Waziristan have been a safe haven for successive waves of all sorts of militants fleeing U.S. or Pakistani military operations. [5]

The United States considers the role of the Haqqani Network and other militant groups in North Waziristan in the insurgency in Afghanistan to be among the most difficult challenges NATO faces. Due to intense American pressure, the Pakistani military is thinking of carrying out a limited operation in North Waziristan primarily targeting al-Qaeda, foreign militants and the TTP rather than the Haqqani Network (Dawn [Karachi] June 1). Because of the reluctance of Pakistan authorities to act in the region, U.S. drones have targeted the Mir Ali, Dattakhel and Miramshah areas of North Waziristan extensively, with five out of six drone strikes in Pakistan now being recorded in North Waziristan. [6]

North Waziristan elders say that the local population is very frustrated with the presence of foreign militant groups, especially the Central Asians, for their encroachment on Wazir lands and insensitivity to local tribal customs. The foreigners’ land ownership is a direct challenge to the tribal power structure of Waziristan. Unlike the Central Asians, the Arab militants of al-Qaeda never interfered in local tribal affairs. Lately some innocent people belonging to the Utmanzai Wazir tribe have been killed by foreign militants who accused them of spying on al-Qaeda and Taliban movements to direct CIA-operated drones. The murders have only created more hatred for the foreigners among local tribesmen. [7]

The tense relationship between local and foreign militant outfits operating in North Waziristan has been displayed several times in the past years, particularly in November 2006, when the IMU and IJU openly accused Bahadur and other Waziri militant commanders of betraying them and jumping into the government camp by demanding their eviction from North Waziristan (The News [Islamabad], November 12, 2006). Because of their interference in the local affairs of the territory, Central Asian militants are now compelled to stay in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, where they have the support of a local militant group led by Maulvi Manzoor Dawar. North Waziristan elders report that General Mehmood told elders of the Utmanzai Wazirs and Dawars that military action will be taken if the two tribes didn’t move against the foreign militants (Daily Times, August 18).

Though members of militant groups in tribal areas have almost the same anti-U.S. and pro-al-Qaeda worldview, they are not especially disciplined when it comes to tribal matters. Pakistan’s military is trying to exploit the tribal nature of Taliban militant groups operating in North Waziristan and South Waziristan. This characteristic has become apparent many times, especially when Bahadur-led militants warned the Mahsud-led Taliban in neighboring South Waziristan not to launch attacks against the Pakistan security forces and formed an anti-TTP coalition based on tribal rivalries with the Mahsuds. [8] Pakistan military officers in the region are encouraging the tribes of North Waziristan to follow the example of the Ahemdzai Wazir tribes and have announced their support of such actions. However, the situation is quite different from South Waziristan, where local Ahmadzai tribes stood united behind Maulvi Nazir. The North Waziristan situation is complicated by a lack of tribal unity. An offer of money from al-Qaeda or other sources can obstruct such uprisings in North Waziristan. As there is no consensus yet for the launch of a united front against the foreign militants as well as the TTP’s Mahsud militants, the Pakistani military is likely to assign the mission of uniting the Utmanzai Wazir and Dawar tribes to Bahadur (Daily Times, August 18).

A tribal  uprising against foreign militants in North Waziristan at the behest of the Pakistani military will not only help in flushing out the foreign militants from the territory but will also maximize the disunity among the militants and put pressure on the Mahsud militants of the TTP.  However, the Haqqani Network and al-Qaeda will obviously try to obstruct the government’s plan to incite tribal rebellion against foreign militants.


1. Telephone interview with an elder of Ahmadzai sub-tribe, August 26, 2011; see also Terrorism Monitor, January 14, 2008.

2. Telephone interview with Ahmed Wali, a senior journalist and researcher, August 28, 2011.

3. Telephone interview with Bannu-based journalists who wished not to be named, August 26, 2011.

4. Telephone interview with an elder of the Utmanzai sub-tribe, August 26, 2011.

5. Telephone interview with Bannu-based journalists, August 26, 2011.

6. Telephone interview with Abdullah Khan, director of Conflict Monitoring Center, Islamabad, August 22, 2011.

7. Telephone interview with an elder of Utmanzai sub-tribe, August 26, 2011.

8. Telephone interview with Bannu-based journalists, August 26, 2011.

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.

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 23
June 9, 2011 05:50 PM Age: 16 min

A diplomatic staffer of the Saudi Consulate in Karachi, Hassan al-Qahtani, was killed by unknown gunmen riding two motorcycles in Karachi on May 16 (Dawn [Karachi], May 16). A few days earlier, unidentified assailants had thrown Russian-made HE-36 hand grenades at the Saudi Consulate in Karachi, though there were no injuries in this case (The Nation[Karachi], May 11; Dawn, May 12). In both attacks, the assailants managed to escape. The consulate was defended at the time of the grenade attack by paramilitary Rangers and officers of the Foreign Security Cell (FSC – a police unit assigned to diplomatic security), three of whom were subsequently suspended and detained (The Nation, May 12). Privately-hired security also failed to take any action to prevent the assault or pursue the attackers.  Following the attacks, the Saudi government recalled non-essential staff and families of diplomats stationed at its Karachi office. The U.S. Consulate in Karachi also announced it had detected threats to its facility and urged American citizens in Karachi to keep a low profile and take precautions in their movements around the city (Pakistan Observer, June 3).

While it is believed that the attack on the Saudi Consulate and the murder of its staffer in Karachi might be retribution for the American May 2 Abbottabad operation that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, there is also speculation that the attacks may have been related to the Saudi troop deployment in Bahrain to suppress Shiite-led protests against the kingdom’s Sunni royal family. As such, one Karachi-based security official suggested they may be intended to reignite long-standing tensions between the Sunni and Shiite communities of Pakistan. [1]

This assertion was seemingly corroborated by Karachi’s Crime Investigation Department (CID) when they claimed the involvement of the Shiite Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP) in the attacks on Saudi interests in Karachi. An official of the CID, which is responsible for operations against banned militant outfits in Karachi, announced the arrest of SMP militant Muntazir Imam, suspecting his involvement in the killing of the Saudi consulate officer as well as twelve other assassinations of rival Islamist leaders (The Nation, May 19; Saudi Gazette, June 8; Express Tribune, May 29). Local authorities said that it was impossible to rule out the diplomat’s assassination was part of a dispute between rival sectarian organizations composed of supporters and opponents of Saudi Arabia (The Nation, May 18). Calling Imam’s arrest a breakthrough, a CID official said that it would be premature to say the SMP was involved in the killing of the Saudi diplomat as the investigation is still underway (Central Asia Online, May 26).

While no group, including the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attacks, they might also have been related to the Saudi government’s reported refusal to accept Bin Laden’s body. Other reports have emerged in recent days revealing the Saudis have been providing intelligence to the United States (Express Tribune [Karachi], May 12). Saudi Arabia stripped Bin Laden of citizenship in 1994 after he criticized the royal family’s reliance on U.S. troops to protect the Kingdom after the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait. The Saudi government has also refused to accept the repatriation of the three widows and nine children of Bin Laden currently in protective custody in Pakistan. During his recent visit to Riyadh, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik made a formal request to Saudi authorities to accept Bin Laden’s family, but the Saudis declined (Express Tribune [Karachi], May 19).

The killing of the Saudi diplomat may not only be a mark of protest by al-Qaeda against the Saudi Kingdom’s indifferent attitude toward Bin Laden’s family, but also a warning to Pakistan against the possible deportation of the family to the United States. [2] One media report quoted an anonymous Pakistan security official who claimed that the murdered Saudi diplomat was an intelligence official who was looking into Saudi dissidents who have found refuge in Karachi and this is most probably why he was targeted (New York Times, May 16). Saudi authorities said al-Qahtani was involved in relief operations and facilitating the travel of Pakistani pilgrims taking part in the Hajj (Pakistan Times, June 4).

Saudi interests in Karachi have been targeted in response to the situation in the Gulf, specifically the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain in March to help the royal family quell the anti-state protests in the tiny Gulf kingdom. However, the deployment angered Shiite Pakistanis, with nationwide protests condemning the Saudi involvement. [3] Shiites were also angry about local newspaper advertisements seeking to recruit hundreds of former soldiers to work for the Bahrain security forces and help with the crackdown on protestors. The Fauji Foundation, a company which has strong links to the Pakistani Army, announced it was sending 1,000 Pakistanis to join the Bahrain National Guard (Weekly Humshehri [Lahore], March18).

Sunni groups have also jumped into the fray with demonstrations and rallies in support of Saudi Arabia, openly accusing Iran of being behind the unrest in Bahrain and other Gulf states. In a sign of local Shiite-Sunni tensions, walls across Karachi, Lahore and other Pakistani cities are filled with slogans and posters condemning Saudi Arabia and Iran, exacerbating the already tense atmosphere between Sunnis and Shiites. [4] In this campaign, banned sectarian organizations hailing from the both sects, including the Shiite SMP and the Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) have become active in marking walls with derisory slogans and organizing sectarian rallies.

The attack on the Saudi Consulate and the killing of its staffer clearly show that the fight for Bahrain has shifted to Pakistan and could ignite the decade-long Sunni-Shiite rivalry in the country, especially in Karachi. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have funded hard-line Sunni militants groups in Pakistan for years, angering the minority Shi’a community, while Iran has channeled money to Shiite militant groups.  In the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan was the scene of an effective proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Karachi being a particularly bloody battleground in the struggle. The involvement of hard-line religious groups from Afghanistan in Pakistan’s internal affairs has further complicated the sectarian conflict. Since 1989, sectarian fighting has engulfed the entire country, claiming nearly 7636 lives, mostly from the Shi’a community. [5] Sectarian violence is an unpredictable menace in Pakistan, but the recent activities of Sunni and Shiite religious groups could develop into yet another phase of proxy warfare on Pakistani soil.


1. Interview with a Karachi-based security official who requested anonymity, May 26, 2011. See also Terrorism Monitor Brief, January 7, 2010.
2. Interview with Islamabad-based political analyst Zakir Hussain, May 26, 2011.
3. Interview with Karachi-based senior journalist and researcher Ahmed Wali, May 27, 2011.
4. Ibid.
5. Sectarian violence in Pakistan 1989-2011, South Asian Terrorist Portal,