Posts Tagged ‘Militancy’

By Zia Ur Rehman

KARACHI – The government is taking steps to limit clashes between political and religious parties and has barred outlawed militant outfits from collecting the hides of sacrificial animals to ensure peace during Eid ul Adha, which Pakistan will observe November 7-9.

“A war for animals’ hides is not strange in Karachi, where constant fighting goes on for territorial control, land grabs and extortion rights,” Ashraf Siddique, a city district government official, told Central Asia Online.Three people were killed and about 10 injured last year in clashes over hide collection, he said.Security experts are also concerned about the money militant groups stand to make collecting donations and sacrificial animals’ skins.
“As hide collection … is a very lucrative business (worth) millions of rupees, the activists of political and religious parties – including banned militant organisations – … are ready to do whatever it takes to ensure they fetch the maximum number of hides,” Siddique said.Any political or religious party member caught stealing sacrificial animal hides on Eid ul Adha will be arrested and tried by the Anti-Terrorism Court, Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan warned.
Rather than sell the hide of a sacrificial animal to a commercial buyer, many people prefer to donate it to help a charity or support a political party.

During a high-level meeting of political parties and NGOs October 31, all political parties agreed on precautionary measures meant for Karachi, he said.

“Any political party or organisation must seek permission from the Sindh Home Department or the concerned district co-ordination officer to collect the hides of sacrificial animals on Eid, (and) only registered parties would be allowed to collect hides,” Wassan said. Also, nobody will be allowed to carry arms during the three-day holiday.

Militant groups try to skirt rules : 

Banned militant organisations linked with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda pose as welfare organisations, Central Asia Online has learned. Banners and posters appealing for hide donations have appeared in different areas of Karachi.

“A government ban of these jihadi organisations merely led to them to operate under different names,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies.

The fictitious charity foundations serving militant causes create problems for law enforcement agencies, he said.

But recent restrictions have generally shown some success, security analysts say, notably in that security agents have removed banners and posters soliciting hide donations to benefit banned groups.

“With the restrictions imposed by the government barring outfits from collecting hides freely, not many banners and posters appealing for hides (have been) seen in Karachi,” Muhammad Karim, an aid worker, told Central Asia Online recently.

“The role of such militant charity organisations is a serious issue because many of them are based on spreading militancy via supporting terrorism financially,” he said.

The government will not allow outfits to collect animal hides during Eid, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said.

Government efforts to prevent illegal hide collection

“We will (monitor) the activities of these outlawed organisations during Eid days,” Malik told journalists in Karachi October 28, adding that unlike past years, authorities also will try to prevent their attempts to collect hides.

The Punjab government plans a similar ban.

Banned outfits will not be allowed to set up camps in the provincial capital or elsewhere to collect sacrificial hides, The Nation reported October 31.

Banned groups include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehreek Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi, Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan, Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan, Khuddam-ul-Islam, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jamiat-ul-Ansaar, Jamaat-ul-Furqan, Khair-ul-Nisa International Trust, the TTP and the Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the report added.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has also imposed a ban on collection of hides during Eid. The authorities have also banned storage of animal hides inside city limits. They issued the order to protect public health and to thwart militants from collecting hides, Central Asia Online reported October 31.


By Zia Ur Rehman

The Friday Times, August 05-11, 2011

Sectarian groups continue to target the Persian-speaking Shia community, which is not sure if the state wants to protect it

Eleven people, including a woman, were killed on July 30 when gunmen opened fire on a passenger vehicle near Pishin bus stop in Quetta. All the victims were Hazaras. The incident sparked violent protests and Quetta was completely shut down on July 31.

This is not the first such attack on members of the Shia Persian-speaking Hazara community. On July 10, two Hazara policemen were shot and killed on Qambrani Road. On June 22, two people were killed and 11 others injured in Hazar Ganji area when armed men ambushed a bus carrying pilgrims to Iran.

Syed Abrar Hussain Shah, a former Olympian, deputy director of Pakistan Sports Board, and recipient of the prestigious presidential Pride of Performance and Sitara-e-Imtiaz medals, was gunned down on June 16 near Nawab Nauroz Khan Stadium in Quetta. Shah, who belonged to the Hazara community, has represented Pakistan in the Olympics thrice and won a gold medal at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing.

In another sectarian attack near Mirgahi Khan Chowk on May 18, unidentified men shot dead seven members of the Hazara community, including a baby, and injured five others. Most of the killed were vegetable vendors.

Seven Hazara men were killed and several injured in a rocket and gun attack in Hazara Town on May 6. There were Frontier Constabulary and Police checkposts nearby, but the attackers fled.

Over 200 Shia Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan in the last three years, according to elders of Hazara tribe and media sources. They include businessmen, political leaders, government employees, clerics, police cadets, vegetable vendors, and daily-wage workers. Hazaras are identifiable because of their Mongoloid features.

A large number of Hazaras have also been killed in attacks on religious processions. Last year, over 80 Shias, most of them Hazaras, were killed in a bombing on a Shia procession on September 3.

“Members of our community have been targeted persistently for the last 10 years by sectarian outfits, especially the banned militant organisations Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP),” said Abdul Khaliq, chairman of Hazara Democratic Party.

LeJ has accepted responsibility of most of these attacks. A spokesman for the LeJ in Balochistan, who ironically identifies himself as Ali Sher Haidri, said his group would avenge the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by targeting not only government officials and security forces, but also Hazara Shias.

Handbills distributed in Quetta recently have warned the Hazaras of a “jihad” similar to the one carried out against the Hazaras of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

The 3.5 million Hazaras in Balochistan are said to have migrated to Quetta from Afghanistan a century ago. In the 1990s, the Taliban massacred the community – the third largest in the country – killing thousands in Bamyan, Ghazni and parts of Uruzgan that later became the Daykundi province. They had accused the Hazaras of collaborating with the Afghan Northern Alliance (ANA) fighting the Taliban regime in Kabul. According to an Amnesty International report, about 12,000 Hazaras were killed in central Afghanistan by the Taliban.

“Hundreds of Pakistani young men from militant organisations including the SSP, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jundullah and Harkatul Mujahideen fought with the Taliban against the ANA,” said an expert on militancy who teaches at Balochistan University. “The same men are now killing the Hazaras in Balochistan.” He said the Al Qaeda and Taliban-linked groups accuse the community of colluding with the Americans and causing the downfall of the Taliban. Quetta is reportedly the new hub of the defeated Taliban factions, and has become a major site of expression of the hatred towards the Hazaras.

The LeJ network in Quetta is being run by Usman Saifullah Kurd, Dawood Badini and Shafiqur Rind, a senior police official said. Kurd, who heads the LeJ in Balochistan, has trained a new group of killers who are carrying out attacks on the Hazaras, he said. Rind was arrested in 2003 from Mastung area of Balochistan while Kurd was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Unit in Karachi on June 22, 2006. Both fled from the Anti-Terrorist Force jail in Quetta on January 18, 2008. Rind was rearrested, but Kurd is still at large.

A source in the SSP said Kurd had recently met Malik Ishaq, a founding member of the LeJ, in Rahim Yar Khan and invited him to visit Quetta to address the banned SSP’s public meetings.

Ishaq, accused of having masterminded the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 from behind the bars, was recently released by the Supreme Court after 14 years in prison.

The Hazara community had expressed concerns over his release. “The courts are releasing top leaders of banned organisations, and that shows these groups are getting stronger once again,” said a Hazara religious scholar.

According to the Hazara Democratic Party chairman, Kurd’s escape from jail was proof that these groups have inside support. He said the government claims to have arrested the attackers in all the cases, but they are never brought before the court or the public.

“The government has failed to tackle sectarian violence and protect the Hazara community,” Khailq said, whose predecessor Hussain Ali Yousafi was also killed for being a Hazara in 2009.

Hazara elders believe intelligence agencies know about the activities of banned outfits and the whereabouts of their leaders, who simply operate under new names. They believe the state is either indifferent or supporting them.

The writer 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.”


The border areas of Dir and Bajaur have emerged as a new hub of militancy in Pakistan, and stand to threaten peace efforts.

Himal SouthAsian, Web Exclusive

28 June 2011

By Zia Ur Rehman

In the past two months, Pakistan’s Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), along with Dir district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, saw three cross-border incursions, allegedly carried out by Pakistani militants with help from Afghan allies. These attacks, which took place despite several army operations in Pakistan and the NATO presence across the border in Afghanistan, demonstrated the continued strength of militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. The situation also prompted discussion on cross-border militant movement during the recent meeting of the high-level Afghanistan-Pakistan joint commission in Islamabad.




The most recent cross-border attack occurred on 16 June, when more than 200 militants crossed the border and raided the houses of local anti-Taliban militia in the Mamond area of Bajaur, killing around nine civilians. Casualties rose to 15 militants and 12 security personnel during subsequent clashes between the Pakistani security forces and the militants. Earlier, on 1 June, a three-day clash resulted in the deaths of dozens of people in Barawal, in Upper Dir, after hundreds of heavily armed militants targeted a poorly defended security post in Shaltalu. Likewise, on 22 April, a border security post in Lower Dir came under attack by militants, resulting in the death of more than 16 security personnel. Residents of Barawal are now requesting the government not to install additional security posts in their areas, for fear of inciting new attacks.
While the Pakistan government blames the Afghan Taliban for this violence, local tribal elders and security experts believe otherwise.
According to the latter, these attacks have probably been carried out by Pakistani militants, especially accomplices of Maulana Fazlullah, head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Swat, with help from Afghan militants. Reportedly, following the 2009 military operation in Swat, Fazlullah and his commanders fled to nearby provinces in Afghanistan, and some believe that these exiled forces have now been returning and targeting their rivals, including the security forces. The TTP claimed responsibility for the 1 June attacks in Dir, thus seeming corroborate this assertion. Omar Hassan Ahrabi, a spokesperson for the TTP in Malakand Division, said that the group had carried out the attacks together ‘with [its] Afghan allies’, adding that the attackers had managed to seize Pakistani anti-aircraft weapons before returning safely to hideouts in Afghanistan.
Apart from the possibility of Pakistani militants regrouping in Malakand and Bajaur, many security observers suggest that these groups are adopting a new strategy of large-scale attacks against government and security forces. Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, a TTP leader in Bajaur previously thought dead, recently stated that the TTP, in collaboration with al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, plans to target state and security agencies. While the reappearance of Faqir Muhammad is already a major blow to ongoing peace efforts in insurgency-affected areas, such large-scale attacks will make the attempt at debilitating the group even harder.
In the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden operation in Abbottabad, the group has stepped up suicide bombings, attacks on paramilitary cadets, a naval base and a US consulate convoy. This has challenged government assertions that army operations against the militants have succeeded. Indeed, instead of weakening the militants, the army operations seem to have merely translocated the hub of militancy from tribal areas to provincial areas such as Dir. Local people in Upper Dir claim that the militants have begun roaming on their hills. And while nine schools in the area have been reportedly destroyed by the militants, others have remained closed after receiving threatening letters from the TTP. Beginning this year, the TTP militants have also started targeting ‘pro-government’ elders and police personnel – sending not only shockwaves among locals of Dir, but also belying the military’s claims of clearing the area of the militants.
The latest attacks on civilians seem to be the militants’ way of deterring the locals from forming an armed anti-Taliban militia, as they have done in the past. In mid-June 2009, such an armed militia had killed two militant commanders in Dogh Daara, Dir. After the recent militant attack on Dir, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced stronger support for such village militias. Nonetheless, past experience looms large; previous experimentation with militias has had catastrophic outcomes, as the militants struck back with suicide bombings, killing villagers and tribesmen indiscriminately. In June 2010, for instance, a suicide attack at a local mosque in Dogh Daara killed 30 tribesmen. In addition to indiscriminate suicide bombings, the militants have also tended to kidnap militia personnel and take them to bordering provinces in Afghanistan.
The security and government officials say that the TTP militants will not be able to regain control of the Dir region. Instead, it will likely restrict their fighting to hit-and-run tactics, an ideal guerrilla-warfare approach in the rugged terrain of Dir. More worryingly threat posed by these cross-border attacks has already had a significant impact on neighbouring districts and tribal areas. Because Dir borders Bajaur, districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa such as Swat and Chitral, and Afghanistan, it will not only provide a strategic base for attacks in these areas, but will also act as a sanctuary for militants fleeing military operations in neighbouring regions. Afghanistan has already accused the Pakistani militants for attacks on its soil, in particular in Kunar and Nuristan provinces bordering Pakistan. It is therefore imperative that the governments of Islamabad and Kabul collectively tackle the issue of cross-border militant incursions – before the attacks become as ‘large-scale’ as the militants seem to be threatening.
Zia Ur Rehman is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Karachi.

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, 


By Zia Ur Rehman and Javed Aziz Khan

ISLAMABAD – Security commentators and political analysts believe the death of Ilyas Kashmiri will be a major organisational setback for al-Qaeda, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other extremist groups in the region.

”]Among those sharing this view is security analyst Brig. (Ret.) Shaukat Qadir, who said Kashmiri was considered one of al-Qaeda’s most dangerous military commanders and was the suspected mastermind behind some of the worst attacks in Pakistan of late.

Kashmiri was accused of involvement in high-profile attacks and bombings inside Pakistan, including assassination attempts against former president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Qadir said. Kashmiri also allegedly co-ordinated a 2009 attack on Pakistan Army Headquarters and the assault on Mehran naval base in Karachi last month.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed the June 4 death of Kashmiri, leader of Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami (HuJI) and al-Qaeda’s chief strategist, in a missile attack in South Waziristan.

“I can confirm that Ilyas Kashmiri has been killed,” SAMAA News reported Malik as saying June 6. The confirmation from Pakistani officials came one day after Malik said that despite lack of physical evidence he was “98%” sure Kashmiri was dead.

Media outlets have reported that Kashmiri, 47, was killed along with eight other militants in a missile attack on an apple orchard in Ghwakhwa town, not far from Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan Agency.

Others killed were identified as Ameer Hamza, Mohammad Ibrahim, Mohammad Usman, Mohammad Nauman, Farooq Ahmad, Qari Abdul Qudoos and Mohammad Imran. Authorities have not identified one of the dead.

Qari Idrees, a leader of the HuJI, confirmed the killing of Kashmiri and 12 other people, The News reported. Qari said the other slain militants were buried in a graveyard in Gundai village, near Wana, but he didn’t mention the location of Kashmiri’s grave.

Kashmiri’s rise in al-Qaeda

Central Asia Online exclusively reported Kashmiri’s rise within al-Qaeda ranks in November, noting the United Nations labelled him a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” in August. That put him in the same league with Osama bin Laden. Western sources have connected him to planning attacks in Europe, which was part of the reason the United Nations upgraded his terrorist status.

Kashmiri took control of al-Qaeda’s military forces in Pakistan after its prior leader, Abdullah Sa’ad al Libi, was killed in an air strike in late 2008, Qadir said, and Kashmiri was among the top five most-wanted terrorists.

Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban have suffered two serious blows in about a month; the May 2 death of bin Laden and now that of Kashmiri, he added.

The death of al-Qaeda leader bin Laden in Abbottabad May 2 and now the death of Kashmiri are good omens for peace in Pakistan, Senior Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour said.

“They were killing innocent people, and their deaths will be a turning point,” Bilour said.

The importance of Kashmiri within al-Qaeda is evident because he was the only South Asian and non-Arab attending high-profile meetings of the al-Qaeda leadership, said Ahmed Wali, a senior journalist who covers militancy-related issues. Some observers had mentioned Kashmir as a possible successor to bin Laden, he said.

Kashmiri’s activities scattered

Kashmiri’s subversive activities were not limited to Pakistan as he had reportedly played a major role in plotting suicide terrorist attacks against the Afghan government and security installations in Afghanistan, Wali said.

Kashmiri also led Lashkar-e-Zil (Shadow Army), a major offshoot of al-Qaeda, The Herald reported in its June issue. The Herald, a monthly magazine published by Dawn News, said the Lashkar-e-Zil consists of recruits from different nationalities. The group is believed to be scattered in the North and South Waziristan, and is thought to have conducted attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Kuner, Nuristan, Kabul, Wardak and other provinces of Afghanistan.

“The killing of Kashmiri is a major success in the ongoing war against the militancy in the region, and his killing is also a major setback for Punjabi militant groups operating in the tribal regions,” said Idress Kamal, a leader of Aman Tehreek, a regional civil society alliance formed against the militancy.

After the killing of bin Laden, al-Qaeda lost its leadership while Pakistani militants also lost their leader after Kashmiri’s killing,” Kamal told Central Asia Online. Kamal described the HuJI as an alliance of several Punjabi militant outfits that have carried out terrorist attacks against the government and killed hundreds of innocent people not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries. Most of the HuJI’s recruits are from Punjab, Karachi and Kashmir, he added.

Death is good news for Pakistan

“The killing of Osama Bin Laden and Ilyas Kashmiri is welcome and good (news) for the region,” said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

He said the terrorists have suffered significant damage recently and said that is why they are on the run now. “But security forces and the government will chase them until end,” Iftikar said, adding that those killing innocent people have no religion, nation or ideology.

“The blood of the martyred people will not go in vain,” Iftikhar said. “We will eliminate the already fleeing militants and will restore durable peace in the region.”

He urged upon the public to show unity as a nation to better fight the terrorists and eliminate their network.