IN THE NEWS: OPERATION RADD-UL-FASAAD LAUNCHED ACROSS THE COUNTRY (FEBRUARY 23, 2017)

Written by admin on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad launched across country
SOURCE: Daily Times
Thursday, February 23, 2017

* ISPR says PAF, Navy, civil armed forces and other LEAs will continue to actively participate and intimately support efforts to eliminate terrorism from country

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army announced the launch of a nationwide anti-terrorist operation on Wednesday, days after a series of bloody terrorist assaults killed dozens of people across the country.

“Pakistan army launches ‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’ (elimination of violence) across the country,” an Inter-Services Public Relations statement said.

The announcement came after Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa chaired a high-level security meeting in Lahore.

According to ISPR Director General Asif Ghafoor, the operation aims at indiscriminately eliminating residual and latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring security of the borders.

Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, civil armed forces and other security and law enforcement agencies will continue to actively participate and intimately support the efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country.

The efforts entails conduct of broad spectrum security and counter terrorism operations by Rangers in Punjab, continuation of the ongoing operations across the country and focus on more effective border security management.

Country wide de-weaponisation and explosive control are additional cardinals of the effort. Pursuance of the National Action Plan will be the hallmark of this operation.

Troops and police have been on high alert in Pakistan after last week’s wave of attacks, including one in Lahore and another on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh province, killed more than 100 people.

After the attacks, Islamabad launched a violent crackdown, with Pakistani forces saying they had killed dozens of “terrorists” and carried out strikes on militant hideouts both along and across the border with Afghanistan. The Foreign Office also summoned Afghan envoy in Islamabad soon after several suicide bombings rocked Pakistan. The FO also handed over a list of 76 terrorists to him.
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IN THE NEWS: “THEY THOUGHT I HAD A ‘FOREIGN AGENDA’ BECAUSE I TEACH CHILDREN FREE OF COST” (FEBRUARY 23, 2017)

Written by admin on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

“They thought I have a ‘foreign agenda’ because I teach children free of cost”
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Thursday, February 23, 2017
By ZEEBA T. HASHMI

I was volunteering at a makeshift school for nomads and slum children when one day, a young student of mine, not older than 10-years-old, approached me and said, “God’s anger does not work on me.”

This was the first time in my life that I had been exposed to the slum life, aside from what I saw in movies and read in books. This young soul has suffered so much and yet he still lives every day with resilience. To him and so many others like him, life is a manifestation of every day survival.

Indeed, some people consider it an unchangeable fate as “God tests his loved ones the most” and nothing can be as convenient a lie as this. Many of us lack this realisation, which is reflective of the extent to which society has dehumanised our slum dwellers.

In Pakistan, we have no consolidated data on slums across the country.

What we do know is that slums are growing at a faster rate than urbanisation. In Islamabad alone, there are about 10 illegal settlements and some of them get frequently evicted by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

Even in Lahore, the development authority remains rigorously engaged in getting gypsy communities evicted without working on providing better alternatives for them in return. Many development projects like the Orange Line cost $16 billion per year. Projects like these have made numerous people homeless and many continue to live under the fear of soon being homeless.

However, we cannot blame the state alone for these conditions as there are numerous examples of religious zealots evicting minorities over fabricated blasphemy allegations in order to occupy their properties.

Those who suffer the most are the tent schools as only a handful of concerned people have set them up and one small disturbance affects the entire momentum of their informal schooling. Muhammad Ayub, a civil defence worker, has seen such disruptions during his 30 years of providing free education to street children in Islamabad.

“So many times my school had been evicted and I have on many occasions been harassed by the authorities, but I never gave up. It was only after I received the presidential award in 2015 did such harassment stop.”

He now finally has a small space in F-9 Park where he is able to teach his pupils undeterred.

“They thought I am working with a ‘foreign agenda’ by teaching these children free of cost.”
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IN THE NEWS: WAR OF SANCTUARIES (FEBRUARY 22, 2017)

Written by admin on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

War of sanctuaries
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
By ZAHID HUSSAIN

THE latest spate of deadly violence and the military’s punitive strikes on terrorist camps across the Durand Line has caused tensions between Kabul and Islamabad to escalate. This time, matters have gone beyond the usual blame game that is witnessed after each terrorist strike on either side of the border. In an unprecedented move, Pakistan has closed its border with Afghanistan and has issued shoot-on-sight orders to be carried out against trespassers.

What triggered this fury is the trail of the latest surge in violence leading to militant groups operating from Afghanistan. After being driven out of the tribal areas, several factions of the Pakistani Taliban have found a safe haven across the border. The latest bloodbath indicates how quickly the militants have regrouped to launch barbaric acts of terror across Pakistan.

While such spectacular and synchronised terror attacks require support and facilitation of the militant networks inside the country, safe havens across the border allow greater freedom of movement for militants. The long, porous border has made it much easier for militants to escape any crackdown.

The Jamaatul Ahrar, which is responsible for the recent attacks claiming over 100 innocent lives, is the largest and most lethal of Pakistani militant outfits currently operating from the Afghan border region. The network has pledged allegiance to the militant Islamic State group (IS) making the situation much more dangerous.

Cross-border safe havens are major obstacles in the fight against insurgencies and terrorism.
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IN THE NEWS: HAFIZ SAEED UNDER FIRE – HOW PAKISTAN IS TIGHTENING ITS SCREWS ON JUD’S CHIEF (FEBRUARY 22, 2017)

Written by admin on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Hafiz Saeed under fire: How Pakistan is tightening its screws on JuD’s chief
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In an ongoing crackdown against Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, Pakistan has further intensified its operations against him in a sign that the government is serious about nipping this issue in the bud. In a latest move today, Pakistan cancelled licenses of 44 weapons issued to Saeed and other members of his organisations, citing security reasons. An official of the Punjab Home Department said the step has been taken in line with the government’s action against Saeed and his organisations – the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falaha-e-Insanyat (FIF).

Pakistan’s Defence Minister Under Fire For Branding Hafiz Saeed As ‘Threat To Society’

While international pressure has mounted on Pakistan to act against the JuD chief and activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), it still remains unclear if the move is aimed at a larger crackdown on his jihadi network.

For a while now, India has rallied hard for a ‘credible crackdown’ against the terror mastermind, saying only this will prove Pakistan’s sincerity in fighting terrorism.

But this crackdown has a precedent.

It all began in January when the JuD chief in a public address in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) claimed knowledge regarding attacks carried out against the Indian Army in Kashmir. A BBC report had said the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks was addressing Jamaat-ud Dawa activists at an “orientation session” in Muzaffarabad in PoK where he purportedly claimed four ‘mujahideen’ attacked an Indian military camp near Jammu. He was referring to the late night attack at a camp for the General Reserve Engineer Force in Akhnoor, which killed three Indian labourers.
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IN THE NEWS: PEACE, SECURITY AND ADHOCISM (FEBRUARY 21, 2017)

Written by admin on Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Peace, security and adhocism
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ritually spoken words of condemnation, high-level meetings followed by formation of inquiry committees, intelligence-based combing operations killing scores of militants, and resolve to root out the scourge of terrorism are the most familiar phrases to the ears and eyes of average Pakistanis suffering one trauma after another over the past decade and a half.

While the carnage at the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, once known to be ‘Sivistan’ for being the city of Hindu god ‘Lord Shiva’, is brutal and tragic, the attack carried out in the heart of Lahore, known to be the heart of Pakistan besides power base of the ruling family, is worrisome.

Irrespective of who carried out the terrorist act, the most distressing aspect is that the city witnessed such killing for the second time in less than a year. Over 70 people, mostly Christians, were killed when a suicide bomber targeted Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park on Easter evening.

The bombing ensued a flurry of meetings, high-level security briefings, inquiries and combing operations across Punjab that overshadowed everything else in the local media till the dust settled down in the next few days and normalcy returned to everyday life in the country.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States followed by the Operation Enduring Freedom toppling the Taliban regime in Kabul, the three provincial capitals have been witnessing a degree of violence relating to a host of Taliban groups and their al Qaeda affiliates. But the city of Lahore or other major cities in Punjab province remained relatively calm.

Now call it sagacity of the ruling party whose chief minister once made a sympathetic appeal to the Taliban to spare Punjab because his government opposed Musharraf’s policies and ‘rejected dictation from abroad’, or its long distance from the lawless tribal areas, that its major cities remained safe while (mostly) Peshawar and the cities of Quetta and Karachi were bearing the brunt of everyday bomb attacks.
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IN THE NEWS: DEFORESTATION (FEBRUARY 21, 2017)

Written by admin on Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Deforestation
SOURCE: Daily Times
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

 
The Industrial Revolution in the 18th century brought drastic changes to the manufacturing industry that gradually led to economic growth and mass urbanisation both in the developed and the developing world. Fast forward to the 21st century, cities have rapidly expanded with many of them under the definition of mega cities. On the other hand, even small towns and villages have developed to such an extent that they are widely considered to be part of mega cities as sub-urban regions. However, there is a huge cost to bear for such kind of expansions and that is rapid deforestation.

When discussing about Pakistan, deforestation has increased by multiple folds due to which its rate is now the highest in Asia. The failure to conserve forests in the country had a considerably large negative environmental and economic impact that may likely reduce the feasibility of sustaining clean air and soil for agricultural purposes over the next couple of decades. International experts have called for preserving forests at a sustainable rate of 12 percent but recent figures show that Pakistan’s total land reserved for forests has fallen to as low as 2.2 percent, which is quite abysmal. While in Europe and North America, deforestation is regulated and emphasis is given to mass plantation of saplings; this is not the case for Pakistan where there is no check and balance. Moreover, only 50 percent of the 400 million saplings planted in the last few years were effective. Timber mafia still has a considerable influence over tree cuttings and some trees such as Juniper are on the verge of extinction from the country.

The government periodically announces a national policy for preserving forested areas but it’s almost useless given the non-existence of effective regulatory measures. The Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid announced an amended version of this policy last year but it is yet to be seen whether it has been effective or not. Even the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s ‘One Billion Trees’ project under Imran Khan’s guidance couldn’t adequately sustain due to semi-negligence of the local authorities.

It must be understood that there are grave consequences of mass deforestation on the overall ecology. Lack of sustained forestation causes reduction in air quality, droughts, threatens the cycle of food security and even flash floods that could prove disastrous for settled villages or towns. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: EFFORTS FOR MILITARY COURTS’ REVIVAL GATHER STEAM (FEBRUARY 20, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, February 20th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Efforts for military courts’ revival gather steam
SOURCE: Dawn
Monday, February 20, 2017
By AMIR WASIM

ISLAMABAD: The government has stepped up its hectic lobbying for the revival of military courts following the deaths of over 100 people in six terrorist attacks across the country last week.

On Sunday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq contacted parliamentary leaders from opposition parties and informed them about the government’s intention to prepone their next meeting on the issue of the military courts from Feb 27 to Feb 23.

The finance minister called Dr Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Sahibzada Tariqullah of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the Awami National Party (ANP), Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Fata MNA Shahji Gul Afridi, according to a handout issued by the Ministry of Finance.

In his conversation with parliamentary party leaders, the minister highlighted the significance of extending the working of military courts to ensure speedy trial of terrorists and stressed the need for consensus on this all-important issue.

NA speaker, finance minister continue canvassing; govt looking to prepone parliamentary body meeting

The minister also telephoned the speaker, asking him to move back the date of the next meeting of the main parliamentary committee on the matter.

Mr Dar advised the speaker that since the meeting of the sub-committee formed to review the draft of the constitutional amendment bill was scheduled to be held on Feb 22, it would be appropriate to convene the main committee to meet day after that, in order to facilitate a swift decision on the matter. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: KABUL DELIVERS LIST OF 32 TERROR CAMPS TO PAKISTAN (FEBRUARY 20, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, February 20th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Kabul Delivers List of 32 Terror Camps to Pakistan
SOURCE: TOLO News
Monday, February 20, 2017

*The MoFA says that Pakistan has responded positively to the letter. However, Kabul expects of Pakistan to take firm action against the terrorists

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFa) has delivered a list of at least 32 terrorist training camps in Pakistan to that country’s government an asked that “solid action” be taken against them.

The list was delivered by Afghanistan’s ambassador in Pakistan on Monday as tensions between the two nations mounted in the aftermath of last Thursday’s deadly blast in a Sufi shrine In Pakistan’s Sindh province.

The blast left 75 people dead and hundreds wounded.

In a press release on Monday, the MoFA said the list contained 32 training camps which are used as springboards against Afghanistan from within Pakistani territory.

“The letter also added a list of at least 85 Taliban operatives and their leaders in Pakistan. It included other terrorist groups such as the Haqqani terrorist network which have conducted major crimes against the people of Afghanistan to Pakistan. This was with the intention that Pakistan launches a crackdown against the insurgent groups and hand over the terrorists to the government of Afghanistan,” the press release added.

The MoFA statement says that Pakistan has responded positively to the letter. However, Kabul expects of Pakistan to take firm action against the terrorist groups. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PENCE VOICES SUPPORT FOR AFGHAN UNITY GOVERNMENT (FEBRUARY 19, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, February 19th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pence Voices Support for Afghan Unity Government
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Sunday, February 19, 2017

MUNICH – The White House says Vice President Mike Pence expressed support for Afghanistan’s national unity government during a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani.

The leaders met on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich. They talked about ways to improve relations between their countries and advance mutual interests, particularly on counterterrorism cooperation and economic development.

The White House says they also affirmed the importance of continuing the “strategic partnership” between the U.S. and Afghanistan.

Pence is also scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (HY’-dahr ahl ah-BAH’-dee).

The White House says Vice President Mike Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have committed to continue close cooperation on a range of global issues.

The leaders met after separately addressing a security conference in Munich.

Pence and Merkel also discussed the need for NATO member countries to meet their “burden-sharing” commitments. The White House says they also agreed that the alliance must continue to transform itself to meet 21st century threats.

Pence thanked the chancellor for leading on Ukraine and expressed appreciation for Germany’s contributions in Afghanistan and to the coalition fighting the Islamic State group. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: NEW TERROR WAVE DEEPENS DIVIDE BETWEEN PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN (FEBRUARY 19, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, February 19th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

New Terror Wave Deepens Divide Between Pakistan, Afghanistan
SOURCE: Gandhara
Sunday, February 19, 2017
By PAUL ALEXANDER

Pakistan has closed its border with Afghanistan, fired a barrage of artillery into its neighbor’s territory and staged a major domestic crackdown on militant groups, reportedly killing more than 100 suspects, in response to the deadliest terror attacks in recent months.

It was the latest in a series of deadly attacks in both nations that have been claimed by Islamic State (IS) militants. That could provide grounds for a united fight against terrorism but instead seems to be pushing the two countries apart in a flurry of accusations that each side is harboring groups responsible for cross-border attacks.

In one of the most horrific attacks a suicide bombing hit one of Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrines. The February 16 attack killing at least 83 worshippers and injured scores more.

Scenes of the carnage in Sindh province sent shock waves up through the Pakistani government. It blamed the Jama-ul-Ahrar group, operating out of Afghanistan, for being “behind these barbaric acts of terrorism,” according to a statement from the office of Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs. Pakistan said it lodged a strong protest with Afghanistan.

The two countries have swapped accusations that not enough has been done to root out extremists launching cross-border attacks from both sides.

According to the statement from his office, Aziz spoke by phone with Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar, saying the fight against terrorism requires close cooperation, particularly in policing the border.

Aziz expressed “serious concern” that Afghanistan had not paid heed to Pakistan’s repeated calls for action against Jama-ul-Ahrar.

‘Effective Strategies’ Needed

Atmar’s office said he condemned such “abhorrent” attacks on civilians, and pointed out that IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in Afghanistan. (more…)