IN THE NEWS: MQM DISOWNS ALTAF HUSSAIN (AUGUST 24, 2016)

Written by admin on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

MQM disowns Altaf Hussain
SOURCE: The Nation
Wednesday, August 24, 2016

*Treason case registered against exiled leader
*Sattar dissociates party from anti-Pakistan speeches, attacks on media houses, says now decisions will be taken in Pakistan, not in London

KARACHI – Karachi police charged MQM chief Altaf Hussain with treason and inciting terrorism yesterday while his most-trusted deputy for years vowed to sideline him a day after his anti-state remarks and workers’ attacks on media houses.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senior Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar disassociated himself and the entire party in Pakistan from the anti-country slogans and speeches by Altaf Hussain as well as the attacks on media houses in Karachi.

Addressing a crowded press conference along with Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izharul Hassan, Nasreen Jalil, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and other parliamentarians, Farooq Sattar said now the MQM would be operated from inside Pakistan and all decisions would be taken by the party leadership in the country.

Rangers personnel also sealed the party’s headquarters, a day before the city council was due to elect imprisoned MQM member Waseem Akhtar as mayor.

MQM activists clashed with police and ransacked a private television station in Karachi on Monday leaving at least one man dead and seven others injured. The violence erupted soon after Altaf Hussain gave a telephone address to supporters from London in which he castigated the media for not giving due coverage to his workers.

According to a police report, seen by AFP, he chanted “down with Pakistan” and called the country a “bastion of terrorism”.
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IN THE NEWS: KEY ISSUES FACING PAKISTAN TODAY (AUGUST 24, 2016)

Written by admin on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Key issues facing Pakistan today
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
By TALAT MASOOD

Pakistan’s foreign and domestic policies face formidable multiple challenges. India is virtually on the warpath for our support of the Kashmiri resistance against Indian hegemony and atrocities. It has placed diplomatic exchanges on hold, while incendiary rhetoric from its leadership is on the rise. It refuses to discuss Kashmir but is willing to engage on a one-point agenda of discussing terrorism. Afghanistan is deeply resentful of our policy of harbouring the Taliban and its policy towards us is closely linked to its relations with India. Apparently we are the least liked country despite what we have suffered as a consequence of supporting the Afghan jihad against Soviet occupation.

Ironically, Afghans have forgotten which side India was on at that time, but now it is considered Afghanistan’s closest ally. Adding to our woes, the US finds our tacit support for the Haqqani network and presence of the Quetta Shura a serious breach of good faith. As a consequence, our assistance has been curtailed by $300 million by an angry Congress.

Americans, too, have short memories, as most of their present enemies in Afghanistan were at one time their closest allies. With Iran we have yet to develop a relationship that inspires confidence on both sides. It would require earnest effort at addressing political, economic and security-related issues before a durable relationship emerges.

Internally, the government is under considerable pressure from Imran Khan’s politics of agitation for reforms and accountability. His party, however, is divided on what future line of action to take and its ability to dislodge the government is remote. At best, the protests will be distractive and have a nuisance value. It is in the backdrop of such fractious interparty politics that our national policies, both external and internal, are being framed.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb has made great gains, but the mopping-up operation continues and the rebuilding phase, which involves the complete demobilisation of jihadi groups, the reintegration of jihadists in the mainstream and the development of devastated areas in which the civilian government has a major role, is yet to mature. Economic development and political reforms are still awaited and should be given high priority by the federal government.

Through heavy borrowing and support from the IMF, the economy has stabilised, but absence of foreign investment and a drop in exports and remittances are not healthy signs. There is greater emphasis on getting assistance from abroad rather than creating favourable conditions for generating wealth from within.
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IN THE NEWS: WHY ISN’T ANYTHING BEING DONE ABOUT THE 10,000 GHOST MADRASSAS IN SINDH? (AUGUST 23, 2016)

Written by admin on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Why isn’t anything being done about the 10,000 ghost madrassas in Sindh?
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
By ZAMEER AHMED

Sindh’s inspector general claims there are around 10,000 ghost madrassas in the province; the real number may be far larger.

Sindh, the southern province of Pakistan, has always been an epicentre of progressive political parties which keep a close check over the spread of religious militancy and violent extremism in their constituencies. Even though Sindh has been a secular and progressive region, where Sufi traditions have never let the militant mind-set prevail, the province still supports tens of thousands of madrassas (Islamic religious schools).

There’s just one problem: many of these supposed madrassas don’t actually exist.

A meeting, between the officials of Sindh, held in May at the chief minister’s house in the provincial capital of Karachi, was told by the inspector general of the Sindh police that over 10,000 ghost madrassas had been unearthed through physical verification. This verification was made after 7,724 actual madrassas were geo-tagged.

Ghost schools have been a point of debate in Pakistan for many years but this new term, “ghost madrassas,” has stayed under the radar. Ghost schools exist only in government books, from which they receive annual funding from the education budget. As a result, individuals are able to pocket funds meant for schools that do not actually exist on ground. Recently, Sindh managed to largely root out many of these ghost schools; now it has to cope with the new phenomena of ghost madrassas.

Ghost schools are supposedly government entities, and the provincial government provides funds for them. But who is funding these 10,000 ghost madrassas, and who is benefiting? What is the purpose of these ghost madrassas? After all, they exist only on paper, yet most of them are unregistered with the relevant authorities. Whatever funds they get don’t come from the state.
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IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN BEING HIT “HARDER THAN EVER” IN KUNZDUZ, SAYS MURAD (AUGUST 23, 2016)

Written by admin on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban Being Hit “Harder Than Ever” In Kunduz: Murad
SOURCE: TOLO News
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
By GHAFOOR SABOORI / TOLO News

The Deputy Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Murad Ali Murad, on Tuesday claimed that Taliban insurgents have suffered their heaviest defeat in Kunduz to date.

“The leadership of the Taliban in a report to the Quetta Shura (Quetta Council) has accepted that they have suffered a heavy defeat in Kunduz,” Murad claimed, adding that a large-scale military operation had been launched to eliminate the Taliban in the province.

“We have a voice recording from Mullah Salaam, Taliban’s key commander in Kunduz, as he presents his report of Kunduz battle to the Quetta Shura.

In this voice recording, he says that they are not capable of fighting the Afghan security forces and that there is no option for them except to retreat,” he added.

He stated: “We launched our offensive attacks yesterday [Monday]. We have also started military operations to target Taliban’s hideouts in different areas. So far the Taliban has not resisted against the government forces.”

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said it has deployed a special unit of police to safeguard areas that are cleared of Taliban in Kunduz.

Head of police operations at the Ministry of Interior, Gen. Nematullah Haidar, said: “Police force members are keeping (safe) areas that are cleared of the Taliban. We have established security check posts in different areas to ensure security there.”

The 808 Spinzar Zone police meanwhile urged Kunduz residents to cooperate with security personnel during their operations in the province.

“We are in an offensive mode now and we are trying to completely eliminate all the Taliban fighters,” said Sher Aziz Kamawal, commander of the police zone.

The remarks by Murad come at a time that according to reports, Taliban has taken control of Qala-e-Zal and Dasht-e-Archi districts in the province – in addition to ongoing clashes in other parts of Kunduz – including Khanabad, Aliabad and Imam Sahib districts.
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IN THE NEWS: KASHMIR – THE VIRUS OF POLITICAL ISLAM. IS IT INSPIRED BY WAHABI JIHAD? (AUGUST 22, 2016)

Written by admin on Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

KASHMIR – The virus of Political Islam- Is it inspired by Wahabi Jihad?
SOURCE: South Asia Analysis Group
Monday, August 22, 2016
By R.UPADHYAY

*This paper makes out a case that the Kashmir problem is primarily rooted to the Jihadi ideology and religio-separatism of political Islam

In the modern history of Kashmir, despite repeated dialogues since 1947, the Kashmir problem related to political Islam is still unresolved. The political leadership in Delhi has apparently failed to achieve any fruitful solution. Even the Rajya Sabha resolution on this issue adopted on August 10 recently also seems to be an addition to another crisis management formula to pacify the protesters in the valley temporarily.

The Islamic history of Kashmir suggests that the gentle version of this faith laced with pre-Islamic practices in the region with heavy influence of Sufi mysticism remained at the centre of the cultural and spiritual life and therefore the larger majority of them are still the followers of the Sufi version of Islam. In fact, the Islamic stream which came to Kashmir through Persian route got diluted in the cultural cauldron of Hinduism. This cultural fusion was known as Kashmiriyat.

Enter Wahabism in the Valley:
But after the entry of Wahhabism in the valley, the descendants of the Islamist invaders are now set to hegemonise Kashmiriyat under a very small Arab component in the veil of ‘Azadi’. These fringe elements or separatist group that are primarily rooted to their foreign lineage don’t have any racial fraternity with the Muslims of Kashmir ancestry who are born and brought up in the gentler version of Kashmiriyat.

Contrary to this cultural identity of the locals, the separatists had Jihadi narratives of Kashmiriyat which they linked with Wahhabi version of Islam that is totally opposed to the tomb worship tradition of the people. Ironically, these separatists are sending their own children for study in big cities out of Kashmir while using other children as their foot soldiers to carry on their designs within Kashmir. The soft line approach of the mainstream politicians towards the separatists has gradually turned the situation from bad to worse and has now emboldened the patrons of jihadi outfits both across the border as well in Kashmir to campaign for the hard line version of the faith to grow day by day. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN FORCES RETAKE DISTRICT FROM TALIBAN (AUGUST 22, 2016)

Written by admin on Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan forces retake district from Taliban
SOURCE: The Nation
Monday, August 22, 2016

KUNDUZ – Afghan forces have recaptured a district that had fallen briefly to the Taliban, officials and residents said Sunday, after thousands of people fled their homes in Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunduz province.

Khan Abad district, which is around 30 kilometres east of Kunduz city – the provincial capital where militants last year scored their biggest ever victory – had fallen to the Taliban after they launched a pre-dawn attack on the district centre on Saturday, according to local officials.

Several hours later Afghan special forces were deployed to the area – a key route to Kunduz city – to retake the district.

The district was recaptured by government forces on Saturday evening, according to Sayed Mahmood Danish, a Kunduz governor spokesman. “Taliban are now being chased away. The threat to the city is gone. We are expanding our operations beyond the district,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told AFP.

A shopkeeper in Khan Abad district, Khalid, told AFP that people were still worried about the Taliban making a return to the city.

“The roads are empty, few shops are open in the city. People do not have access to food and drinking water. We still cannot come out of our houses,” he said.

Another resident, Mohammad Sahim, said the militants had looted and set fire to government buildings.

“People are in fear, you don’t see many people in the streets, schools are closed,” he said, adding that there is a danger of food shortages.

The Taliban briefly captured Kunduz city in September last year, the first city to fall to the insurgents in their biggest victory in 14 years of war. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ZAWAHIRI CALLS ON MUSLIMS TO SUPPORT TALIBAN, REJECT ISLAMIC STATE (AUGUST 21, 2016)

Written by admin on Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Zawahiri calls on Muslims to support Taliban, reject Islamic State
SOURCE: The Long War Journal
Sunday, August 21, 2016
By THOMAS JOSCELYN

As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, has released the second episode in Ayman al Zawahiri’s “Brief Messages to a Victorious Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims]” series. In the first episode, which was posted online on Aug. 13, Zawahiri criticized the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and compared its members to chickens.

Zawahiri focuses on Afghanistan in the second episode, which is subtitled, “Be Not Divided Among Yourselves.” He calls on Muslims to support the Taliban and to reject the Islamic State, which seeks to “split the ranks of the mujahideen” in the country.

Zawahiri says that all Muslims and jihadists around the globe should “rally around the emirate,” meaning the Taliban, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden swore his allegiance to Mullah Omar’s Taliban in order to unite Muslims to wage jihad against America, according to Zawahiri. He then lists a number of legendary jihadists who supported the Taliban and says others should do the same.

The Islamic State frequently accuses al Qaeda’s leaders of being “deviants” and argues that al Qaeda has fallen into a state of “nonbelief.” Zawahiri challenges Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and his men to provide proof of al Qaeda’s supposed ideological lapses. Zawahiri mentions a “martyr” known as Abu Sa’d al Hadrami, saying the Islamic State falsely accused him of being a “nonbeliever” because he accepted pledges of allegiance from members of the Free Syrian Army. Hadrami was an Al Nusrah Front commander in Raqqa, Syria who was killed by the Islamic State early on in its rivalry with Zawahiri’s loyalists. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE STARK REALITY OF PAK-AFGHAN RELATIONS (AUGUST 21, 2016)

Written by admin on Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The stark reality of Pak-Afghan relations
SOURCE: Daily Times
Sunday, August 21, 2016

As Balochistan witnessed protests across the province in the wake of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement, rallies were also held across the western border of Pakistan. But the protests in Afghanistan were not in support of Balochistan or condemning Modi: they were targeted against Pakistan. The Chaman crossing at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been indefinitely closed following the burning of Pakistani flags at the Friendship Gate at Chaman. Afghanis were celebrating their 97th Independence Day, and the rallies held in the Spin Boldak headed towards the border crossing to show apathy towards Pakistan. The crowd also tried to cross the border gate, which had already been closed in the anticipation of any such move. Placards in hands with anti-Pakistan slogans inscribed on them, the crowd pelted stones at the border check posts on the Pakistani side. Thankfully, the Frontier Corps exercised restraint, and any kind of bloodshed was avoided. But the event has resulted in the closure of the border for an indefinite period with trucks loaded with NATO supplies stuck on both sides of the border.

While the people in Pakistan are labelling the Afghans as the enemy and ungrateful, they should realise the sensitivity of the issue. Everything cannot be blamed on a foreign-backing of the issue. Since the inception of Pakistan, a border dispute has existed between Afghanistan and Pakistan with the former claiming a considerable portion of Pakistani land as theirs. Later, Pakistan’s involvement in the war against the Soviets in the 1980s that resulted in a chaos following the Soviets departure from Afghanistan also instigated feelings of hatred in the nation against Pakistan. Afghanistan fell victim to a civil war, which was followed by the Taliban rule and the consequent invasion of the US.

Although Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees numbering in millions for decades, this act is not enough to persuade the minds of hundreds and thousands of people who were left homeless as a result of the war that was not theirs in the first place. Before forcing the Afghan refugees to leave the country by labelling them traitors and terrorists, Pakistan should see the issue retrospectively and make amends for its mistakes.

The camaraderie of Afghans with Indians is not just cosmetic. India has been doing a great deal of systematic development work in Afghanistan, which includes building of roads, dams and other necessary infrastructure. Pakistan needs a similar approach to normalise its relations with Afghanistan, rather than blaming and forcing out refugees on mostly baseless accusations. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: KARZAI BACKS MODI’S BALOCHISTAN COMMENTS (AUGUST 20, 2016)

Written by admin on Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Karzai backs Modi’s Balochistan comments
SOURCE: Dawn
Saturday, August 20, 2016

NEW DELHI: Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai “appreciated” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on the human rights situation in Balochistan on Friday, saying that India had every right to respond to Pakistan’s “provocations”.

The Hindu said “Pakistani authorities have spoken freely on Afghanistan and India, but this is the first time that the PM of India has spoken about Balochistan,” Mr Karzai said during a visit to Delhi.

“However, I don’t think India intends to go to any proxy wars in the region as it has a tradition of peaceful coexistence. The region should not go to proxy wars,” he added.

The remarks from the former Afghan president, who has often criticised Pakistan for its support to the Taliban, came a day after Bangladesh Information Minister Hassanul Haq Inu had also backed Mr. Modi’s statements, The Hindu said.

Speaking to an all-party meeting on Kashmir last week, and in his address on independence day, Mr Modi had vowed to take up the cause of Baloch people in Pakistan on the international stage, and said he had received many messages from them.

“In Balochistan there is extreme suffering at the hands of extremists promoted by state structures in Pakistan. Therefore the people’s concerns need to be addressed and aired,” Mr Karzai told The Hindu in an interview, saying that Mr Modi’s comments should make Pakistan’s government “see the gravity of the situation”.

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN REFUGEES’ REPATRIATION (AUGUST 19, 2016)

Written by admin on Friday, August 19th, 2016

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan refugees’ repatriation
SOURCE: Daily Times
Friday, August 19, 2016

By pushing the Afghan refugees out of the country, government has affected the social fabric of a community, and has become responsible for disintegration of a large number of families in those areas where intermarriages among nationals of Pakistan and Afghan origin have taken place. A majority of cases of intermarriages are reported in Mardan, Charsadda, Peshawar, Nowshera, Swabi, Upper and Lower Dir in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and some parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA).

In the past, federal governments have extended the legal residency deadline for registered Afghans multiple times. However in June 2016, the federal government extended the stay for registered Afghan refugees for six months — till the end of 2016 with no intent of further extension. After this announcement, the process of Afghan refugees’ repatriation from Pakistan has accelerated as more than 20,000 Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan in the months of July and August 2016.

Reportedly, 1.5 million Afghan refugees have legally been living in Pakistan while a similar number has illegal domicile in different parts of the country.

The incidents of terrorism and alleged involvement of Afghan refugees in criminal activities are being cited as main reasons for the ongoing repatriation of the Afghans in Pakistan. Government asserts that unregulated cross-border movement of refugees provides an opportunity to terrorists to move freely between the two countries. Pakistan must desist from adopting rushed solutions for sending the displaced population back to Afghanistan. It must take stock of the consequences of this policy decision on Afghans that have families and businesses in Pakistan.

Countless Afghans fled violence, persecution, ethnic cleansing and genocide as a result of regional proxy conflicts in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s. Afghan refugees live as an alien community despite being registered as displaced people who merely seek shelter in Pakistan, their neighbouring country. Many among them have been living here for many years, and are contributing to the economy of Pakistan positively.
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