Posts Tagged ‘ Abbottabad ’

Al Qaeda’s Roots Grow Deeper in Pakistan’

As Reported in Zee News

Ten years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent “war on terror” launched by United Stated-led forces against al Qaeda, the terrorist outfit “continues to pose a serious threat to the world as it keeps surviving and thriving mainly on the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt”, a senior Pakistani journalist and author has said.

“In these rugged areas, it [al Qaeda] has established an effective jihadi network that increasingly exploits its Pakistani affiliates to carry on the global jihadi agenda of Osama bin Laden, despite his May 02 killing in a United States military raid in Abbottabad in Pakistan,” Amir Mir wrote in a piece for Asia Times Online.

Until recently, analysts have been mostly focusing on the dangers posed by the growing Talibanisation of Pakistan, he noted.

“Yet, it has now become abundantly clear that the time has come to pay more attention to the bigger dangers posed by the Pakistanisation of al Qaeda,” he added.

Mir, who has written several books on the subject of militant Islam and terrorism, the latest being ‘The Bhutto murder trail: From Waziristan to GHQ’, said that the al Qaeda leadership’s choice of using the FATA region, especially the North and South Waziristan tribal agencies as their hideout, has enabled the terror outfit to build a new power base, separate from Afghanistan.

“As a result, despite Pakistan’s extensive contribution to the “war on terror”, many questions persist about the extent to which al Qaeda and its allied groups are operating within Pakistan,” he observed.

He said that al Qaeda’s success in forging close ties to Pakistani jihadi groups has given it an increasingly secure haven in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal areas, which have “replaced Afghanistan as the key training and indoctrination grounds for al Qaeda recruits to be used in operations abroad and for training those indoctrinated and radicalised elsewhere.”

The journalist also said it appears that al Qaeda not only remains in business in its traditional stronghold in the Waziristan tribal region, it has “also clearly advanced to the urban areas in all four provinces of Pakistan”.

“This is confirmed by the growing belief of the Barack Obama administration that if there is one country that matters most to the future of al Qaeda, it is Pakistan,” he added.

C.I.A. Drone Is Said to Kill Al Qaeda’s No. 2

By Mark Mazzetti for The New York Times

A drone operated by the CIA killed Al Qaeda’s second-ranking figure in the mountains of Pakistan on Monday, American and Pakistani officials said Saturday, further damaging a terrorism network that appears significantly weakened since the death of Osama bin Laden in May.

An American official said that the drone strike killed Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a Libyan who in the last year had taken over as Al Qaeda’s top operational planner. Mr. Rahman was in frequent contact with Bin Laden in the months before the terrorist leader was killed on May 2 by a Navy Seals team, intelligence officials have said.

American officials described Mr. Rahman’s death as particularly significant as compared with other high-ranking Qaeda operatives who have been killed, because he was one of a new generation of leaders that the network hoped would assume greater control after Bin Laden’s death.

Thousands of electronic files recovered at Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, revealed that Bin Laden communicated frequently with Mr. Rahman. They also showed that Bin Laden relied on Mr. Rahman to get messages to other Qaeda leaders and to ensure that Bin Laden’s recorded communications were broadcast widely.

After Bin Laden was killed, Mr. Rahman became Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader under Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Bin Laden.

There were few details on Saturday about the strike that killed Mr. Rahman. In the months since Bin Laden’s death, the C.I.A. has maintained a barrage of drone missile strikes on mountainous redoubts in Pakistan, a bombing campaign that continues to strain America’s already turbulent relationship with Pakistan.

The C.I.A almost never consults Pakistani officials in advance of a drone strike, and a Pakistani government official said Saturday that the United States had told Pakistan’s government that Mr. Rahman had been the target of the strike only after the spy agency confirmed that he had been killed.

The drone strikes have been the Obama administration’s preferred means of hunting and killing operatives from Al Qaeda and its affiliate groups. Over the past year the United States has expanded the drone war to Yemen and Somalia.

Some top American officials have said publicly that they believe Al Qaeda is in its death throes, though many intelligence analysts are less certain, saying that the network built by Bin Laden has repeatedly shown an ability to regenerate.

Yet even as Qaeda affiliates in places like Yemen and North Africa continue to plot attacks against the West, most intelligence analysts believe that the remnants of Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan have been weakened considerably. Mr. Rahman’s death is another significant blow to the group.

“Atiyah was at the top of Al Qaeda’s trusted core,” the American official said. “His combination of background, experience and abilities are unique in Al Qaeda — without question, they will not be easily replaced.”

The files captured in Abbottabad revealed, among other things, that Bin Laden and Mr. Rahman discussed brokering a deal with Pakistan: Al Qaeda would refrain from mounting attacks in the country in exchange for protection for Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan.

American officials said that they found no evidence that either of the men ever raised the idea directly with Pakistani officials, or that Pakistan’s government had any knowledge that Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad.

Mr. Rahman also served as Bin Laden’s liaison to Qaeda affiliates. Last year, American officials said, Mr. Rahman notified Bin Laden of a request by the leader of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to install Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric, as the leader of the group in Yemen.

That group, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, apparently thought Mr. Awlaki’s status as an Internet celebrity, for his popular video sermons, and his knowledge of the United States might help the group’s fund-raising efforts. But according to the electronic files in Abbottabad, Bin Laden told Mr. Rahman that the group’s leadership should remain unchanged.

After Bin Laden’s death, some intelligence officials saw a cadre of Libyan operatives as poised to assume greater control inside Al Qaeda, which at times has been fractured by cultural rivalries.

Libyan operatives like Mr. Rahman, they said, had long bristled at the leadership of an older generation, many of them Egyptian like Mr. Zawahri and Sheikh Saeed al-Masri.

Mr. Masri was killed last year by a C.I.A. missile, as were several Qaeda operations chiefs before him. The job has proved to be particularly deadly, American officials said, because the operations chief has had to transmit the guidance of Bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri to Qaeda operatives elsewhere, providing a way for the Americans to track him through electronic intercepts.

Mr. Rahman assumed the role after Mr. Masri’s death. Now that Mr. Rahman has died, American officials said it was unclear who would take over the job.

U.S. Says Pakistan Let China See Copter

By Mark Mazzetti for The Seattle Times

In the days after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistan’s intelligence service probably allowed Chinese military engineers to examine the wreckage of a stealth American helicopter that crashed during the May operation, according to U.S. officials and others familiar with the classified assessments.

Such cooperation with China would be provocative, providing further evidence of the depths of Pakistan’s anger over the bin Laden raid, which was carried out without Pakistan’s approval.

U.S. spy agencies have concluded it is likely that Chinese engineers took detailed photographs of the severed tail of the Black Hawk helicopter equipped with classified technology designed to elude radar, the officials said.

The members of the Navy SEALs team who conducted the raid had tried to destroy the helicopter after it crashed at bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, but the tail section remained largely intact.

U.S. officials cautioned they did not yet have definitive proof the Chinese were allowed to visit Abbottabad. They said Pakistani officials had denied they showed the technology to other foreign governments.

One person with knowledge of the intelligence assessments said the U.S. case was based mostly on intercepted conversations in which Pakistani officials discussed inviting the Chinese to the crash site.

He characterized intelligence officials as being “certain” that Chinese engineers were able to photograph the helicopter and even walk away with samples of the wreckage. The tail has been shipped back to the U.S., according to American officials.

The U.S. assessments were disclosed Sunday by The Financial Times. The newspaper cited Pakistani officials who denied the accusations.

Pakistan to Hand Back Bali Bombing Suspect to Indonesia

Xinua News Agency

Pakistani authorities will hand back the alleged mastermind of Bali bombing Umar Patek to Indonesia later on Wednesday, reported local Urdu TV channel Geo.

Patek, 41, is suspected as the field coordinator and planner of the suicide bombings in two nightclubs in Bali in 2002 that killed 202 people, most of whom are Australian holiday makers.

He was arrested in January 2011 at the city of Abbottabad where the U.S. army killed Osama bin Laden on May 2. There is no official confirmation about the extradition of Omar Patek yet.

Indonesian authorities had reportedly sought extradition of the suspect to uncover Patek’s network in the country. Pakistan had reportedly invited Indonesian investigators to identify and question the suspect days after his arrest was confirmed.

Patek, alias Abu Syeikh or Umar Arab, escaped from Indonesia in 2003. The U.S. government had put one million U.S. dollars bounty on his head. He has also been included in the United Nations’ consolidated list.

He was captured by the Pakistani security authorities after a decade of escape. Since his arrest the Indonesian police had reportedly been negotiating with the government of Pakistan for bringing back one of the most wanted militants in Southeast Asia.

Indonesian officials said that they had been involved in discussions with Pakistani authorities for extradition of Patek over the past few months. Patek is a suspected member of al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asian network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

JI has been accused of carrying out a series of major terrorist strikes in Indonesia that killed over 250 people from 2000 to 2009.

Why My Father Hated India

By Aatish Taseer for The Wall Street Journal

Ten days before he was assassinated in January, my father, Salman Taseer, sent out a tweet about an Indian rocket that had come down over the Bay of Bengal: “Why does India make fools of themselves messing in space technology? Stick 2 bollywood my advice.”

My father was the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, and his tweet, with its taunt at India’s misfortune, would have delighted his many thousands of followers. It fed straight into Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession with India, the country from which it was carved in 1947.

Though my father’s attitude went down well in Pakistan, it had caused considerable tension between us. I am half-Indian, raised in Delhi by my Indian mother: India is a country that I consider my own. When my father was killed by one of his own bodyguards for defending a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, we had not spoken for three years.

To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge—its hysteria—it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan’s animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.

The idea of Pakistan was first seriously formulated by neither a cleric nor a politician but by a poet. In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal, addressing the All-India Muslim league, made the case for a state in which India’s Muslims would realize their “political and ethical essence.” Though he was always vague about what the new state would be, he was quite clear about what it would not be: the old pluralistic society of India, with its composite culture.

Iqbal’s vision took concrete shape in August 1947. Despite the partition of British India, it had seemed at first that there would be no transfer of populations. But violence erupted, and it quickly became clear that in the new homeland for India’s Muslims, there would be no place for its non-Muslim communities. Pakistan and India came into being at the cost of a million lives and the largest migration in history.

This shared experience of carnage and loss is the foundation of the modern relationship between the two countries. In human terms, it meant that each of my parents, my father in Pakistan and my mother in India, grew up around symmetrically violent stories of uprooting and homelessness.

But in Pakistan, the partition had another, deeper meaning. It raised big questions, in cultural and civilizational terms, about what its separation from India would mean.

In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India. It turned its back on all that had been common between Muslims and non-Muslims in the era before partition. Everything came under suspicion, from dress to customs to festivals, marriage rituals and literature. The new country set itself the task of erasing its association with the subcontinent, an association that many came to view as a contamination.

Had this assertion of national identity meant the casting out of something alien or foreign in favor of an organic or homegrown identity, it might have had an empowering effect. What made it self-wounding, even nihilistic, was that Pakistan, by asserting a new Arabized Islamic identity, rejected its own local and regional culture. In trying to turn its back on its shared past with India, Pakistan turned its back on itself.

But there was one problem: India was just across the border, and it was still its composite, pluralistic self, a place where nearly as many Muslims lived as in Pakistan. It was a daily reminder of the past that Pakistan had tried to erase.

Pakistan’s existential confusion made itself apparent in the political turmoil of the decades after partition. The state failed to perform a single legal transfer of power; coups were commonplace. And yet, in 1980, my father would still have felt that the partition had not been a mistake, for one critical reason: India, for all its democracy and pluralism, was an economic disaster.

Pakistan had better roads, better cars; Pakistani businesses were thriving; its citizens could take foreign currency abroad. Compared with starving, socialist India, they were on much surer ground. So what if India had democracy? It had brought nothing but drought and famine.

But in the early 1990s, a reversal began to occur in the fortunes of the two countries. The advantage that Pakistan had seemed to enjoy in the years after independence evaporated, as it became clear that the quest to rid itself of its Indian identity had come at a price: the emergence of a new and dangerous brand of Islam.

As India rose, thanks to economic liberalization, Pakistan withered. The country that had begun as a poet’s utopia was reduced to ruin and insolvency.

The primary agent of this decline has been the Pakistani army. The beneficiary of vast amounts of American assistance and money—$11 billion since 9/11—the military has diverted a significant amount of these resources to arming itself against India. In Afghanistan, it has sought neither security nor stability but rather a backyard, which—once the Americans leave—might provide Pakistan with “strategic depth” against India.

In order to realize these objectives, the Pakistani army has led the U.S. in a dance, in which it had to be seen to be fighting the war on terror, but never so much as to actually win it, for its extension meant the continuing flow of American money. All this time the army kept alive a double game, in which some terror was fought and some—such as Laskhar-e-Tayyba’s 2008 attack on Mumbai—actively supported.

The army’s duplicity was exposed decisively this May, with the killing of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. It was only the last and most incriminating charge against an institution whose activities over the years have included the creation of the Taliban, the financing of international terrorism and the running of a lucrative trade in nuclear secrets.

This army, whose might has always been justified by the imaginary threat from India, has been more harmful to Pakistan than to anybody else. It has consumed annually a quarter of the country’s wealth, undermined one civilian government after another and enriched itself through a range of economic interests, from bakeries and shopping malls to huge property holdings.

The reversal in the fortunes of the two countries—India’s sudden prosperity and cultural power, seen next to the calamity of Muhammad Iqbal’s unrealized utopia—is what explains the bitterness of my father’s tweet just days before he died. It captures the rage of being forced to reject a culture of which you feel effortlessly a part—a culture that Pakistanis, via Bollywood, experience daily in their homes.

This rage is what makes it impossible to reduce Pakistan’s obsession with India to matters of security or a land dispute in Kashmir. It can heal only when the wounds of 1947 are healed. And it should provoke no triumphalism in India, for behind the bluster and the bravado, there is arid pain and sadness.

—Mr. Taseer is the author of “Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands.” His second novel, “Noon,” will be published in the U.S. in September

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Aatish Taseer’s brutally honest and forthright column is one of the best articles I have read in a long time.  As a Pakistani American, I find a lot of truth in what he is saying, no matter how ill received it may be back in Pakistan, I feel that Aatish does make some good points and it was well worth sharing with you readers.

Musharraf Moves to Mend US-Pakistan Relations

By Lydia Mulvany for The Mimami Hearld

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Thursday that his country wasn’t complicit in hiding Osama bin Laden but was “extremely negligent” for not knowing that the al-Qaida leader was living a 75-mile drive from the Pakistani capital.

Speaking in Washington, the former military dictator sought to heal a U.S.-Pakistani relationship that’s become badly strained since the American raid May 2 that killed bin Laden, saying mutual interests in the global war on terrorism bound the countries and that blaming each other was counterproductive.

“The United States and Pakistan must restore trust,” Musharraf told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “Confrontation would be most unwise.”

The bin Laden incident pushed U.S.-Pakistani relations to their lowest point in years. American officials weren’t happy when, after a decade-long hunt, they found al-Qaida’s leader living in a garrison town so close to Islamabad. Pakistani officials were outraged that they weren’t told about the unilateral raid beforehand.

Since the raid, Pakistan has restricted visas for American officials and expelled military trainers. The U.S. has cut off $800 million, about one-third of its aid to Pakistan’s military. The U.S. has long complained of ties between Pakistan’s military and insurgent groups that have attacked American-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

But Musharraf said that if Pakistani intelligence had colluded with bin Laden, it also would have known that the CIA was operating a safe house nearby and whisked the al-Qaida leader away. He described bin Laden’s high-walled compound in the town of Abbottabad as a normal dwelling that wouldn’t have raised suspicion.

He also claimed that Abbottabad – which is home to a major military college that’s been described as Pakistan’s West Point, as well as other military installations – wasn’t a garrison town but a touristy resort area with many colleges.

The recent raid was a “violation of sovereignty,” Musharraf said, echoing a widespread Pakistani complaint. He added that Pakistani antipathy toward the U.S. also stems from the American campaign of drone strikes on militant targets, which reportedly have caused civilian casualties, as well as lingering bitterness over U.S. sanctions for developing nuclear weapons in the 1990s.

The way forward for Pakistan, Musharraf said, is to show that it isn’t complicit with terrorists and to deal with domestic extremism. It also needs to establish an honest, stable government in the 2013 elections, said the former leader, who’s expected to mount a run for president.

Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999 and resigned in 2008, embodied the frustration and contradictions of American policy toward Pakistan.

Mark Quarterman, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington research center, said that many wanted to see Musharraf as a modern, progressive leader: He wasn’t an extremist, his wife and daughter didn’t wear veils and the family even had a dog, an animal many Muslims view as impure. Ultimately, however, Musharraf’s rule was a military dictatorship and, according to many experts, he didn’t do enough to rein in Taliban militants who were operating in remote corners of Pakistan.

In Pakistan, Truck Decoration a High-Octane Art Movement

By James Parchman for The New York Times

MURIDKE, Pakistan — Here on the historic Grand Trunk Road, some 40 miles north of Lahore and a few hours south of the former bin Laden hideout of Abbottabad, a mosque’s call to Friday afternoon prayers was overwhelmed by Pakistani pop music spilling from open-air markets. The barks of bus conductors calling out destinations added to the din.

The passing parade of motorized rickshaws, farm tractors, buses and highway cargo trucks looked as if a re-enactment of ’60s peaceniks making the pilgrimage to Woodstock might be under way. A panorama of red, yellow and green, mixed with plastic whirligigs, polished mahogany doors and gleaming stainless steel cover plates, was a magical sight for a visitor with a love for anything on wheels.

It was not only the variety of vehicles — all are common across South Asia — that elicited this reaction, or even their Partridge-Family-meets-Ken-Kesey color schemes. Rather, it was the fascinating quantity and surrealistic detail of their decoration, unlike anything I’d seen in my travels around the world.

A deeper understanding of the origins and meanings of the decoration craft was gained over days of mingling with the truck drivers and the owners of decorating shops in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.

Karachi, situated on the Arabian Sea, is Pakistan’s major seaport. It is also the cargo hub of the country, and with 13 million people has a great many local and intercity buses. As such, the city supports a considerable customizing industry: When Saudi Aramco World magazine published an article about the trade in 2005, more than 50,000 people in Karachi were said to be employed decorating buses and trucks.

What I found at the Pakistani workshops was a pride of design and a willingness to answer questions — and to show off their creations to a former long-haul trucker.

Sparing no expense

At a driver’s cafe near Karachi’s 3-mile-long International Truck Yard (where I turned down an offer of boiled camel meat and cow-leg soup) workers took me by the hand to the shop of Masallah the truck decorator. My Dockers and Rockports were as out of place as their long-shirted, working-class shalwar kameez outfits and leather sandals, called chappals, would have been in one of New York City’s outer boroughs.

But my full beard may have helped in gaining their confidence and a look inside their truck cabs. Government safety agencies equivalent to OSHA were nowhere to be seen in the truck yards, and workers, many of whom were children of the owners, were being showered with sparks from their grinders and cutting torches.

Many of the trucks being outfitted at Masallah’s carried identification plates from Balochistan province. Their owners were prospering thanks to a steady demand for hauling loaded sea containers from Karachi’s port to landlocked Afghanistan. Their cargo, typically including supplies for U.S. and NATO military operations, make a trip of 500 miles by the southern route to Kandahar or 1,200 miles by a northern route to Kabul.

Pakistani truck owners can easily spend more on their trucks than on their homes. One driver from the Gwadar area of Balochistan told me he had just bought a Hino truck chassis for the equivalent of $35,000 and brought it straight to Masallah’s workshop. There he might spend another $25,000 for its body, paint and decoration. During the several weeks required to complete the work, he would sleep inside or under the truck, on his bedroll.

Adding decorative touches like ribbons, spinners, flags and polished steel cutouts in the shape of animals to a small bus costs an owner at least $800. This is considered an advertising expense; a highly decorated bus is usually the first choice of customers when there are several options.

Nissan and Hino tandem-axle trucks of the flat-front cabover design, many assembled in Pakistan, are the popular choices for cargo-haulers today, replacing the revered Vauxhall Bedford, a British model with a traditional cab. The Bedford was the mainstay of Pakistan’s cargo network since the early days of Pakistan’s independence.

The Bedford is still prized for its sturdy chassis and ability to continuously haul outsize loads. Many have bodywork with a high-crowned front prow, which lends itself to decoration and gives the truck the look of a sailing ship.

As is the case in the United States, offering a sharply decorated truck can be a powerful incentive for recruiting drivers. Pakistani bus and truck owners usually allow their drivers, whose average wages are about $75 a month, to work out their own designs in conjunction with the owner of the decoration shop.

Big business

Predictably, mass production has changed the business over the years. Adornments are no longer exclusively handmade.

“Pakistani buses were originally decorated using carved woodwork and individual paintings,” said Kurram Awan, the owner of a small shop of truck-decorating supplies in Lahore.

“Now, my shop sells over 1,000 different items, including braids, reflectors, flashing lights and antennas,” he said.

He added that the Pashtun drivers (Pashto speakers from the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan) spent the most on decorations.

Durriya Kazi, an artist and teacher in Karachi, has long been a proponent of Pakistan’s folk art. She sees bus and truck decorating as an integral part of that tradition, noting the importance of distinguishing between sculpture as defined by the art gallery and the rich activity of actually making things that exists all over Pakistan.

In 2006, Kazi was instrumental in a program intended to spread Pakistan’s bus decoration skills to Melbourne, Australia, where a tram was transformed into a replica of a minibus used on Karachi’s W-11 route, resplendent in all its finery.

Another Pakistani with expertise in the subject is Jamal Elias of the University of Pennsylvania, a professor and the author of “On Wings of Diesel: Trucks, Identity and Culture in Pakistan” (Oneworld, 2011). His book explores the tradition of Pakistani truck decoration, and looks deeper into the “nature of response to religious imagery in popular Islamic culture.”

In an e-mail, Elias said that the creative inputs of decorators included several major themes, which could be combined across the cab and body of the truck or bus. These include Islamic religious images like the horse of Muhammad and depictions of the mosques at Mecca.

Other possibilities include images of a fish, representing good fortune, or the elegant eyes of a woman, representing beauty.


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