Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pakistan fights for its tribal soul

Asia Time Online - Daily News
    South Asia
     Jun 12, 2009

Pakistan fights for its tribal soul
By Syed Saleem Shahzad 

KARACHI - Pakistan's month-long military operation in the Malakand Division of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which includes the scene of especially heavy fighting in the Swat Valley, has, per official figures, cost the lives of over 1,300 militants and led to the displacement of 3.5 million civilians. 

The battle is far from over. 

Under relentless pressure from the United States to get the job done once and for all, Pakistan is opening up new fronts in an attempt to wipe out Taliban militants and the al-Qaeda "franchise" under which they operate. 

On Thursday morning, the Pakistan Air Force conducted strikes in Orakzai Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and ground and air operations have started in the Frontier Regions (Jani Khel - the tribal areas adjacent to the city) of Bannu district in NWFP. Al-Qaeda's shura (council) is believed to operate from Jani Khel. 

The military is also expected to move in strength into the South Waziristan tribal area to go after a nexus that includes Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, Punjabi militants, Uzbeks and al-Qaeda. Clashes are reported to have already taken place. 

Washington has reacted positively to the Pakistani initiatives, but garrison headquarters in Rawalpindi, the twin city of the capital Islamabad, are nervous. The top brass are aware of the tough fight their troops have had in Malakand Division and the resentment the operations have caused across the country. 

Tuesday's attack on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, the capital of NWFP, in which 19 people, including two United Nations staff, were killed and 70 wounded, is a stark reminder of the dangers of fighting the American war in the region. 

Contacts familiar with the background to the attack told Asia Times Online it was approved by al-Qaeda and carried out by a nexus of militants that included Hakeemullah Mehsud of Orakzai Agency (a relative of Baitullah Mehsud), members of the Sunni militant group Laskhar-e-Jhangvi from the town of Darra Adam Khel in NWFP and the Omar group from the Frontier Regions of Peshawar. 

In a message to Asia Times Online, a senior militant leader maintained that the operation had also aimed to take out US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials staying at the hotel. They were said to be in talks with Pakistani officials to work out ways to protect the 90% of NATO supplies for Afghanistan that pass through Peshawar. 

This account, however, was disputed by Qudsia Qadri, editor-in-chief of the Pakistani Daily Financial Post, who told Asia Times Online that she stayed in the five-star hotel for a few days until Tuesday afternoon and she had not seen any FBI or NATO officials. 

"The occupancy of the hotel was hardly 5%. I met a few foreigners, in the gym and at breakfast, but they were all working with NGOs [non-governmental agencies] to help the internally displaced people of Malakand," said Qadri. 

How the attack was conceived
Baitullah Mehsud, al-Qaeda members and Punjabi militants live in North Waziristan and South Waziristan, remote regions on the border with Afghanistan far from Khyber Agency, through which NATO supplies pass, Kurram Agency, a hub of anti-Taliban Shi'ite forces, and Peshawar. 

None of these three areas has indigenous Taliban. Therefore, Orakzai Agency, the only tribal area that does not have a border with Afghanistan, was chosen to station Taliban from South Waziristan and other regions. 

By the beginning of this year, Orakzai Agency had been taken over by the Taliban and declared an Islamic emirate. The amir(leader) was Moulvi Saeed, but the public face was Hakeemullah Mehsud, a lieutenant of Baitullah Mehsud imported from South Waziristan. 

Gradually, they brought in criminal elements, including anti-Shi'ite fugitives of the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, and placed them in Darra Adam Khel, just on the outskirts of Peshawar. The Omar group was assigned to the frontier regions of Peshawar. With these groups in place, Khyber Agency and Peshawar could easily be accessed - exactly as happened with Tuesday's hotel attack. 

The Pakistani security forces are braced for similar attacks now that the battle is being extended into South Waziristan and other tribal areas. At the same time, ethnic and political clashes have risen to unprecedented levels in the southern port city of Karachi, through which most of NATO's supplies enter Pakistan. 

In the past week, over 50 people have been killed. The anti-Taliban Muttahida Quami Movement is attributed with most of the killing in a fight against members of a breakaway faction. Retaliation is expected in the coming days, which could result in even heavier bloodshed. The situation could become so bad that the military would have to intervene. The problem is, its forces are already spread thin in the north. 

For the time being, these northern areas remain the prime concern, and the militants and al-Qaeda are ready. 

Safe havens in the Hindu Kush
The Eastern Hindu Kush range, also known as the High Hindu Kush range, is mostly located in northern Pakistan and the Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces of Afghanistan. 

This chain of mountains connects with several smaller ranges, such as Spin Ghar, the Tora Bora, the Suleman Range, Toba Kakar, and creates a natural corridor that passes through the entire Pakistani tribal areas and the Afghan border provinces all the way to the Pakistani coastal area in Balochistan province. 

By 2008, al-Qaeda had taken control of the 1,500-square-kilometer corridor - something it had planned to do since fleeing Afghanistan when the Taliban were defeated by US-led forces in December 2001. 

Al-Qaeda decided then to build a regional ideologically motivated franchise in South Asia to thwart the strategic designs of Western powers in the area. 

While US forces were vainly trying to hunt down al-Qaeda in the Tora Bora mountains, the group was focused on establishing links with organizations such as the Jaishul al-Qiba al-Jihadi al-Siri al-Alami and Jundallah in the Pakistani tribal areas and organizing the recruitment of Pakistanis and Afghans to those organizations. The underlying reason for doing this was to destroy the local political and social structures and in their place establish an al-Qaeda franchise. 

The plan worked. Today, in many parts of the Hindu Kush corridor, centuries-old tribal systems and their connections with the Pakistani establishment through an appointed political agent have been replaced by a system of Islamic warlordism. 

The old breed of tribal elders, religious clerics and tribal chiefs, loyal to Pakistan and its systems, has been wiped out, to be replaced by warlords such as Haji Omar, Baitullah Mehsud, (slain) Nek Mohammad and (slain) Abdullah Mehsud. They are all al-Qaeda allies, and allow al-Qaeda freedom of movement in their areas within the corridor. 

Al-Qaeda members from abroad also use the corridor to enter the Pakistani tribal areas. It is not always safe. Recently, security agencies arrested four Saudi nationals in Mohmand Agency. They were named only as Ahmed, Ali, Mohammad and Obaidullah and had arrived in Pakistan from Saudi Arabia in 2008-09 after passing through Iran. Had they traveled through Pakistani cities towards the tribal areas, they would most likely have been arrested much earlier. 

Recently, al-Qaeda broadened its network by forging closer links with the Pakistani-based Iranian insurgency group Jundallah, which operates from around Turbat in Pakistan's Balochistan province. 

Pakistan at a crossroads
This situation has brought Pakistan to a crossroads. Al-Qaeda has in many areas devastated the traditional tribal systems and established its franchise in very strategic terrain. 

The country's administrative systems and law-enforcing agencies were not designed to cope with such developments. The only response it has been able to come up with is to mobilize the military - a controversial decision that could yet backfire. 

There are several reasons why the militants were able to undermine the tribes. The militant organizations are highly organized, battle-hardened, heavily armed and well funded. And importantly, while tribal influence is limited to its own area, its own people, the militant organizations have cross-tribal, cross-border and international linkages. And while the tribes are bound by their tribal traditions and customary laws (riwaj), the militant organizations are not. They have out-gunned, out-funded and out-organized the tribal malik (leader) and his tribe. 

Pakistan had planned to prop up the tribes, as the real strength of a country is its people. No government, whether civilian or military, can function or succeed until it has public support behind it. 

This it started doing by signing agreements with selected tribes. These included ones with Sufi Mohammad in Malakand to prop up the administrative system. However, international pressure - mainly from Washington - forced Pakistan to abandon this roadmap in place of full-frontal military engagement with the militants. 

Up until the latest offensive that began in Swat and which is now being extended, military action usually petered out after securing only temporary success. The government of the day generally lacked the will to go for the kill, and there remained segments within the intelligence apparatus and military sympathetic to the militants. 

It now appears the government is prepared for a long fight, but ultimately it will have to take control of the corridor that provides the militants with the space from which to attack, regroup and attack again. 

This would have to involve stepped-up cooperation with forces in Afghanistan to jointly patrol the border, and most importantly, a renewed attempt to revive the tribal systems where they have been infiltrated by militants. 

Individually, these are mammoth tasks, in combination almost impossible. And as the planes and tanks roll in greater numbers across greater areas of Pakistan, these goals risk being lost in the fog of war. 

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at 

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication andrepublishing.)



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Govt to resolve Turi tribal problems on priority basis:

Uniting People Everyday

Govt to resolve Turi 
tribal problems on priority basis: Farooq Sattar

By GR Chandio
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Parliamentary leader of MQM, Dr. Farooq Sattar here on Wednesday said that government would resolve all the problems of Turi tribe of Kurrum Agency the priority basis. 
He was talking to a 16-member delegation of Peace Jirga of Parachinar led by Ali Akbar Turi here on Wednesday. 
The delegation also informed the Minister that for the last three years the land link of Kurrum Agency has disconnected from Peshawar, due to the law and order situation in the area and people are facing problems. 
The Jirga leader Ali Akbar alleged that currently 12 young men of their clan are in the custody of Taliban, and they are demanding high ransom, which is not affordable for them. He further said that they are receiving many threats from the Taliban side on daily basis , because Taliban wanted to disturb the peace of Kurrum Agency. Ali Akbar informed that over 750 young men of his tribe embraced martyrdom during last three years, in the war against the terrorists and the militants. 
The delegation regretted that the government has extended no help to Kurrum people and did not announce any relief package for the affectees of the area who suffered a lot due to unlawful activities of Taliban in their area. Syed Wali another member of the delegation, expressed reservation regarding the biased attitude of the political administration of Lower Kurrum. 
He said that due to the closure of roads, people are purchasing daily items on high rates, and due to short supply of the daily use items, inflation is increasing in the Agency. Master Muhammd Niaz said that Turi tribe is supporting the writ of government while terrorists are challenging it and disturbing the peace of Kurrum agency. 
The delegation said that half million people are under siege from the last three years and facing educational and health problems, and sometime they can not get access to the hospitals in case of emergency due to the closure of roads.




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President seeks special package for people of Kurram Agency

Daily Times

Thursday, June 11, 2009


President seeks special package for people of Kurram Agency

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday directed the government to launch a special relief programme for the people of Kurram Agency to mitigate their suffering, brought about by continuing sectarian strife and militancy.

"A plan for the rehabilitation of internally displaced persons in Kurram Agency will be prepared and the Benazir Income Support Programme will be launched in the agency on a priority basis," Zardari said.

Zardari's spokesman Farhatullah Babar said these measures were announced during the president's meeting with a 15-member delegation consisting of elected representatives from Kurram Agency.

The meeting was attended by SAFRON Minister Najmuddin Khan, Secretary Riffat Pasha, Interior Secretary Kamal Shah, the president's Secretary General Salman Farooqui, the FATA additional chief secretary and the political agent of the agency.

The delegation told the president that the people of Kurram wanted to live in peace and harmony, but there were some external elements that provoked sectarian strife.

They said closure of the main road to Peshawar had created many difficulties for the people and there was an urgent need to restore the road link, adding that until the road link was made safe for travelling, the government should make arrangements for air travel between Parachinar and Peshawar. They also demanded the government destroy Taliban hideouts.




Zardari orders helicopter service for Parachinar
By Syed Irfan Raza
Thursday, 11 Jun, 2009 | 04:54 AM PST |
The helicopter service will connect Parachinar with Peshawar until road links are restored. — File


ISLAMABAD: Fearing that a Swat-like situation might emerge in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in the near future, President Asif Ali Zardari advised the government on Wednesday to launch a special relief package for the people of Kurram Agency to mitigate their sufferings caused by sectarian strife and militancy.

The package will include immediate start of a helicopter service between Parachinar and Peshawar for people's movement till the road link is restored.

Pakistan International Airlines was asked to lease a small aircraft that could land in Parachinar. The national flag carrier was also asked to expand the runway.

A plan for rehabilitation of displaced people of the region will be prepared soon and the Benazir Income Support Programme will be extended to the area on a priority basis.

President's spokesman Farhatullah Babar told journalists that the measures were announced during Mr Zardari's meeting with a delegation from Kurram Agency. Members of the delegation said the people of the region wanted to live in peace but some external elements provoked sectarian strife.





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Heavy arms used in clash F.P. Report


Today is:
Thrusday, June 11, 2009, Jamadi-us-Sani 16, 1430 A.H.


Heavy arms used in clash F.P. Report

PARACHINAR: Fighting between Turi and Bangash tribes led to the use of machine guns, rocket and mortars at Makhayzai and Tangi, areas of Lower Kurram Agency. The region was tense after some insurgents had shot dead a prominent leader of Turi tribe, for which they alleged that Bangash tribe was helping the insurgents, the sources said. On Wednesday clashes between Bangash and Turi tribes began when the former attacked Tangi with heavy weapons.




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President wants govt to launch special package for Kurram Agency







President wants govt to launch special package for Kurram Agency


President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday advised the government to launch a special relief package for the people of Kurram Agency to mitigate their sufferings resulting from the twin menace of sectarian strife and militancy. The package includes immediate start of helicopter service between Parachinar and Peshawar till the road link is made serviceable. PIA was asked to lease a small aircraft that can land on the existing runway in Parachinar.

The PIA has also been directed to expand the runway for normal passenger aircrafts to land. A plan for the rehabilitation of internal displaced persons in Kurram Agency will be prepared and the Benazir Income Support Programme will be launched in the Agency on a priority basis. 

Spokesperson to the President former Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the measures were announced during a meeting of the President with a 15 member delegation of Kurram Agency comprising of elected representatives and leading members of both sects in the Presidency today.

The meeting was attended by Minister SAFRON, Najmuddin Khan, Secretary Interior Syed Kamal Shah, Secretary SAFRON Muhammad Riffat Pasha, Secretary General Salman Faruqui, Additional Chief Secretary FATA and the Political Agent Kurram Agency.

Talking to the President, the members of the delegation said that the people of Kurram Agency wanted to live in peace and harmony but there were some external elements which provoked sectarian strife.

They said that closure of the main road to Peshawar had created many difficulties for the people and there was an urgent need to restore the road link.

They said that until such time the road link was made safe for journey the government should make arrangements for air travel between Parachinar and Peshawar.

They also demanded destruction of the abodes of the militants and driving them out.

The President while welcoming the members of the delegation stressed the need for sectarian harmony and said that he will hold such joint meetings with the representatives of both sects more often in the future.

The President said that next meeting will be held after one month in which the progress made on the proposed package will be reviewed.




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Pakistan: Taliban 'responsible' for deadly hotel blast


Pakistan: Taliban 'responsible' for deadly hotel blast

Islamabad, 10 June (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was behind a coalition of Islamist militants who joined forces to carry out the devastating suicide attack in Pakistan's northwest on Tuesday. Adnkronos International (AKI) has learned that the Hakimullah Mehsud and the Islamist group, Lashkar-i-Jangvi and others from the Omar group conducted the suicide bombing on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar.

Sources told AKI that Mehsud thought the hotel was being used by officials from NATO and the FBI.

The hotel blast was a joint operation carried out by militants from the town of Darra Adam Khel in the North West Frontier Province and Orakzai agency, one of the tribal areas near the Afghan border.

At least 18 people including two foreigners were killed in the Peshawar hotel when a cycle rider entered through the electronic security barricade and paved the way for a car and a mini truck to enter the hotel without checking.

As Pakistani authorities were sifting through the debris on Wednesday, closed-circuit television footage revealed two vehicles — a car and a pickup truck — speeding past the security post at the hotel late Tuesday.

One attacker opened fire on the guards from the truck before it blew up, the footage showed. The truck then exploded and ripped apart the four-storey hotel.

"I did not find any sign that the Peshawar hotel was used for any NATO or FBI operations," Qudsia Qadri, editor in chief of the Daily Financial Post told AKI, who was there the day before the blast.

"I spent couple of days there. Occupancy was hardly five percent. I personally met a few foreigners at the breakfast and in the gym. Those foreigners were workers from non-government organisations who were working to help the refugees displaced from Swat and other places," Qudsia Qadri said..

Qudia was visiting Peshawar as part of a Pakistan newspaper delegation to visit the refugee camps. She stayed in the hotel for two days until the afternoon of the blast.

The hotel was located on one of the most secure roads in Peshawar as there is the Bala Hisar fort, headquarters of the Frontier Corps at one end and the residence of the NWFP police inspector general at the other.

"But one could feel fear in the atmosphere in Peshawar even before the blast," Qudsia said .

"Despite having a police escort with me I personally felt that I am in the ghost town where terror could be felt," Qudsia narrated to AKI. 

AKI earlier reported that a letter written by PALPA, an association of pilots from Pakistan International Airlines, expressed concern about the pathetic law and order situation in Peshawar and requested the management to review the flights schedules.

Eight PIA flights daily operation through Peshawar. On Tuesday, Captain Yousuf Mamsa, a PIA pilot was among dead in the hotel blast.

The PIA pilots have suspended their operations in Peshawar and all flights from Peshawar have been cancelled.

Orakzai agency does not touch any border with Afghanistan but it is situated in the middle of Khyber Agency, the route of the NATO's supply line, Kurram Agency and very close to Peshawar.

The Taliban do not exist in Khyber Agency nor in Kurram Agency nor in Peshawar.

They have established themselves very firmly in Orakzai from where they send their men and resources to the areas like Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency and to Peshawar.

The emir of Orakzai's Islamic Emirates is Moulvi Saeed but the public face of the Taliban is Hakimullah Mehsud, a relative of Baitullah Mehsud.

The Taliban of the Orakzai have very strong coordination with the Taliban of Darra Adam Khel, a town known for the local manufacturing of arms and ammunition.

Darra Adam Khel Taliban include the anti-Shia group Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, the group who abducted and beheaded Polish engineer, Piotr Stanczak, in September last year, the Arif Group, Ikram Group in Kohat and the Omar Group in Peshawar.

The Tuesday blast was the joint venture of Hakeemullah Mehsud group, the Omar Group of and the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi group of Darra Adam Khel.



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Unknown armed-men kill two in Kurram Agency

GEO Pakistan
 Unknown armed-men kill two in Kurram Agency
 Updated at: 1705 PST,  Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Unknown armed-men kill two in Kurram Agency PESHAWAR: Unknown assailants have gunned down two persons in Kurram Agency, sources said on Wednesday.

According to details, two persons identified as Badshah and Sarwar residents of Manatau tribes were killed when unknown armed-men opened opened fire at them here in Makhi Zai area of Lower Kurram. Their bodies have been shifted to Central Kurram.

The political administration is investigating into the incident.

Armed-men also killed a man named Ismail hailing from Toori tribe on Tuesday.



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