Daily Archives: July 1, 2017

Is So-called Islamic State Gaining Strength in Pakistan?

WASHINGTON � Faced with a series of terror attacks, Pakistan is fighting back against Islamic State-affiliated militants after repeatedly claiming that Islamic State has been unable to establish a foothold in the country, analysts say.

“Pakistan no longer denies IS’s presence as it used to, Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at Wilson Center in Washington, told VOA.

He and other analysts warn that the IS group in Pakistan, while still relatively small, is spreading swiftly in many areas where the government struggles to maintain law and order, including the restive Balochistan province.

Earlier this month, officials claimed that a military operation destroyed an IS stronghold in the southwestern province, killing 12 hardcore terrorists.

The operation took place days after a Chinese couple was abducted and killed by IS operatives in Quetta, the provincial capital.

In May, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people in a caravan of a prominent politician in Balochistan. IS claimed responsibility.

Poverty

While Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province by size, it also is wracked by poverty, creating fertile breeding grounds among the disenfranchised.

Islamic State is an international phenomenon and the name of an ideology, and anyone can get impressed by that ideology, Abdul Qayyum, a lawmaker and prominent member of the ruling PML-N party, told VOA.

But the Frontier Corps Balochistan and Pakistan Army are doing a commendable job to overcome such security obstacles in the province, he said.

But with so many groups active in the region, it’s a tough task, analysts say.

Islamic State is trying to establish a territorial presence through its terror allies such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for Balochistan, told VOA recently. But these groups should not be mistaken for Islamic State.

Pakistan said Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a predominantly Punjab-based militant sectarian group that has been tied to the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaida, and recently linked to IS, had occupied the base that was used as an IS foothold until it was destroyed in the military operation earlier this month.

Pakistani authorities believe LeJ pledged allegiance to IS to help the group establish a base in Pakistan, and that it also wanted to carry out terror attacks on its behalf.

Pakistan has an environment that encourages and enhances the prospects of terror groups, because the presence of other terror groups and their facilities presents an enabling environment for extremism overall, said Kugelman.

Islamic State’s influence is not limited to Balochistan.

Emerging threat

In 2016, Aftab Sultan, Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau Chief, warned that IS was an emerging threat in the country and that hundreds of Pakistanis linked to local banned religious groups had left for Syria to join IS ranks there.

Last week, at least two alleged IS leaders in Pakistan, including its Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief, were killed in a gun battle with security forces in Peshawar. Police said they were planning to carry out an Eid attack.

In May, Pakistani authorities arrested five suspected IS operatives from Karachi who were planning terrorist attacks in the city. Last year, Pakistani authorities found a group of women from Karachi that was raising funds for IS.

Scores of suspected IS militants and operatives have been arrested in recent raids across Pakistan in the recent past. Many of them went to Syria for training before returning to Pakistan.

Noreen Laghari, a young woman from Lahore arrested in April, was planning to target an Easter gathering � and had gone to Syria to get trained by the IS.

The government says it is aware of the gravity of the matter and how IS is luring youth, working to establish a foothold in Pakistan. It has beefed up security measures in Balochistan to combat groups like IS.

Pakistan has come under frequent criticism from U.S. officials over its inability to curb homegrown militancy and extremism in the county.

In its defense, Pakistan says the government is determined to root out extremism from the country, and it has done a lot to address the issue of terrorism and extremism in the country.

Islamic State has made inroads recently in the mountain regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, branding itself as the Islamic State of Khorasan, a title that distinguishes the militant group in that area from its main branch in Iraq and Syria.

Source: Voice of America

Is So-called Islamic State Gaining Strength in Pakistan?

WASHINGTON � Faced with a series of terror attacks, Pakistan is fighting back against Islamic State-affiliated militants after repeatedly claiming that Islamic State has been unable to establish a foothold in the country, analysts say.

“Pakistan no longer denies IS’s presence as it used to, Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at Wilson Center in Washington, told VOA.

He and other analysts warn that the IS group in Pakistan, while still relatively small, is spreading swiftly in many areas where the government struggles to maintain law and order, including the restive Balochistan province.

Earlier this month, officials claimed that a military operation destroyed an IS stronghold in the southwestern province, killing 12 hardcore terrorists.

The operation took place days after a Chinese couple was abducted and killed by IS operatives in Quetta, the provincial capital.

In May, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 people in a caravan of a prominent politician in Balochistan. IS claimed responsibility.

Poverty

While Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province by size, it also is wracked by poverty, creating fertile breeding grounds among the disenfranchised.

Islamic State is an international phenomenon and the name of an ideology, and anyone can get impressed by that ideology, Abdul Qayyum, a lawmaker and prominent member of the ruling PML-N party, told VOA.

But the Frontier Corps Balochistan and Pakistan Army are doing a commendable job to overcome such security obstacles in the province, he said.

But with so many groups active in the region, it’s a tough task, analysts say.

Islamic State is trying to establish a territorial presence through its terror allies such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for Balochistan, told VOA recently. But these groups should not be mistaken for Islamic State.

Pakistan said Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a predominantly Punjab-based militant sectarian group that has been tied to the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaida, and recently linked to IS, had occupied the base that was used as an IS foothold until it was destroyed in the military operation earlier this month.

Pakistani authorities believe LeJ pledged allegiance to IS to help the group establish a base in Pakistan, and that it also wanted to carry out terror attacks on its behalf.

Pakistan has an environment that encourages and enhances the prospects of terror groups, because the presence of other terror groups and their facilities presents an enabling environment for extremism overall, said Kugelman.

Islamic State’s influence is not limited to Balochistan.

Emerging threat

In 2016, Aftab Sultan, Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau Chief, warned that IS was an emerging threat in the country and that hundreds of Pakistanis linked to local banned religious groups had left for Syria to join IS ranks there.

Last week, at least two alleged IS leaders in Pakistan, including its Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief, were killed in a gun battle with security forces in Peshawar. Police said they were planning to carry out an Eid attack.

In May, Pakistani authorities arrested five suspected IS operatives from Karachi who were planning terrorist attacks in the city. Last year, Pakistani authorities found a group of women from Karachi that was raising funds for IS.

Scores of suspected IS militants and operatives have been arrested in recent raids across Pakistan in the recent past. Many of them went to Syria for training before returning to Pakistan.

Noreen Laghari, a young woman from Lahore arrested in April, was planning to target an Easter gathering � and had gone to Syria to get trained by the IS.

The government says it is aware of the gravity of the matter and how IS is luring youth, working to establish a foothold in Pakistan. It has beefed up security measures in Balochistan to combat groups like IS.

Pakistan has come under frequent criticism from U.S. officials over its inability to curb homegrown militancy and extremism in the county.

In its defense, Pakistan says the government is determined to root out extremism from the country, and it has done a lot to address the issue of terrorism and extremism in the country.

Islamic State has made inroads recently in the mountain regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, branding itself as the Islamic State of Khorasan, a title that distinguishes the militant group in that area from its main branch in Iraq and Syria.

Source: Voice of America

Death Toll In Pakistani Fuel Tanker Explosion Rises To 190

The death toll from an oil tanker explosion in central Pakistan has risen to 190, hospital and government officials said on June 30 as 16 more people succumbed to their injuries.

The tanker overturned on June 25 on a main highway from Karachi to Lahore while carrying some 40,000 liters of fuel.

It exploded minutes later as crowds from a nearby village gathered to scavenge for fuel, despite warnings by the driver as well as motorway police to stay away.

Dozens of people were taken to hospitals with severe injuries and many have died from their wounds.

Pakistan held a collective funeral for 130 of the victims on June 27.

The tragedy marked a grim start to Eid, the celebrations closing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Pakistan has many fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles, and reckless driving.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

Pakistani Leader Decries Washington’s ‘Silence’ On Indian Rights Violations

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on June 30 said he was disappointed with Washington’s “silence” despite human right violations in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, where scores of youths have been killed.

Sharif’s remarks came days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington and issued a joint statement with U.S. President Donald Trump calling on Pakistan to stop harboring terrorists on its territory.

Sharif decried “the complete silence in the U.S.-India joint statement on the atrocities being committed by the Indian forces against Kashmiris,” his office said.

While criticizing Washington, Sharif expressed satisfaction with Pakistan’s strategic ties with China and Russia, and praised China’s recent efforts to defuse tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

India accuses Pakistan of backing Kashmiri rebels, but Pakistan says it only provides moral and political support to Kashmiris.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry earlier this week criticized the joint U.S.-Indian statement as “singularly unhelpful in achieving the objective of strategic stability and durable peace” and asserted that “Pakistan has been the primary victim of terrorism in the region.”

The ministry said Pakistan is also “deeply concerned” about U.S sales of advanced military technologies to India, saying they “accentuate military imbalances…in South Asia.”

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

Kashmiri Rebel Chief Rejects US Terror Sanctions

ISLAMABAD � The leader of a prominent Kashmir rebel group has rejected U.S. sanctions and vowed to continue fighting until the disputed Himalayan region is liberated from India.

Syed Salahuddin, who operates from the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir, said at a news conference Saturday that Washington’s decision will not impact activities of his Hizbul Mujahideen, the main militant organization fighting New Delhi’s rule in the divided territory.

The State Department on Monday (June 26) designated the 71-year-old militant commander as a global terrorist. The action came hours before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his official U.S. visit.

This announcement has been made in violation of international laws and [United Nations] resolutions. This is an attempt by the Trump administration to appease Narendra Modi, Salahuddin said.

He went on to say that freedom fighters only target Indian security forces and have not conducted any operations outside Kashmir.

This [U.S. decision], God willing, has strengthened our resolve and we will continue our struggle with more energy, Salahuddin asserted.

He added that American representatives, in their speeches at U.N. meetings, repeatedly acknowledged Kashmiris’ struggle for “freedom” and did not endorse what President Donald Trump has done.

The rebel chief vowed to legally counter the U.S. decision and urged Pakistan to declare a diplomatic offensive against nefarious Indian designs of trying to link the freedom movement in Kashmir to terrorism. He added that terrorist groups like Islamic State and al-Qaida do not exist in Kashmir nor will they have any place there.

The State Department, in its announcement, said that the militant commander committed, or poses “a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”

It went on to say that in September 2016, Salahuddin vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley into a graveyard for Indian forces.

Saturday Salahuddin again called for the United Nations to implement its longstanding resolutions to allow Kashmiris to exercise their right to vote on independence or merging with Pakistan.

Islamabad also has criticized the United States for declaring Salahuddin a global terrorist and defended militants fighting New Delhi’s rule in Kashmir as a legitimate struggle for freedom.

“The 70-year-old indigenous struggle of Kashmiris in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir remains legitimate. The designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified, according to the Pakistani foreign ministry.

New Delhi, which hailed Monday’s decision by Washington, accuses Islamabad of fueling the 28-year-old armed rebellion in the Muslim-majority Kashmir, accusations Pakistan rejects.

India controls two-thirds of Kashmir while Pakistan controls the rest. The nuclear-armed rivals claim the Himalayan region in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over it.

Salahuddin on Monday called for a week of resistance, including two days of strikes starting July 8, the anniversary of last year’s killing of young rebel leader Burhan Wani by Indian security forces.

Wani’s death provoked violent anti-India protests across the region, prompting Indian security forces to use force to suppress the uprising. The slain commander was a key member of Salahuddin’s group and is credited with reinvigorating the recent wave of militancy in Kashmir.

Source: Voice of America

Death Toll In Pakistani Fuel Tanker Explosion Rises To 190

The death toll from an oil tanker explosion in central Pakistan has risen to 190, hospital and government officials said on June 30 as 16 more people succumbed to their injuries.

The tanker overturned on June 25 on a main highway from Karachi to Lahore while carrying some 40,000 liters of fuel.

It exploded minutes later as crowds from a nearby village gathered to scavenge for fuel, despite warnings by the driver as well as motorway police to stay away.

Dozens of people were taken to hospitals with severe injuries and many have died from their wounds.

Pakistan held a collective funeral for 130 of the victims on June 27.

The tragedy marked a grim start to Eid, the celebrations closing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Pakistan has many fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles, and reckless driving.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.