Inplainview News Weblog - 2013: India, Pakistan

2013-09-06 US drone 'kills Haqqani commander Sangeen Zadran' bbc.co.uk

A US drone strike has killed a senior commander of the Taliban-linked Haqqani militant network in north-west Pakistan, officials say.
Intelligence officials say Sangeen Zadran was among six militants killed when two missiles fired at a house in North Waziristan, near Afghanistan.
Mr Zadran had been blacklisted as a terrorist by both the US and UN.
The US has blamed the Haqqani network for a series of high-profile attacks in the border regions in recent years.
There has been no official confirmation of the death toll. However, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban has reportedly denied that Sangeen Zadran was killed in the strike.
Zadran also served as the Taliban's shadow governor of Afghanistan's Paktika province.
In 2011, the US state department added him to its list of specially designated global terrorists, claiming he led fighters in attacks across south-eastern Afghanistan and planned and co-ordinated the movement of hundreds of foreign fighters.
Pakistan's foreign ministry has condemned the strike as a violation of its sovereignty.
It is estimated that between 2004 and 2013, CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed up to 3,460 people - although this figure will not include the very latest strikes.
About 890 of them were civilians and the vast majority of strikes were carried out by the Obama administration, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said.
Earlier this year, Mr Obama called the strikes part of a legitimate campaign against terrorism, but he also pledged more programme transparency and stricter targeting rules.


2013-08-20 Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf charged in Benazir Bhutto's death foxnews.com

A Pakistani court on Tuesday indicted former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf on murder charges in connection with the 2007 assassination of iconic Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, deepening the fall of a once-powerful figure who returned to the country this year to make a political comeback.
The decision by a court in Rawalpindi marks the first time Musharraf, or any former army chief in Pakistan, has been charged with a crime.
Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup and stepped down from office in disgrace nearly a decade later, now faces a litany of legal problems that have in many ways broken taboos on the inviolability of the once-sacrosanct military in Pakistani society. He is currently under house arrest in connection with one of the cases against him.
The retired general has been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and facilitation for murder, said prosecutor Chaudry Muhammed Azhar. He did not specify what exactly Musharraf was accused of doing but prosecutors have previously accused him of failing to provide enough protection to Bhutto.
Bhutto was killed in 2007 during a gun and bomb attack at a rally in the city of Rawalpindi, the sister city to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Prosecutors have said that Musharraf, who was president at the time, failed to properly protect her.
Bhutto is the daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was himself executed in 1977 after being deposed in a coup.


2013-08-14 Russian built Indian sub exploded in Munbai gazeta.ru


2013-08-10 Tom Hussain. Police top brass killed in funeral bombing smh.com.au

Nearly half the top police commanders in Pakistan's Baluchistan province have been killed after insurgents shot a police inspector, then bombed his funeral hours later, where most of the province's police commanders had gathered. At least 30 people were reported dead and 40 wounded.
The attack in Quetta, Baluchistan's capital, was claimed by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the formal name for the Pakistani Taliban. The claim of responsibility called it revenge for a recent crackdown on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an ally of al-Qaeda. But militants said they thought Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was the more likely suspect because the Pakistani Taliban lacked the local resources to launch any such operation in Quetta.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has had a resurgence recently thanks to help from Afghan Taliban who've been flocking to Baluchistan in anticipation of an expected Pakistani military operation in northern Pakistan.
The attack was similar to one on June 15 in which a Lashkar-e-Jhangvi suicide bomber targeted a bus full of female university students in Quetta and other Lashkar-e-Jhangvi fighters then besieged the hospital where survivors had been taken.
The attack was the latest sign that a major migration of Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters is under way from North Waziristan in northern Pakistan, which has been their refuge for most of the past decade, to Baluchistan, the scene of a rebellion against the Pakistani government since 2004.
The US has long sought a Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan, the focal point of CIA drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, and the base of operations for the Haqqani network, an Afghan faction notorious for high-profile attacks on Afghan government and US targets in Kabul.
Since the election in May of a new government, the military has been expected to launch such an offensive.
Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters reportedly have not waited, however. The FATA Research Centre in Islamabad, which specialises in Pakistan's tribal areas, reported in July that foreign militants have been leaving North Waziristan since the election. Militants in Karachi said most of those Afghan Taliban commanders were relocating to Baluchistan.


2013-07-29 Saud Mehsud. Gunmen launch major attack on Pakistani prison holding militants reuters.com

Grenade-wielding Taliban fighters battled Pakistani security forces during a sophisticated midnight attack on a major prison holding hundreds of Taliban and other militants, police said on Monday.
Fighting continued into the early hours of Tuesday, and security forces said they had imposed a curfew on the city, Dera Ismail Khan, 200 miles west of Lahore.
The Pakistani Taliban sent 100 fighters and seven suicide bombers on a mission to free some of their top leaders, said Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.
He said they had freed around 300 prisoners, a claim that could not immediately be verified. Some of the suicide bombers had blown up at the prison walls and some were in reserve, he said.
Up to 40 gunmen wearing police uniforms launched their attack by blowing up the electricity line to the prison and detonating heavy explosions that breached the outer walls, said provincial prisons chief Khalid Abbas.


2013-07-28 Pakistan says suspected US drone strike kills five people on Afghan border guardian.co.uk

Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected US drone strike killed five people in the tribal region near the Afghan border on Sunday.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said two missiles hit the Shawal area of North Waziristan on Sunday evening when the men were crossing on foot into Pakistani territory from Afghanistan. They said the men have not been identified.
Sunday's raid took place in North Waziristan, home to a mix of Pakistani, Afghan and al-Qaida-linked foreign militants.
The US drone program is a source of extreme tension between the Washington and Islamabad. The US government says it needs to send drones after dangerous militants because the Pakistani government refuses to engage them militarily. Pakistan charges that the drone strikes are a violation of its sovereignty.
The raid in Pakistan comes a day after suspected US drones killed four suspected Islamist militants in southern Yemen.
Local sources suggested that the targeted men were fighters believed to belong to Ansar al-Sharia, a Yemeni militant group linked to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaida's regional arm.


2013-07-17 SAEED SHAH. Pakistan Taliban Lambastes Schoolgirl for U.N. Speech online.wsj.com

Malala Yousafzai, a teenage campaigner for girls' education who was nearly killed by Pakistani militants, was feted at the United Nations last week. Here at home, however, she has been widely portrayed as part of a Western conspiracy against Islam and the developing world.
A 1,800-word open letter in imperfect English by Adnan Rasheed, one of the most feared Taliban leaders in Pakistan, outlined these conspiracy theories Wednesday, describing the type of secular education that Ms. Yousafzai championed as "satanic" and arguing that the U.N. wanted to "enslave the world."
Even as the 16-year-old girl is celebrated abroad as a hero, such radical views are becoming mainstream in Pakistani society, where even commentators hostile to the Taliban widely portray Ms. Yousafzai as a pawn of the West or even a CIA agent.
While Pakistanis usually condemn the violence of the Taliban, the paranoid worldview of the group has soaked deep into society, making the fight against extremism much more difficult. Many in the country, for example, still refuse to believe that Osama bin Laden was found living here in 2011.
"Public opinion is confused about the Malala issue. Many people hate Malala," said Zubair Torwali, a newspaper columnist from her home valley of Swat. "Anything here in Pakistan related to the West or America becomes a thing of conspiracy. The Taliban's ideology is flourishing in Pakistan. It is victorious."
Pakistani society is also influenced by the support that the military has long given to jihadist groups. More recently, the backlash over nearly a decade of U.S. drone strikes, and over the unilateral American raid to kill bin Laden deep inside Pakistan, has created a virulently anti-Western culture that sees spies everywhere.
Ms. Yousafzai narrowly survived an assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban in October last year, when she was shot in the head from point-blank range.
When aged just 11, Ms. Yousafzai became a powerful voice against the Taliban through a diary she kept of the extremists' takeover of Swat Valley, in northwest Pakistan. The diary was broadcast by BBC radio in 2009. Following the shooting in Swat, she was airlifted for treatment in England, where she now lives with her family.
Mr. Rasheed began the letter by saying that he wishes that the attack on her had "never happened." Then, however, he went on to justify it with detailed arguments, showing, if there were any doubt, the dangers that Ms. Yousafzai would face if she returned home.
"Taliban believe that you were intentionally writing against them and running a smearing campaign to malign their efforts to establish Islamic system in Swat and your writings were provocative," he wrote.
Mr. Rasheed denied that the Taliban were against education—though he went on to spell out the movement's opposition to the "satanic or secular curriculum," which is a "conspiracy of tiny elite who want to enslave the whole humanity for their evil agendas in the name of new world order."
He advised Ms. Yousafzai to return to Pakistan and enroll in a madrassah, or Islamic seminary.
"Your propaganda was the issue and what you are doing now, you are using your tongue on the behest of the others and you must know that if the pen is mightier than the sword then tongue is sharper…In the wars tongue is more destructive than any weapon," the letter said.
When the shooting happened, there was an unprecedented outpouring of public sympathy for Ms. Yousafzai, and anger against the Taliban, inside Pakistan.
However, since then, opinion has hardened against the girl. Last week, on the local Pakistani language versions of the BBC website, in the national language Urdu and the Pashto spoken in her native Swat, the majority of comments were venomously against the schoolgirl. Some even described her as a "prostitute."
Even Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of the largest Punjab province and brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, issued an oblique criticism of Ms. Yousafzai's speech, posting on his Twitter account that it "seemed to be written for global consumption."


2013-07-13 Ryan Devereaux. 'It was a kill mission': independent Bin Laden panel contradicts US claims guardian.co.uk

Few secret US missions have been described to the public in as much detail as the one that killed Osama bin Laden. In the 26 months since the al-Qaida leader's death, a series of vivid accounts have emerged describing his final moments, including two relayed by men who claim to have shot him.
The latest came this week, in a newly released Pakistani intelligence report. But instead of clarifying, it has served only to complicate, and in some cases directly contradict, the most widely read accounts of the mission.
The report was compiled by the Abbottabad Commission, an independent panel directed by the Pakistani government to review Bin Laden's presence in the country following the September 11 attacks and his death in May 2011.
Much of the report concentrated on the failings of Pakistani intelligence service to detect the presence of al-Qaida in a prominent center of population in the country. But it also dwells on what happened during the raid, after taking testimony from eyewitnesses, including Bin Laden's wives and a daughter, as well as the widow of his most trusted courier. Al Jazeera posted a copy of the 337-page document online Monday.
While elements of what the women recalled have been reported in the past, their stories have never before been presented in such detail. In some cases, information they provided supports prior accounts of the raid. In other instances, however, their recollections contradict widely read descriptions of the operation, which left four men and one woman dead.
The Abbottabad Commission’s report is quite clear about the conclusions it draws from the accounts of its eyewitnesses. "The US raid was not a capture-or-kill mission. It was a kill mission," the report says. “It was accordingly a criminal act of murder which was condemned by a number of international lawyers and human rights organizations."
The US has always maintained the raid was legal.
Since the mission, two men who claim to have shot Bin Laden have publicly described their competing versions of the final shots. The raid has also been the subject of several books, documentaries and a Hollywood film.
Matt Bissonnette, a member of the Seal team, published a book, No Easy Day, under the pseudonym Mark Owen. According to Bissonnette, he went public because the raid had been reported like "a bad action movie."
No Easy Day diverged from prior accounts in important ways. Placing himself second in the line of Seals moving up the stairs, Bissonnette indicated the point man's shots hit their target. When he stepped into the bedroom, Bin Laden was "in his death throes" and "still twitching and convulsing." He and another Seal then "fired several rounds" into the terrorist's chest.
Bissonnette's account sparked criticism from the international law and human rights community, who argued he had committed a war crime by wilfully killing an incapacitated bin Laden. Other legal experts contested this analysis.
world.time.com


2013-07-09 Report says US Bin Laden raid 'an act of war' aljazeera.com

The unilateral decision by the US to launch a military operation to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani territory constituted "an act of war", a Pakistani government investigation has found.
The report of the Abbottabad Commission, which investigated the circumstances around the raid and how the al-Qaeda leader came to live in the country for nine years without apparently being detected, was exclusively released by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit on Monday.
The report of the commission, formed in June 2011 to probe the circumstances around the killing of bin Laden by US forces in a unilateral raid on the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, had earlier been suppressed by the Pakistani government.
The raid illustrated Washington's "contemptuous disregard of Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the arrogant certainty of […] unmatched military might", the report concluded in its "Findings" section.
In the same section, the report also details the "comprehensive failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of Bin Laden on its territory for almost a decade".
The commission's 336-page report is scathing, holding both the government and the military responsible for "gross incompetence" leading to "collective failures" that allowed both Bin Laden to escape detection, and the US to be able to violate Pakistani sovereignty by carrying out an attack on its soil without the knowledge of the military or the government.
The commission also found, based on testimony from officials from the ISI, that Pakistani intelligence had effectively closed the book on the hunt for Bin Laden after the CIA stopped sharing information on his possible whereabouts in 2005.
The ISI was provided with four telephone numbers in 2010 related to the hunt for Bin Laden, but they were not told the significance of the numbers.
The commission concludes that the ISI was "paralyzed by the CIA’s lack of cooperation", and should have been able to track the al-Qaeda leader on its own territory more effectively.
The report also details "culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government" in both the violation of sovereignty constituted by Bin Laden’s stay in the country for nine years, and the US raid that killed him in 2011.


2013-07-04 Pakistan, IMF agree to $5.3 billion bailout usatoday.com

Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund have reached an initial agreement on a bailout of at least $5.3 billion.
Pakistani Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar and IMF mission chief Jeffrey Franks announced the agreement at a press conference Thursday.
The deal has been approved by the Pakistani government and IMF staffers in the country. It still needs to be approved by IMF officials in Washington and the institution's board of directors.
The $5.3 billion loan will be disbursed over a three year period and will have an interest rate of roughly 3%.
It will be repaid over 10 years after an initial grace period of four years.


2013-07-03 SALMAN MASOOD, IHSANULLAH TIPU MEHSUD. U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan Kills at Least 16 nytimes.com

At least 16 people were killed and five others wounded when an American drone strike hit a suspected Haqqani militant compound in a remote tribal region of northwestern Pakistan late Tuesday, according to government and intelligence officials.
The strike was the deadliest since Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, took power a month ago and demanded an end to the drone attacks. A local government official said the house was being used by the militants for the past few months.
“At least four missiles were fired from two drones at a house of local tribesmen in Sarai Darpa Khel village at 11 p.m. last night,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A local militant source said that the militants who were killed were from the Haqqani network, a militant group that is responsible for orchestrating and executing attacks against American and Afghan forces across the border in Afghanistan and is believed to be active in the region.
The attack took place in Sarai Darpa Khel, in North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan and just southwest of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
According to residents, after the attack the site was quickly cordoned off by Taliban insurgents to recover the bodies from the debris of the house that was attacked.
Drone strikes are hugely unpopular in Pakistan and are seen as a violation of the country’s sovereignty. Right-wing Islamist political parties and nationalists have made vociferous criticism of the drone strikes a cornerstone of their opposition to American policies.
The chorus of popular criticism has only grown louder in recent years despite muted acknowledgment by some Pakistani officials that drone strikes have taken place with their tacit approval.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly protested the latest strike.
“These strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Pakistan has repeatedly emphasized the importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes.”
“The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counterproductive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications,” the statement read. “These drone strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region.”


2013-06-24 Pakistan faces blow to tourism after 10 climbers killed thenews.com.pk

Pakistan on Monday suspended expeditions on its second-highest peak and evacuated climbers after gunmen shot dead 10 foreign trekkers, braced for the collapse of its tiny tourist industry.
Attackers dressed in police uniforms stormed a base camp at the foot of Nanga Parbat late Saturday, shooting dead the climbers and a Pakistani guide at point-blank range, officials said.
The victims have been identified as an American with dual Chinese citizenship, three Ukrainians, two Slovakians, two others from China, a Lithuanian and a climber from Nepal.
Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement claimed responsibility, saying it had set up a new faction, Junood ul-Hifsa, to kill foreigners to avenge US drone strikes on Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives.
It was the worst attack on foreigners for a decade in Pakistan and an unprecedented attack on mountaineers drawn to the intrepid climbing of the north, which until Saturday's shootings was considered immune from militancy plaguing other areas.
It is a major blow to foreign trekking expeditions, which provide the last vestige of international tourism in a country where Islamist militants have killed thousand of people in recent years.
Naiknam Karim, general secretary of the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators, said the killings were a "disaster" for Gilgit-Baltistan, where tourism is the main source of income.
"It will destroy tourism in our area," he told AFP, saying that he had already received a slew of cancellations by email and telephone.
Before the 9/11 attacks, more than 20,000 foreign tourists, climbers and trekkers used to visit Gilgit-Baltistan each year, but the number has since fallen to around 5,000, he said.
The Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States were followed by in war in neighbouring Afghanistan, a series of backlash attacks in Pakistan and since 2007, Pakistan's own domestic Taliban insurgency.
An average non-trekking tourist spends $3,000 in the area of stunning natural beauty, but trekkers sink $8-10,000 into the local economy, staying for longer as well as hiring guides and porters, Karim said.
"We used to be able to convince foreign tourists that there was peace in Gilgit-Baltistan but this incident has ruined everything," he told AFP.


2013-06-16 Pakistani militants shoot dead two polio vaccination workers guardian.co.uk

Gunmen have killed two anti-polio health workers in north-west Pakistan, police said on Sunday, in the latest violence directed at efforts to eradicate the endemic disease from the country.
Two attackers shot the Pakistani health workers, who were on a vaccination drive in Kandar village, said Swabi district police chief, Mohammad Saeed. The gunmen arrived on foot and later disappeared, he added.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But some militant groups oppose the vaccinations and accuse the workers of spying for the US. They point out the case of the CIA using a Pakistani doctor to collect blood samples from the family of Osama bin Laden in order to track him down and kill him in Pakistan in 2011.
Militants also try to block inoculation campaigns by portraying them as a conspiracy to sterilise and reduce the world's Muslim population. Over the past year, nearly 20 health workers from the anti-polio campaign have been murdered.
Pakistan is one of three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, that is still affected by polio, with 58 cases reported in 2012, down from 198 in 2011. The World Health Organisation said in March that some 240,000 children have missed polio vaccinations because of security concerns in Pakistan's tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
It said the health workers have not been able to immunise children in the Taliban strongholds of North and South Waziristan since July 2012.The shootings came a day after the Pakistani al-Qaida-linked militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi killed 24 people in the southwestern city of Quetta.


2013-06-08 Pakistan drone strike kills seven in North Waziristan bbc.co.uk

A suspected US drone attack has killed seven people in northwest Pakistan, officials say.
Two missiles hit a compound in a village in the North Waziristan tribal area, close to the Afghan border.
It is the first drone strike since Nawaz Sharif took over as Pakistan's prime minister and demanded an end to the attacks.
The government summoned a senior US diplomat, Richard Hoagland to protest over the attack.
The foreign ministry said it strongly condemned the drone attacks, which were a "violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Last month President Obama announced stricter targeting rules for the drone campaign against militant suspects.
The missiles reportedly hit the remote village of Shokhel in the Shawal valley, some 45km (27 miles) west of Miranshah - the main town in North Waziristan.
The troubled border region is a known stronghold for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
It is unclear who the target of the attack was, but several militant groups have camps in the area, including the Pakistan Taliban whose deputy leader was killed in a drone strike last week, the BBC's Pakistan correspondent Orla Guerin reports.
The timing will be uncomfortable for the country's new prime minister, our correspondent adds.
Earlier this week, Mr Sharif said Pakistan's sovereignty must be respected, and that it was necessary to work out a joint strategy to stop US drone strikes.
It is estimated that between 2004 and 2013, CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed up to 3,460 people.
About 890 of them were civilians and the vast majority of strikes were carried out under the Obama's administration, the research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said.
In May, the US president said the drone strikes were part of a legitimate campaign against terrorists, describing the killings as "legal" and "just".
However, he also pledged a more transparent oversight of the programme and stricter targeting rules.


2013-05-30 SAEED SHAH. Pakistani Taliban Call Off Peace Talks online.wsj.com

The Pakistani Taliban on Thursday called off plans to open peace talks with the country's newly elected government, reacting to a U.S. drone strike that killed the militant group's deputy leader a day earlier.
The extremist movement, which is closely linked with al Qaeda and is separate from the Afghan Taliban, also vowed revenge, accusing Islamabad of approving the U.S. drone attacks.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Pakistani Taliban spokesman, confirmed the death of the group's deputy leader, Wali ur Rehman, in Wednesday's drone strike in Pakistani tribal areas, and said the prospect of peace talks was "terminated" by the killing.
"The government is killing our leadership in collusion with the U.S. And yet it speaks of peace talks," said Mr. Ehsan.
In Washington on Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she couldn't provide independent confirmation of Mr. Rehman's death.
Pakistan's elections on May 11 brought to power Nawaz Sharif, who is due to take office as prime minister within days. He has said he wants to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, a move that was welcomed by the militants. After the election, Mr. Sharif described such peace talks as "the best available option" and said he opposed the American drone strikes.
"When talking to the Taliban, three powers have to be on the same page: the United States, the Pakistan army and the government," said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a politics professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. "If not, it won't work."
Many in Pakistan argue that if Washington is prepared to hold talks with the Afghan Taliban, then the U.S shouldn't stand in the way of Islamabad's negotiations with militants there, who are responsible for killing thousands of civilians and security personnel.
Pakistan has repeatedly tried to forge peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban, a movement known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, but none of these agreements has stuck, usually because the militants used the cease-fire agreements to regroup, rearm and launch fresh attacks. Some Pakistani politicians, however, accuse the U.S. of using drones to deliberately wreck such agreements.
"There is a popular perception that the U.S. has scuttled the chances of peace accords, but there are no real chances of such deals, given the history of past agreements," said Raza Rumi, an analyst based in Islamabad.
At the White House, spokesman John Earnest sidestepped a question about whether drone strikes against Pakistani Taliban are worth it if they sink peace talks in Pakistan, citing the responsibility President Barack Obama has to protect American soldiers in Afghanistan.


2013-05-29 DECLAN WALSH, ISMAIL KHAN. Drone Strike Is Said to Kill a Top Pakistani Taliban Figure nytimes.com

A suspected American drone strike killed the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban early Wednesday, two Pakistani officials said, dealing a potentially serious blow to an insurgency that has killed thousands of people in Pakistan and encouraged Islamist attacks in the United States.
The deputy leader, Wali ur-Rehman, was among five people killed when missiles fired from a drone struck a house just outside Miram Shah, the main town in the tribal district of North Waziristan, two Pakistani security officials said.
A Taliban commander, speaking in a telephone interview on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Mr. Rehman, who had a $5 million United States bounty on his head, had been killed.
The official Taliban spokesman, however, said he had no information on the strike. “I am not denying nor confirming it,” the spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location.
The identities of those killed in drone strikes are notoriously difficult to confirm because the remote tribal areas are inaccessible to foreign and most local journalists. But the number of different sources — official and militant — that confirmed the attack on Mr. Rehman suggested he had indeed been killed.
The strike came just days after President Obama announced significant changes to American drone operations abroad, and a week before Nawaz Sharif, whose party won the recent election in Pakistan, is expected to be sworn in as prime minister.
Although the C.I.A.-controlled drone campaign in Pakistan is shrouded in secrecy, analysts said it was unlikely American drones would have struck at such a time unless it had a prominent target in its sights.
Residents reached by phone in Miram Shah said the drone attack occurred around 3 a.m. and hit a house in Chashma Pull village. A local resident said that shortly after the strikes, three pickup trucks carrying fighters rushed to the site to retrieve bodies and look for wounded militants.
A tribal administration official in North Waziristan said that militants had used the targeted compound for meetings and dining. “Half of the compound has been destroyed,” he said, adding that the death toll may increase.
From a mountainous district of South Waziristan, Mr. Rehman was responsible for dozens of suicide attacks on Pakistani civilians and guerrilla assaults on Pakistani army troops. He also organized attacks on NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan, which helped bring him onto America’s list of most-wanted.
In 2010 the United States government listed Mr. Rehman as a “specially designated global terrorist” and offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
Over the past year, Mr. Rehman developed serious differences with the Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who is also wanted by the United States. Militant sources said the two men disagreed over the future direction of the Taliban insurgency.
Also killed in Wednesday’s strike were two Uzbek militants, officials said.
The C.I.A. has carried out about 360 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, but the rate of attack has dropped sharply this year amid fierce scrutiny of the program in the United States.
Counting Wednesday’s action, there have been 13 drone attacks in 2013, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based group that monitors the strikes.
Drone strikes were a prominent issue in the recent election, and the incoming prime minister, Mr. Sharif, says he plans to engage the United States in “serious” negotiations to put an end to the attacks, which Pakistan says violate its sovereignty.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “serious concerns” over the drone strike.
“The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counterproductive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law,” the spokesman said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.


2013-05-19 Rob Crilly. Imran Khan blames London-based rival for killing telegraph.co.uk

The killing of Zahra Shahid Hussain and accusations of vote rigging left Pakistan’s biggest city and its economic capital on a knife edge as people turned out for a re-run of voting in one constituency after last weekend’s general election.
Mr Khan, the former cricket star whose Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party made gains in the election, vented his anger on twitter.
He said the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the city’s dominant political force, and its leader were to blame - a claim the party has strongly denied.
“I hold Altaf Hussain directly responsible for the murder as he had openly threatened PTI workers and leaders through public broadcasts,” he wrote, describing the killing as “a targeted act of terror”.
He added that the British government was also responsible for failing to heed his warnings about Mr Hussain, who has held a UK passport since being given political asylum in the 1990s.
Members of Mr Khan’s party said Mrs Hussain, 59, was shot dead by gunmen as she left her home in the smart Defence neighbourhood.
Police said it appeared to be a bungled robbery – a common enough occurrence in the violence-ridden city.
Other reports suggested she received two bullets to the head suggesting she had been assassinated.
Mr Hussain also condemned the attack in a statement and demanded a “judicial inquiry to get to the culprits”.


2013-05-09 ANDREW BUNCOMBE. Pakistani court declares US drone strikes in the country's tribal belt illegal independent.co.uk

A Pakistani court has declared that US drone strikes in the country's tribal belt are illegal and has directed the government to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.
In what activists said was an historic decision, the Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused “collateral damage”.


2013-05-04 Aubrey Bloomfield. Pakistan Election 2013: Imran Khan Vows to Shoot Down US Drones If Elected policymic.com

In the lead up to Pakistan's general election, which will take place on May 11, the former cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan has again vowed to shoot down American drones if elected. Speaking at a rally in Swabi in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman said that if U.S. drones entered Pakistani airspace, he would order the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) to shoot them down. And given that most recent polls show Khan ahead of Nawaz Sharif, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) (previously thought to be the favorite) there is a very real chance that Khan will become Prime Minister.
Khan's vow may come as a shock to some, but opposition to America's drone war in Pakistan, which has been going on since 2004, has grown increasingly strong in recent years. Drone strikes have increased dramatically under President Obama, and while Pakistan has always been publicly opposed to attacks conducted by the CIA, the possibility of a prime minister who has promised to shoot down the drones could make things very awkward for the U.S.
If Khan is elected as prime minister on May 11, it could make things very awkward for the Obama administration and may even put the continuation of its drone war in Pakistan in serious jeopardy. And he has a good chance of winning. As PolicyMic pundit Areej Elahi-Siddiqui points out, Khan's "credentials are strong, his rhetoric is even better, and most importantly, unlike many of Pakistan’s politicians, the track record for both him and his party, which he has nurtured carefully for the past 17 years, is clean."


2013-05-03 DECLAN WALSH. Prosecutor in Bhutto Killing and Mumbai Attacks Assassinated in Pakistan nytimes.com

Gunmen on Friday fatally shot a Pakistani prosecutor who had been investigating the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the 2008 Mumbai attacks, carrying out an assassination that threw into turmoil Pakistan’s most politically charged cases.
Assailants opened fire on the prosecutor, Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali, as he drove to work from his home in a suburb of the capital, Islamabad, for a court hearing in which the former military leader, Pervez Musharraf, faces charges in relation to Ms. Bhutto’s death in 2007.
Initial reports said that gunmen traveling by motorbike and car sprayed Mr. Ali’s car with bullets, lightly wounding his bodyguard and killing a woman passer-by when his car veered out of control. Television footage from the scene showed a bullet-riddled car crashed by the roadside.
Mr. Ali died before he reached a hospital in Islamabad, where a doctor said he had been shot 13 times. Police said that Mr. Ali’s bodyguard returned fire and managed to wound one of the attackers, who then fled the scene.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack and the police said it was too early to comment on a possible motive. But few doubted it was linked to Mr. Ali’s work as a state prosecutor in some of the most sensitive cases in the country, and his death reinforced the vulnerability of senior government officials who challenge Islamist militants and other powerful, if sometimes hidden, interests.
Mr. Ali represented the Federal Investigation Agency, which has implicated Mr. Musharraf in the case of Ms. Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007, just before the last election. But he was also involved in another sensitive case: the trial of seven people from the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba who have been charged with orchestrating the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, which killed more than 160 people.
Mr. Ali was to appear in both cases this week. After the previous hearing of the Bhutto case on April 30, Mr. Ali told reporters he had “solid evidence” that connected Mr. Musharraf with Ms. Bhutto’s death.


2013-04-19 Richard Leiby. Musharraf arrest tempts clash of powers washingtonpost.com

Pakistani Police arrested former military ruler Pervez Musharraf and confined him to his opulent farm house Friday in what he criticized as “politically motivated” case that centers on his 2007 suspension of the constitution and mass firing of senior judges.
The former autocrat’s arrest, after he dramatically fled from court Thursday to avoid detention, pits an increasingly assertive judiciary against a powerful military leadership that considers Musharraf one of its own.
If successfully prosecuted, he would be the first former army chief to go to prison in Pakistan’s 65-year history, which includes long stretches of military rule and coups such as the one Musharraf launched to gain power in 1999.
While some political analysts said they could foresee a destabilizing battle between the courts and the army if the retired general is put in the dock, others predict a clean and quick resolution that avoids seeing Musharraf humiliated…
The constitution was subverted with the firing and mass arrests of judges, but the Parliament and Supreme Court at the time certified the actions, Ranjha said. “In terms of constitution’s violation, it is bad, certainly an offense, but he is not the only one who has done it.”
The current Army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani was part of Musharraf’s inner circle at the time. The military has been maintaining its distance from the fracas so far, in keeping with Kayani’s recent declarations that the military should not take a role in politics.
Musharraf and his new political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, says he is a victim of judicial bias. “These allegations are politically motivated, and I will fight them in the trial court, where the truth will eventually prevail,” Musharraf said in a Facebook posting on Friday.


2013-04-06 MARK MAZZETTI. A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood nytimes.com

On a hot day in June 2004, the Pashtun tribesman was lounging inside a mud compound in South Waziristan, speaking by satellite phone to one of the many reporters who regularly interviewed him on how he had fought and humbled Pakistan’s army in the country’s western mountains. He asked one of his followers about the strange, metallic bird hovering above him.
Less than 24 hours later, a missile tore through the compound, severing Mr. Muhammad’s left leg and killing him and several others, including two boys, ages 10 and 16. A Pakistani military spokesman was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, saying that Pakistani forces had fired at the compound.
That was a lie.
Mr. Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the C.I.A., the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.
That back-room bargain, described in detail for the first time in interviews with more than a dozen officials in Pakistan and the United States, is critical to understanding the origins of a covert drone war that began under the Bush administration, was embraced and expanded by President Obama, and is now the subject of fierce debate. The deal, a month after a blistering internal report about abuses in the C.I.A.’s network of secret prisons, paved the way for the C.I.A. to change its focus from capturing terrorists to killing them, and helped transform an agency that began as a cold war espionage service into a paramilitary organization.


2013-03-15 U.N.: U.S. drone strikes violate Pakistan's sovereignty usatoday.com

The head of a U.N. team investigating casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty.
Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes — a position that has been disputed by U.S. officials.
President Barack Obama has stepped up covert CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border since he took office in 2009.
The strikes have caused growing controversy because of the secrecy surrounding them and claims that they have caused significant civilian casualties — allegations denied by the United States.
According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by U.S. drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator's three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left.
Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson's team, said Friday that the organization he runs, the Centre for Research and Security Studies, gave the U.N. investigator during his visit case studies on 25 strikes that allegedly killed around 200 civilians.
The U.N. investigation into civilian casualties from drone strikes and other targeted killings in Pakistan and several other countries was launched in January and is expected to deliver its conclusions in October.
The U.S. rarely discusses the strikes in public because of their covert nature. But a few senior officials, including CIA chief John Brennan, have publicly defended the strikes, saying precision weapons help avoid significant civilian casualties.


2013-01-17 Pakistan cleric ends protest after government concessions reuters.com

A Muslim cleric with a history of ties to the military who has been calling for the Pakistani government to resign reached a deal with the administration on Thursday that will give him a say in the electoral process ahead of elections.
Muhammad Tahirul Qadri triggered a political crisis by launching mass protests in the capital four days ago calling for electoral reforms to clean up Pakistani politics.
He has been pushing for the military to play a role in the formation of the caretaker administration that takes over in the run-up to scheduled elections.
"We have reached an agreement," Qadri, who supported an army coup in 1999, told supporters camped out near parliament. "Allah granted us a victory and now you can go home."
Qadri persuaded the government to dissolve parliament before a scheduled date of March 16 so that elections, due in May, can take place within 90 days, and also to discuss electoral reforms, according to a copy of the agreement released by his spokesman.
Qadri's appearance at the forefront of Pakistan's political scene has fuelled speculation that the army, with its long history of involvement in politics, has tacitly endorsed his campaign in order to orchestrate a soft coup against a government it sees as ineffective. The military denies this.
"Qadri, unexpectedly, secured major concessions," said Shamila Chaudhry, an analyst specializing in South Asia at Eurasia Group.
The cleric, who has been delivering long, fiery speeches from behind a bullet-proof glass box because of his opposition to Taliban militants, has many followers who back his vast religious charity, which has offices in 80 countries.
But he also appeals to middle- and lower-class Pakistanis disillusioned with dynastic politics.
No civilian government has ever completed its full term, but current army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has vowed to keep the military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 65 years since independence, out of politics.
Critics of the military, however, say the generals still play a behind-the-scenes role to shape politics.


2013-01-15 Pakistan Justices Order PM's Arrest online.wsj.com

Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered the arrest of the country's prime minister and tens of thousands of antigovernment protesters demanded immediate elections, whipping up political chaos in a country the U.S. sees as vital in helping it wind down the war in Afghanistan.
Tuesday's events marked a twin blow to the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, which has been locked in a three-way battle for power with the country's Supreme Court and the nation's powerful military since it came to power in 2008.
Amid the standoff, government efforts to address pressing issues—an anemic economy, slumping investment and rising violence from Islamic insurgents—have been largely paralyzed. Pakistan's leaders have also been distracted from responding to U.S. pressure to help eliminate Pakistani havens for Afghan members of the Taliban.
The latest salvo in the infighting came Tuesday, when the Supreme Court ordered Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and 15 others arrested within 24 hours, on allegations of corruption.
The ruling ordered criminal proceedings against Mr. Ashraf, a former power minister, after the court found irregularities last year in the government's rental of power plants to stave off an energy crisis. Mr. Ashraf has previously denied wrongdoing. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. His whereabouts weren't immediately clear.
Mr. Ashraf won't step down, said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Mr. Zardari. "We have endured many such threats in the past, and we shall endure this one also," he said.
Pakistan's political standoff is hardening just three months before what would be the country's first democratic transition of power. The government, led by Mr. Zardari's Pakistan People's Party, is due to call national elections by May. Should it survive until polls are held, the Zardari government would be the first democratically elected administration in Pakistan to complete a full five-year term.
The State Department expressed support Tuesday for the peaceful protests and encouraged the nation's political leaders to reach a peaceful and transparent solution. "Internal political issues in Pakistan need to be resolved by Pakistanis," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
Some officials in Washington expressed skepticism that the situation could degenerate into a soft coup that could bring down the government. "There are going to be bumps and some ugly maneuvering," said one U.S. official. "But they've made it through things like this over the past five years and we expect they will make it through this."
The court decision came just hours after a convoy of trucks and cars reached Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, bearing tens of thousands of protesters calling for the immediate ouster of the ruling PPP. The demonstrations were organized by Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri, a Pakistan-born Muslim cleric who wants the Supreme Court and military to play a larger role in organizing snap national elections to ensure they are free and fair.


2013-01-10 Jon Boone. Pakistan bombings: Quetta death toll over 100 guardian.co.uk

A vicious double bombing of a snooker club capped one of the bloodiest days in Pakistan for many months on Thursday, leaving more than 100 people dead and hundreds injured in three different attacks.
The death toll was shockingly high even by the bloody standards of Pakistan, which is beset by separatist insurgencies and Islamic militants at war with the state.
The surge in violence comes at a time of heightened political tension as the preparations of the coalition government to step down and fight elections have been threatened by a religious cleric who plans to bring a massive protest march to the capital on Monday.
Tahir-ul-Qadri's march, which the religious leader says will turn Islamabad into Tahrir Square, is billed as a protest against corruption and a demand for clean elections, but many politicians fear the real purpose is to find a pretext to delay the polls.
On Thursday Quetta, the south–east city that is home to the leadership of the Afghan Taliban and groups fighting for the province of Baluchistan to become an independent state, was rocked by two attacks.
A security check post was targeted in the first blast in the morning, killing 12 and injuring 25, according to the province's chief minister.
A little known group called the United Baluch Army claimed responsibility.
In the evening another 81 people lost their lives and 110 were wounded when two suicide bombers blew themselves up within ten minutes of each other in a packed building where young men go to play snooker.
The second blast appeared to be deliberately designed to kill the medical workers, anguished relatives and journalists who rushed to the scene.
Mohammed Murtaza, a police officer, said the second bomb caused the building to collapse, killing even more people.




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