The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan Army

Pakistan Army accused of extrajudicial killings in Swat. Again.

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This video, which has been doing the rounds on the internet for over a week, allegedly depicts the Pakistani Army engaging in an extrajudicial execution of six unidentified men, purportedly in the Swat region. It was reported on blogs and Twitter, but the mainstream media was slow to pick it up, and most interestingly, so was Human Rights Watch.

Since then, it has been picked up by several agencies, and while it was also briefly linked to the Indian Army in Kashmir, most of the discussion seems in favour of declaring it the real Pakistani deal.

The New York Times report:

But American officials, who did not want to be identified because of the explosive nature of the video, said it appeared to be credible, as did retired American military officers and intelligence analysts who have viewed it.

After viewing the graphic video on Wednesday, an administration official said: “There are things you can fake, and things you can’t fake. You can’t fake this.”

Al Jazeera English has a better report that delves deeper into the video and its authenticity:

An organisation called the International Pashtuns’ Association posted the video on Facebook and says that the incident took place during the military’s crackdown on the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley the summer of 2009.

The uniforms and rifles appear to be consistent with Pakistan’s standard military equipment, and a former Pakistani general told Al Jazeera that while the video could not be verified, the images should be taken seriously.

“We have to take it at face value at the moment, and take it seriously,” said Talat Masood. “My view is that the CIA and ISI are in a much better position to authenticate this.”

“It looks as though they are Pakistani troops, but there are several other aspects that need to be re-checked  before we can say that it is authentic.”

Human rights groups say the video fits in with “credible allegations” they have received about the conduct of Pakistani troops. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in June that 282 extra-judicial killings by the army had taken place in the Swat region in the past year.

The AJE report also includes responses from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who also say that the video is consistent with numerous reports in the past of the Pakistani Army engaging in such executions. Indeed, both HRW and the NYT have reported it in the past.

The Pakistani Army has, predictably, denied reports and declared the video fake.

The real question is over what fallout this will cause.

Reuters says that it could threaten US aid to Pakistan and includes a quote from State Department spokesman PJ Crowley: “Human rights and the issue of extra-judicial killings has been a part of our ongoing conversation … with Pakistan.” I’d say that quote pretty much sums up the US response, an “ongoing conversation” is vague enough to indicate some sort of action, but nothing concrete or real.

Scarecrow at Fire Dog Lake sums up the inconsistency in relation to drone attacks:

But then one must ask whether there is some moral or legal distinction between what the Pakistan forces are alleged to be doing, which if true would be an egregious crime and warrant protests from all civilized nations, and what our own military teams are doing when they observe a Pakistani village or group of individuals via drone cameras and then, from targeting rooms that may be located in the US, direct the drones to bomb and kill those individuals. Because I’m having a hard time seeing a meaningful difference.

Indeed, it is difficult to find a meaningful difference. Moreover, there’s the much publicised case of Anwar al-Awlaki, and reportedly three other US citizens, all of which are in line to be assassinated by the US Army. Legal challenges to these assassinations have been blocked by the Obama Administration by invoking the State Secrets doctrine to shield it form judicial review. And, of course, there’s the ongoing protection of those involved in Bush-era torture allegations.

So is the US going to withhold aid from Pakistan or take any real action over these killings? Hell no, there won’t even be a statement of condemnation. Why? Because obviously, the Obama Administration doesn’t care. It will put sanctions on Iranian diplomats for torture, but it’s not going to censure a key strategic ally for the war in Afghanistan. In this case, American exceptionalism must, to some extent, be extended to strategic allies.

So anyone looking for something concrete to come out of this, don’t hold your breath. Instead, just wait for it to blow over, as undoubtedly it will.


Written by alexlobov

October 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Morbid Monday: Rawalpindi & Lahore Motorway attacked

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Today is the first of the month – a day where people get salaries, plan for the month ahead, pay bills, pay their children’s school fees.

Today on the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway, a couple of suicide bombers detonated their jackets near the police checkpost on the Babu Sabu interchange. The attack happened after the two were stopped. The attack saw both suicide bombers killed. 15 people are reportedly injured, which includes several police officers. The attackers are reported to have been less than 20 years old.

The Motorway also saw an attack on October 24, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near the Lillah interchange, killing one police officer.

Today in Rawalpindi, Pakistan – a planted bomb exploded suicide bomber detonated a bomb laden motorcycle, killing 30 people and injuring 40.  25 people (this is an unconfirmed number as the death toll keeps rising) and injuring 30. Eyewitness reports gathered by Pakistani news channels say that there were several military officers who were at the National Bank of Pakistan collecting their salaries, and that the blast took place in the parking lot. The area is one of those ‘highly sensitive’ ones – the Pearl Continental hotel was next door and the Army’s General Head Quarters a few kilometers away. Schools have been closed in the city.

Today in Pakistan, the Government is obsessed not with the security situation in the country, not with the military operation in Waziristan, but with aid conditions in the Kerry-Lugar/Berman bill and the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance.

Today in Rawalpindi and Lahore, as families try and get news and innocent people die and are injured, as news channels scramble for visuals, as the empty condemnations from political leaders pour in, as the country’s ever-increasing sense of fear grows, everything is in short supply: leadership, effective governance, security and stability.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

November 2, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Day One: South Waziristan operation begins

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And so it begins. Hakimullah Mehsud, center, poses with his deputy Waliur Rehman, left, and spokesman Azam Tariq in Sararogha (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)

And so it begins. Hakimullah Mehsud, center, poses with his deputy Waliur Rehman, left, and spokesman Azam Tariq in Sararogha (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)

And so it begins.

An approximate 28,000 Pakistan Army troops – with air support – have launched the ground offensive into South Waziristan. Reports of initial skirmishes have already begun to come in, as well as one of a bomb attacking a security convoy. 11 militants are reported to have been killed so far. The ratio of troops to militants appears be 2.8:1 , as there are an estimated 10,000 militants in the area. As far as the territory the army offensive is aiming to control , it is the the TTP stronghold. In an older interview with AP,  Maj Gen Athar Abbas – spokesperson for the Pakistani army said:

..the assault would be limited to slain Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud’s holdings – a swath of territory that stretches roughly 3,310 square kilometres.

The plan is to capture and hold the area where Abbas estimates 10,000 insurgents are headquartered and reinforced with about 1,500 foreign fighters, most of them of Central Asian origin. ‘There are Arabs, but the Arabs are basically in the leadership, providing resources and expertise and in the role of trainers,’ he said.

The ground operation has been preceded by a series of attacks on security facilities in the country, notably last weekend’s attack on the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Of course, all isn’t as easy as it seems.

Tick tock, tick tock

For one, the army has a limited amount of time before temperatures dip and the first snow hits, which means they’ll be back to air strikes, if that.

Another IDP crisis?

Secondly, the internally displaced persons. One of my major issues with the ground operations has been the lack of planning and thought that has gone into taking care of the residents that have to flee targeted areas to safer ground. News reports say that atleast 90,000 150,000 families have fled the area.

Given how badly the IDPs crisis was managed by the government and opposition parties during the Swat offensive, one can only hope that aid agencies will be better experienced from the Swat IDPs and cope with the likely humanitarian crisis. On the other hand, as with the Swat offensive, once the South Waziristan operation is over: what will the area’s residents be left with to come back to?

This is a vicious cycle that Pakistan seems to keep repeating. Pakistan  should have learned its lesson with the Afghan war, or with the other battles that Pakistan has been fighting in the FATA region for years now, that it is as important to build an infrastructure for innocent civilians as it is to destroy the infrastructure of militant networks.

Crisis, what crisis?

Perhaps its just me but I feel that there’s a certain blasé attitude in the air. For a country that should technically be in a state of war, everything seems to keep going on as usual, including as Newsline magazine’s Nadir Hassan pointed out, the focus of Pakistan’s parliament.

Battle specifics

Image credit - BBC

Watch out for the battles in Ladha and Makeen. Image credit - BBC

Region: South Waziristan. Home to training camps for suicide bombers, cited to be one of the areas Al Qaeda’s top leadership operates from, the stronghold of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan which is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on the country’s security facilities.

Manpower: The Pakistan Army is sending in 28,000 troops. The number for the militants varies between 10-20,000. Accrding to The National, “a senior military official said the initial objective was to establish footholds, but that three divisions of the military, paramilitary and police would be mobilised, eventually numbering up to 60,000 troops.”

Arms and ammunition:

From Reuters:

  • The army is likely to attack from three directions, with ground troops backed by jets, attack helicopters, tanks and artillery.
  • The militants have had years to prepare their defences and hold rifles, machineguns, anti-tank weapons, especially rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and longer-range rockets.
  • They are also experts in the use of roadside bombs and have been churning out a stream of suicide bombers.

For more on the battle specifics, BBC has a good Q&A on what lies ahead in South Waziristan.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 17, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Pakistan Army GHQ under attack – III

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Pakistani police commandos take positions in front of Pakistan?s army headquarters during an operation in Rawalpindi early on October 11, 2009.  (Photo AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani police commandos take positions in front of Pakistan's army headquarters during an operation in Rawalpindi early on October 11, 2009. (Photo AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Almost 20 hours later – with 3 dead army commandos, 3 dead terrorists, 4 dead hostages and the rescue of 30 hostages – the newest security saga in Pakistan has come to an end.

“The Taliban shut down Pakistan’s Army headquarters for 18 hours with this attack,” a senior US military intelligence official who closely tracks Pakistan told The Long War Journal.

“They have delivered a message to Pakistan’s military: we can hit you in the heart too,” the official continued, referring to the Pakistani military’s threats to take the fight to the Taliban in the heart of South Waziristan.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 11, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Pakistan Army GHQ under attack – II

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A Pakistani army official (background) examines a white van which was used by attackers following a heavily armed militant attack in Rawalpindi on October 10, 2009. (Photo: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

A Pakistani army official (background) examines a white van which was used by attackers following a heavily armed militant attack in Rawalpindi on October 10, 2009. (Photo: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

As I type, the day-long siege of the GHQ continues. Reports emerged later in the day that two of the a number of escaped militants have kept 10-15 army personnel as hostage in the security office they fled to after the gunbattle broke out. This attack will probably go down as one of the milestones of this war Pakistan has been fighting. How the Tehrik-e-Taliban (which has claimed responsibility for the attack) managed to attack the very bastion of Pakistan’s military is a security and intelligence failure on so many levels its incomprehensible. Also, how secure are any of us if the GHQ can get attacked? I know, living in Pakistan you tend to take fear and insecurity for granted, but I’m going to run for my life the next time I see an uniformed official nearby.

The GHQ attack reads like a film script and follows a pattern that has been seen as of late. Six terrorists dressed in military uniforms attempted to cross the GHQ checkpost and at being stopped, they began firing on the army personnel in the area. Four terrorists died, six army personnel were killed, and the other two terrorists are currently holding army personnel hostage.

Security officials have apparently raided the house that the militants were residing in that was 5-6 kilometers away from the GHQ. The house had  “security uniforms, shoes, badges, documents, diaries and detonators.”

Lest we forget, this is the supposed high-security, high-alert zone.

But how could we? Everyone’s been falling over themselves to claim they were the first to predict it, including the Punjab police. Alright then.

Meanwhile, for some bizarre reason, four television channels have been reprogrammed so they no longer appear on their regular slots. They haven’t been blocked as yet, though the panic has set in. Channels are back on their regular slots now.

What I find more worrying is the list of demands by the TTP group that has claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • Halt of operation in northern areas
  • Accountability of former President Pervez Musharraf
  • Return of Blackwater
  • Closure of Western NGOs

Now while these are fairly common demands, characteristic of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, what I find odd is the demand about Blackwater. Is it possible that because of the blitz of articles in the press, the intense television debates, the paranoia, the rumours, the statements by politicians;  the Taliban have actually begun to believe that Blackwater (if it even does have a presence in Pakistan) is part of their problem? More importantly, if the Taliban believe this, how many citizens do? Can we just not accept that the Taliban, associated militia groups, insurgents, et al are the main problem? The search for a scapegoat to blame all our problems on continues…as Pakistan burns, is bombed and pretty much self-destructs.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 11, 2009 at 1:12 am