The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘TTP

Dodgy is as dodgy does

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You won’t believe who wrote a letter to the sister of Pakistan’s daughter! The newly-reincarnated Tehrik-e-Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who according to Dawn News, sent a letter to Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s sister Fouzia Siddiqui.

Take it away Dawn. (whose report makes the same jump and skip that Hakimullah must be involved in the Times Square car bomb plot)

According to a copy of the letter received exclusively by DawnNews, Hakimullah Mehsud threatened a memorable response against the United States.

The summary of the letter states that Hakimullah Mehsud declared the sister of incarcerated Dr. Afia Siddiqui, Dr Fouzia as her (sic) own sister and assured her of every cooperation.

Now that two of Aafia’s children have apparently been recovered, the family has been fairly quiet. Even if the kids weren’t quite as inclined to believe it, according to this great conversation overheard by Fahad, who was at Fouzia’s house when Aafia’s daughter turned up.

Hakimullah also mentioned Aafia in his latest video update here.

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Written by Saba Imtiaz

May 5, 2010 at 5:39 am

Islamic University attacked in Islamabad

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Pakistani security officials collect evidence from the site of a suicide bombing in Islamic University in Islamabad. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Pakistani security officials collect evidence from the site of a suicide bombing in Islamic University in Islamabad. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Two suicide attacks took place at the International Islamic University in Islamabad – Pakistan’s capital city – a few hours ago. The attack on the university, which was established in 1980, has seen 5 students killed and several injured. (The figure is changing every minute, so cannot confirm)

The images being aired on news channels are absolutely horrific – blood spattered walls, gore, damaged walls. Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reported “We can see bits of clothes, scraps of books and a lot more worrying, very thick, dark red blood.”

The attacks happened within minutes of each other. One attacker blew himself up outside the women’s cafeteria and the other in another block of the university. Witnesses told Dawn News that at least three to four thousand students were present at the university at the time of the attacks.

Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister, has blamed the attack on the university’s security failings, saying a guard let one of the attackers in on the assumption that he worked at the university.

The Pakistani army is currently fighting a war in South Waziristan so this attack in Islamabad is widely being cited as a reaction to the army’s offensive. Educational institutions are being closed in the province of Sindh till Sunday – several cities already had done so as the South Waziristan operation started.

The horrific attack  comes after a series of attacks in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore and Kohat. The only odd factor I find is that an educational institution was attacked, which seems out of the TTP’s usual pattern. As of late, extremist organizations have attacked security and intelligence installations or colonies where security officials reside, not civilian targets per se. Yes, the TTP and their affiliates have attacked girls’ schools in FATA, and  if they are to blame for this attack it is a truly – for lack of a better word – ominous sign. Yet this is the ‘odd one out’ in the pattern of events, as a Dawn editorial pointed out on October 10 after a car bombing in Peshawar killed 48 people.

Is yesterday’s Peshawar bombing another grim incident in the long war against militancy here or should we also look elsewhere for the culprits? What is striking about the Peshawar blast is the lack of an obvious target. In the past, when the militants have struck it has generally been possible to discern the target: offices or check posts of security personnel; offices or personnel of foreign aid agencies; a branch of a bank belonging to the army; members of the Shia or Barelvi community, etc. This is in keeping with the militants’ strategy of waging a savage war, yes, but not widening it to include indiscriminate attacks against the general population. The norm, therefore, has been to attack the state and its allies, foreign and local, real and imagined, and sectarian targets. But yesterday’s attack has no obvious, or hitherto known, target; it appears to have been indiscriminate and meant to sow terror generally.

I hate it when people point out the ‘foreign hand’ theory, so I’d like to make that clear that that is not what I’m implying. But terrorism just doesn’t have one face in this country; so the fact that Pakistan is facing multiple threats from different organizations and groups  needs to be made clear.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 20, 2009 at 9:37 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

Dead or Alive: Hakimullah Mehsud gives a presscon

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Look, I'm still alive! The new commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2008  (AP photo/Ishtiaq Mehsud)

Look, I'm still alive! The new commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2008 (AP photo/Ishtiaq Mehsud)

There’s been a lot of speculation in the foreign press for the past couple of days about Hakimullah Mehsud, the new chief of the TTP. US intelligence sources were reporting that same old news item, that Hakimullah had been killed in an internal power struggle battle, reports of which surfaced after Baitullah was killed in a drone strike. These were more or less confirmed by Pakistani intelligence, including by Interior Minister Rehman Malik in a statement to television channels.

But the new reports, while offering little new information, were either a sign to bolster up confidence in the claim being made that the TTP was in disarray. Rahimullah Yusufzai reported in The News yesterday that the Pakistani government didn’t believe that Hakimullah made those calls after the initial reports of his death to prove that he was alive. He also provided an interesting insight:

Fond of publicity and known to enjoy media attention, Hakimullah wasn’t expected to avoid reporters for long and shy away from making a videotape to declare that he was alive. But he hasn’t done that even after weeks and further delay in providing evidence of his life would mean that he is dead or following a smart plan for keeping everybody guessing.

The situation regarding Hakimullah’s fate could become clear in a day or two as the TTP had plans to invite journalists to its South Waziristan stronghold to meet its commanders. The last time Hakimullah met members of the media was in Orakzai Agency, but that was when Baitullah was alive and the former was commander for the tribal agencies of Orakzai, Khyber and Kurram.

Hakimullah did exactly that yesterday by calling a number of reporters to meet with him at an undisclosed location in South Waziristan. He reiterated that the TTP was united, that there was no conflict between him and Wali-ur-Rehman (who he allegedly had the fight with over leadership of the TTP). Footage of the interview shows him to be in good health, and he even looks like he’s gained weight over time. Wali-ur-Rehman and Qari Hussain were also at the meeting, and the interviews were only given on the condition that they would be published on Monday…

…And ironically, Monday afternoon would see the offices of the UN World Food Programme being attacked by a suicide bomber dressed in a Frontier Corps uniform. The attack killed four Pakistanis and one Iraqi national, and UN offices in Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been closed.

I can’t say whether this was a strategic move on Hakimullah’s part to have his reappearance being linked to the attack, or whether this was a pre-scheduled one that had taken place regardless. In any case, Islamabad – already a high security zone that visitors say resembles a garrison – will probably be on edge right now.

Our Dead or Alive series continues: you can read the rest of our posts here, including the one where I found out about Hakimullah’s death (?) while writing a blogpost about Baitullah Mehsud’s death and what it meant.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 6, 2009 at 12:02 am