Reports and Views from Pakistan

Oregon man pleads guilty for role in Pakistan bombing

Posted by pakreport on February 14, 2015

A Portland city worker pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to a suicide bombing that killed about 30 people in Pakistan and injured another 300.

Reaz Qadir Khan, 51, admitted before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman on Friday that he arranged for Ali Jaleel to receive $2,450 before Jaleel participated in the May 2009 attack. He also admitted providing financial help and advice to Jaleel’s wives after the bombing, with the knowledge it would help them avoid capture.

The judge set sentencing for June 8. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have jointly requested a sentence of seven years and three months in federal prison. The maximum possible sentence is 15 years.

“Although I did not know for certain what Jaleel’s plans were, I believed it was a possibility that he was traveling to Pakistan for the purpose of committing violence with other persons,” Khan told Mosman, according to court documents released Friday afternoon.

Jaleel was one of three people who carried out the attack at Pakistan’s intelligence headquarters in Lahore. Jaleel, who died in the attack, took responsibility for the bombing in a video released by al-Qaida.

Khan was arrested in March 2013 and placed on unpaid leave from his city job as a wastewater treatment plant operator. The guilty verdict officially ends Khan’s employment with Portland, said Dana Haynes, a spokesman for Mayor Charlie Hales.

Khan conspired with Jaleel starting in December 2005, according to the indictment. The following month, Jaleel sent Khan an email that prosecutors said “referred to past mutual promises he and Khan had made to seek martyrdom in the name of Allah.”

According to the indictment, Jaleel emailed Khan in 2008 about his plan to travel to Pakistan. Two years earlier, Jaleel had been part of a small group from the Maldives that tried to enter Pakistan for training, but he was detained, returned home and placed under house arrest.

Khan, the indictment states, instructed Jaleel on how to avoid detection and offered financial help.

In October 2008, Jaleel wrote that he needed money. Khan arranged to have $2,450 waiting for Jaleel in Karachi, Pakistan, prosecutors said.

Jaleel wrote to Khan the following month, saying he was about to enter training camp and did not need all the money. Khan told Jaleel to keep the money so it could be sent to Jaleel’s two wives in the Maldives, the indictment said.

Shortly after the suicide attack, Khan wired $750 from an Oregon store to one of Jaleel’s wives, Khan admitted in court in Friday.

He also told the judge that he provided life advice to Jaleel’s second wife in December 2008. The woman’s father had opposed her marriage to Jaleel.

“She sought my practical and religious guidance on the issue having concluded, among other things, that her father would never permit her to marry a man who would participate in violent jihad,” he said.

Khan was born in Pakistan and has lived in the United States since 1988.


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Polio Team Attacked in Pakistan

Posted by pakreport on February 14, 2015

Gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying a polio vaccination team in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing the driver and wounding a health care worker, according to police officials.

The attack took place in the restive Khyber tribal region, which straddles the border with Afghanistan and has been the site of a recent offensive by the Pakistani military. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but polio vaccination workers are frequently singled out across Pakistan by Taliban militants, who view the campaign as un-Islamic and the health workers as Western spies.

Separately on Saturday, two polio workers and two security guards were reported to have gone missing in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, officials said. It was not immediately clear whether they had come under attack or had merely fallen out of contact in the remote area where they were working.

“There is no proper communication system, which is why we are facing difficulty in tracing them,” a news report quoted a provincial official, Nazir Ahmed Khetran, as saying.

Hard-line clerics in Pakistan’s most conservative regions have long opposed polio vaccination campaigns, arguing that they are a conspiracy to leave Muslims infertile.

Resistance to such campaigns increased significantly after the 2011 raid by American forces that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, amid revelations that a polio campaign had been used by the C.I.A. as a cover for an espionage operation.

The continuing attacks pose a serious challenge for polio vaccination efforts in Pakistan, one of just three countries where the disease is still endemic.


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Pakistan discovers major reserves of iron ore in Punjab

Posted by pakreport on February 12, 2015

Pakistan has discovered major reserves of iron ore as well as copper, silver and gold in Punjab province, which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today said could boost the country’s struggling economy.

The reserves were found at Rajua in Chiniot district, around 165 kilometres from Lahore, by Chinese group the Metallurgical Cooperation of China, officials said today.

Initial estimates indicated that 500 million tonnes of iron ore – a primary ingredient in steelmaking – had been discovered, officials said today.

Studies are being conducted currently in 28 sq kms of area, and initial findings showed that there was high probability of presence of good quality deposits in around 2000 sq kms, particularly in south and south eastern parts of Chiniot city, the officials said.

Speaking at the site after getting a briefing on the discovery of iron ore deposits, the Prime Minister today said it will go a long way in bringing prosperity to the country and will end its “begging bowl” culture.

“It is Allah’s blessing that under the lush green fields rich deposits of copper, iron and gold have been found, which will help the country get rid of the ‘begging bowl’ for good,” Sharif said.

Punjab Mineral Company Chairman Samar Mubarakmand, while briefing the Prime Minister, said there were indications of large copper deposits.

It was suggested that there should be more focus on excavating copper as it has a much higher value in the international market as copper fetches $5,000 a tonne against $100 a tonne for iron.

Sharif was informed that with the assistance of Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), a feasibility study had been completed in around nine-month time, whereas it was to be completed in 18 months.

Sharif was shown through graphs and 3-D models the details of the deposits and informed that there was also probability of finding copper and gold deposits in the area.

The Prime Minister lauded the expertise and hard work of the Pakistani metallurgical experts and scientists and also hailed the German consultant firm GEOS for supervising the work.

Sharif said: “Ruling Pakistan is not a bed of roses, rather it is a big challenge and his government is bracing all the issues with courage, zeal, dedication and a commitment to bring about a positive change in the country.”

He said major challenges for him were security, bringing peace to the country and ending shortage of electricity and natural gas.


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Australian Minister Scott Morrison’s denial of visa to refugee from Pakistan unlawful, high court finds

Posted by pakreport on February 12, 2015

The high court has ordered the immigration minister to grant a Pakistani refugee a permanent protection visa after three years in immigration detention and sustained government efforts to refuse him.

The government has promised the man a permanent visa within a week.

The high court unanimously ruled that former immigration minister Scott Morrison’s decision to refuse the man a visa was unlawful.

The minister denied the visa simply because the man arrived by boat. The immigration department had found he had a genuine fear of persecution and Australia was legally obliged to protect him.

The Pakistani man arrived on Christmas Island by boat in May 2012. A member of the Hazara ethnic minority and a Shia Muslim, the man faced, the high court said, “a real chance of being seriously harmed or killed by extremist groups if he was returned to Pakistan”.

The man was initially permitted to apply for a visa by Labor immigration minister, Chris Bowen. His application was rejected. However, on appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal, he was found to be a refugee requiring protection.

But the man was then denied a visa because the minister, by then the Coalition’s Morrison, unilaterally capped the number of visas to be issued.

The high court ruled that action invalid.

The minister then denied him a visa on grounds it would not serve the “national interest” to grant him protection, because he arrived by boat. The court ruled that while the government’s policy was that no unauthorised maritime arrival should be granted a visa to stay in Australia, the law required the minister to grant the visa within 90 days.

The minister’s efforts to “prolong the plaintiff’s detention” by simply refusing to grant the visa were unlawful too.

“The court found … the minister could not refuse an application for a visa only because the applicant was an unauthorised maritime arrival.”

Chief Justice Robert French “made an order commanding the minister to grant the plaintiff a permanent protection visa”.

Guardian Australia reported in October that then immigration minister Morrison was warned by his own department that his attempts to refuse permanent protection visas were illegal and would be defeated in the high court.

Documents before the high court show Morrison was told on 15 January, in a brief from his department, that his policy objective of never granting permanent protection to boat arrivals could not be achieved “in the medium to long term” but that he could “delay being forced to grant” visas in the short term.

The departmental brief is confidential, but sections of it are reproduced in submissions before the high court.

The brief gave Morrison five strategies “to delay being forced to grant a permanent protection visa in the absence of a new temporary visa”, but conceded “each of these strategies is likely to be short lived as a consequence of decisions taken in parliament to overturn them or in the courts to invalidate them”.

Morrison ignored that advice and refused the Pakistani man a visa.

The current immigration minister, Peter Dutton, acknowledged the high court’s judgment and said a permanent protection visa would be issued within seven days.

“The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is looking into the implications of the decision, but they appear to be limited,” a spokesman said.

“This decision doesn’t affect the government’s policy that illegal maritime arrivals will not be granted permanent protection visas.”

The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the government’s actions showed its “arrogance” in dealing with asylum seekers and refugees.

“The immigration minister is not above the law, despite his consistent efforts to undermine the parliament and the high court,” she said.

“This man is a refugee, he came to Australia asking for help and it’s only after being dragged through the courts that the government will recognise its duty and offer him protection.

“There was no need for this. It was only the government’s own hubris that brought them to this loss.”

The executive director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, David Manne, welcomed the decision, saying the high court had ruled unanimously that the government had acted unlawfully in denying a person found to be a refugee protection, simply because he had arrived by boat.

“We are carefully studying the potential implications of the ruling for other refugees who arrived by boat, but who were refused a permanent protection visa because of their method of arrival.”

A spokesman for the Human Rights Law Centre, Daniel Webb, said the high court ruling was significant in setting limits to ministerial power.

“Being a boat arrival already triggers a range of severe legal consequences under the Migration Act. The high court has said it was not for the immigration minister to unilaterally attach more under the guise of ‘the national interest’,” Webb said.

The government has been ordered to pay costs.


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Pakistan arrests local ISIS commander

Posted by pakreport on January 21, 2015

Pakistani security forces have arrested a man they believe is the commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the country as well as two accomplices involved in recruiting and sending fighters to Syria, intelligence sources said on Wednesday.

Authorities in South Asia are concerned about the rise of the jihadist group in a region already beset by home-grown insurgencies fighting to topple local governments and set up strict Islamic rule.

Three intelligence sources, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the man, Yousaf al-Salafi, was arrested in the eastern city of Lahore and confessed during interrogation that he represented IS in Pakistan.

“Al-Salafi is a Pakistani Syrian who reached Pakistan through Turkey five months ago,” said one source. “He crossed into Turkey from Syria and was caught there. Somehow he managed to escape and reached Pakistan to establish ISIS (IS).”

The account could not be independently verified.

The source said one of his accomplices, Hafiz Tayyab, was a prayer leader in Lahore and was involved in recruiting Pakistanis and sending them to fight alongside Islamic State in Syria, charging IS about $600 per person.

Rifts among the Taliban and disputes about the future of the insurgency have contributed to the rise of Islamic State’s popularity but security sources believe there are no operational links yet between IS and South Asia.

Disgruntled former Taliban commanders have formed the so-called Khorasan chapter – an umbrella IS group covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other South Asian countries – in recent months but have not been involved in any fighting.

Their leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan Orakzai, a former Pakistani Taliban commander, appeared in a video address this month urging people in the region to join the group.


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The allegations against MI6 are serious – so why aren’t they front page news?

Posted by pakreport on December 20, 2014

The growing row over British security services’ possible involvement in the CIA torture programme is starting to fill a few column inches. Slowly but surely, parliamentarians are feeling the pressure to investigate it fully.

What’s surprising is that it’s this story which has put the security services in the papers. It’s a speck on the horizon compared to what MI6 are alleged to have been up to in 2014. There have been several scandals which have barely been explored by the British media. It raises the question – are our spooks’ transgressions only newsworthy when editors can’t help but cover them?

Al Jazeera’s investigative unit broadcast an extraordinary investigation last week speaking to several Kenyan policemen involved in an extra-judicial killing programme that has seen hundreds of Muslim leaders executed in the streets, without trial. MI6 is allegedly providing intelligence leads, training and funding, according to documents acquired by Al Jazeera. One officer, interviewed for the film, estimated the numbers killed so far at five hundred dead. Unlike the historical abuse allegations at the CIA, this programme is apparently still active. Yet it’s not been considered big news here in the UK.

At the same time MI6 may or may not have been helping the CIA in their post 9/11 torture programme, a book released in August suggests they were undertaking another illegal programme, this time in Nepal. Thomas Bell, previously the Telegraph’s South Asia correspondent and a writer for the Economist, released a new book detailing the range of support MI6 had provided to the Nepalese government fighting a Maoist insurgency.

So-called Operation Mustang ran from 2002 to 2006, and according to senior sources within the Nepalese government, relied heavily on input from British intelligence officers. Their work led to around a hundred arrests, a significant number of whom were then tortured or simply disappeared. Again, when Bell’s book came out, it merited barely a whisper.

The much vilified Moazzam Begg, a survivor of Guantanamo Bay and advocate against the war on terror’s more distasteful tactics, was recently arrested and detained over a trip to Syria. All seven of the terrorism charges against him were dropped in October. Begg had notified MI5 of his travels overseas, and even received their permission. Part of his work there was investigating allegations that MI6 had arranged for terrorism suspects to be handed over to president Bashar al-Assad. Begg’s arrest was covered, although this was largely because of his notorious reputation. The fact he was investigating our intelligence services collaborating with Assad, supposedly the West’s sworn enemy, went unnoticed.

And quietly moving through the courts is the case of Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who in 2002 was abducted alongside his Morrocan wife, allegedly by MI6 and the CIA. He was handed over to President Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, where Belhadj says he was tortured. Belhadj also claims British intelligence officers took part in the interrogation. The British government has tried to stop the case going ahead by saying it would affect relations with the US. The pair aren’t after compensation. If he wins he has asked for £1 and an apology.

Why are we in denial about the allegations against our security services while the CIA torture report has been front-page news? Perhaps it’s James Bond syndrome – the romantic perception of those sworn to protect British citizens as do-no-evil gentlemen: suave, principled defenders against darkness. Or even more pernicious – Jack Bauer syndrome, a timely cultural coincidence in the war on terror which neatly sanitised the use of torture via a compelling TV drama, all in the name of public protection no matter what.

But more importantly – criticising spooks doesn’t sell as many newspapers. Instead, readers are being presented with sensationalism – often based on falsehoods.

Take the plot to blow up Old Trafford stadium, which Peter Oborne revealed for Dispatches, in 2006, as a complete and heavily politicised fabrication (which incidentally ruined the lives of half a dozen young men who were smeared as terrorists). Or the rescue of Norman Kember that same year. It was portrayed as a heroic commando raid, but in reality Kember woke up one morning and his terrorist guards were gone. His release had been negotiated by a fellow anti-war activist. British intelligence quietly picked him up and drove him to the airport. Tabloid editors love a good special forces story – a spy or a superman – regardless of what really happened.

But as the CIA torture report has revealed, extreme tactics from the intelligence services have not revealed any useful information. Critics say that radical violent Islamism has traditionally flourished in prisons, at the hands of torturers – or in the face of injustice.

Complete transparency is too much to ask of our intelligence services. But accountability is not. The media must make the first move to bring us closer. The allegations against MI6 should have been front page news on every newspaper over the past year.


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Pakistan Massacre Organizer Vows More Killings

Posted by pakreport on December 19, 2014

Taliban Chief Says Deaths Are in Response to Military Offensive in the North

The self-proclaimed organizer of the assault that killed 132 schoolchildren this week in the Pakistani city of Peshawar vowed in a video Thursday that his fighters would attack more schools and other civilian targets.

Khalifa Omar Mansoor, named by the Pakistani Taliban as the man who organized the attack, appeared in a short video that was uploaded to a site used by the militants for distributing propaganda videos.

Mr. Mansoor said the group would continue to strike civilians in revenge for Pakistani military operations under way in the country’s North Waziristan tribal area to destroy al Qaeda and Taliban havens. He said that ordinary Pakistanis have disregarded the plight of residents there.

Pakistan’s security forces say they are focused on taking out the Taliban, but some civilian casualties are inevitable. They deny there have been large-scale civilian casualties

“This is something we cannot accept anymore, and if you continue to target our women and children, then your children will not be safe anymore,” he said Mr. Mansoor. “We announce that we will not discriminate in our attacks any longer, and will be as unconcerned as you are.”

The Pakistani military began its North Waziristan offensive in June. It is the last of the tribal areas being cleared by the Pakistani army, and the operation has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.According to Pakistani security experts, Mr. Mansoor is the head of the Pakistani Taliban chapter that originates from the tribal region of Darra Adam Khel, in northwestern Pakistan. The group grabbed international headlines in 2009 when it beheaded a kidnapped Polish engineer.

The attack in Peshawar, which claimed 148 lives, was on the city’s Army Public School. The school served the children of army personnel as well as the children of civilians. Pakistan has 146 Army Public Schools around the country, and many other schools administered by other arms of the military.

Mr. Mansoor threatened to target similar institutions around the country.

“I want to tell the Pakistan government, and the directors, teachers and students of the army’s affiliated institutions, that you are the ones strengthening this un-Islamic democratic system,” he said. “It is these institutions that graduate future generals, brigadiers and majors, who then kill Taliban and innocent tribal people.”

Pakistan’s army doesn’t comment on specific threats.

Before Tuesday’s massacre in Peshawar, the Pakistani Taliban had been hesitant to claim responsibility for attacks on civilians, saying the group was going after security forces and the government.

In a written news release this week, the Pakistani Taliban had named Mr. Mansoor as the organizer of the attack. Mr. Mansoor appeared in a picture that featured him with the squad of gunmen who purportedly carried out the assault. All seven attackers were killed in the attack.

“Currently, the two hard-line and most effective groups within the Pakistani Taliban are the Mohmand Taliban, led by Umar Khalid, and the Dara group led by Khalifa Omar,” said Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Peshawar-based expert on militancy in the region. “The Dara group is particularly effective around the Peshawar valley region and have been involved in most of the deadly attacks here.”


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