Sunday, November 09, 2014

Daish Expanding Tentacles in Pakistan

IS recruiting thousands in Pakistan, govt warned in 'secret' report
Mubashir Zaidi, Dawn, November 8, 2014

KARACHI: The provincial government of Balochistan has conveyed a confidential report to the federal government and law enforcement agencies warning of increased footprints of militant organisation Islamic State (IS), also known by the Arabic acronym Daish, in Pakistan.

The ‘secret information report', a copy of which is available with DawnNews, is dated October 31, and states that IS has claimed to have recruited a massive 10 to 12,000 followers from the Hangu and Kurram Agency tribal areas.

"It has been reliably learnt that Daish has offered some elements of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wai Jamat (ASWJ) to join hands in Pakistan. Daish has also formed a ten-member Strategic Planning Wing," the report from the Home and Tribal Affair Department of Balochistan says.

The report states that the IS plans to attack military installations and government buildings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in retaliation to the army-led Zarb-i-Azb operation in North Waziristan and also plans to target members of the minority Shia community.

The Balochistan government called for heightened vigilance and security measures in the province as well as the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to prevent and pre-empt such attacks.

It has moreover called for sensitising law enforcement agencies on the issue and an increased monitoring of LeJ members.

The warning comes days after six top commanders of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including its now defunct spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, have announced their allegiance to IS's caliph Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi Al Qureshi Al-Hussaini..

The Taliban spokesman said he, along with TTP chief for Orakzai Agency Saeed Khan, TTP chief for Kurram Agency Daulat Khan, TTP's Khyber Agency chief Fateh Gul Zaman, TTP’s Peshawar chief Mufti Hassan and TTP’s Hangu chief Khalid Mansoor, have announced their allegiance to Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi.

Earlier in the week, Shahidullah Shahid was replaced by Mohammad Khurasani as the new TTP spokesperson

The Islamic State's presence has not been officially established so far.
Perceived threat?

Security expert Dr Ejaz Hussain believes that Pakistan faces a perceived threat from the IS but it can mature into a real threat if they succeed in aligning themselves with the splinter groups of mainstream militants groups, including the TTP.

“If the Pakistan security apparatus fails to check their footprints, it could be a setback for them in future. It appears that the IS wants to focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly the time when US forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan. If not checked, IS will pose a major threat to South Asia and the Persian Gulf,” Hussain told Dawn.

IS, which is led by Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi, is currently based in Iraq and Syria and occupies border areas. It is accused of killing hundreds of Muslims and some American and UK citizens, which include journalists and aid workers.

Wall-chalking has also begun to appear in support of IS in some cities of Pakistan, including Karachi and Khanewal.

ISIS Makes inroads in Afghanistan & Pakistan - Foreign Policy South Asia Channel, Sep 30, 2014

Taliban - ISIS Links in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Theatre

Pakistani Taliban likely to send more fighters to Iraq and Syria
The Pakistani Taliban has pledged support to militant groups fighting in Iraq and Syria; a move that should be taken seriously as the number of "Islamic State" sympathizers is rising, analyst Hassan Abbas tells DW.

Pakistani Taliban militants offered help to radical Muslim groups fighting in Iraq and Syria, according to a statement marking the Muslim holy festival of Eid al-Adha on October 4. Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah addressed the fighters in the Middle East as "mujahideen brothers" and vowed to support them. "Mujahideen fighting in Iraq and Syria are our brothers and we are proud of their victories. We are part of them in moments of joy and sadness," said Fazlullah, according to the news agency dpa. "We are with you in these troubles and will help you in whatever way it is possible for us," he said.

The statement also called for unity between the different jihadist groups, coming even as its own group faces deepening internal divisions. "Islamic State" (IS), which controls vast swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been attempting to gain a foothold in South Asia.

Hassan Abbas, Chair at the National Defense University in Washington and author of the book The Taliban Revival, says in a DW interview that while there is still little evidence of IS activity in South Asia, the jihadist organization or other similar groups will attempt to expand their area of influence, should the security situation deteriorate in the region.

DW: How seriously should the international community take this pledge of allegiance by the Pakistani Taliban to IS?

Hassan Abbas: This development should be taken very seriously. The Pakistani Taliban or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan grew out of a wedlock between Pakistani militants and al Qaeda, so regional and global networking is not new to them.

More recently, the Pakistani Taliban have also found their way into the Syrian conflict and the latest declaration is a product of the new networking process taking place around the battle for Syria. This was bound to happen but in the West we fooled ourselves into believing otherwise.

Is there any evidence if IS presence in South Asia or of efforts to spread its influence in the region?

There is very little evidence of direct IS activity in South Asia at the moment but the number of South Asian sympathizers is on the rise. Some propaganda materials from the group such as pamphlets were distributed in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Karachi in the past few weeks.

But more than the Pakistani Taliban themselves, it is sectarian terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) who are likely to spearhead the IS agenda - such as targeting Shia Muslims and also Sunni Muslims inclined towards Sufi thinking - among other things.

How would the Pakistani Taliban be able to support IS?

They can provide more foot soldiers - a few hundred are already operating in Syria and Iraq. More dangerous will be the ideological impact. At present, while IS is triggering the disgust of common Muslims in South Asia, extremists are very much cherishing the rise of the militant group as it gives them the idea that the Islamic state of their dreams is being realized.

What is the Pakistani government's stance on IS?

Given that the development is very recent, there has been little response so far. But it has become evident from the widespread terrorist attacks in recent years that the government of Pakistan is usually very slow in comprehending emerging security threats.

How could IS benefit from the current rivalries between the different Taliban groups both in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the impending foreign troops withdrawal from Afghanistan?

This can be a golden opportunity for IS. This is substantiated by the fact that even al Qaeda under its current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been trying to keep its membership intact by reframing its agenda and establishing a new branch of al Qaeda in South Asia. They are worried that IS may lure their supporters away.

In the case of a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan or parts of it, IS or other similar groups will attempt to expand their area of influence. IS will likely pass on that task to the Pakistani Taliban who are looking for such a task.

What could both local governments and the international community do to prevent this from happening?

There are both short term and long term remedies we should think about. In short term, civilian law enforcement and military should collaborate on understanding the nature of this emerging threat scenario and also engage the public in terms of creating awareness in South Asian states, especially Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, successful political transition - which is already taking shape - will be critical. In the long-term scenario, investing in deradicalization strategies and public education will bear fruits.

Hassan Abbas is Professor and Chair at the National Defense University in Washington and author of "The Taliban Revival" (Yale University Press). The statements are his personal opinion.

Also see:
'The Costs of America's Imperial Hubris' - Review in Dawn, September 15, 2014

Saturday, November 08, 2014

'The Taliban Revival' profiled by 'Daily Show with Jon Stewart' - August 27, 2014

For complete Interview click here

Book Reviews: Survival, IISS (October - November 2014)
South Asia - By Teresita C. Schaffer
The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan–Afghanistan Frontier
(Hassan Abbas. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014. £18.99/$30.00. 280 pp.)

Hassan Abbas is a former Pakistan police officer who teaches at the US National Defense University, and has also held positions at Columbia and Harvard univer- sities. His analysis draws on extensive interviews in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and is informed by his police background. There are many books on the Taliban, but this one stands out for the way it weaves together the tribal, governmental and national aspects of this movement, and its Pakistani and Afghan wings.

The heart of the book starts with the return of the Taliban from its near-death experience after the fall of its government in Afghanistan in 2001. Abbas recounts unsparingly how the ambivalent views of the Musharraf government and the Pakistani army created the space that permitted the movement to revive, with a more militant presence in Pakistan than it had ever had before. He recounts the 2004–07 negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban, in which Islamabad repeat- edly sought a kind of non-aggression pact, only to discover that the Taliban had no intention of being hemmed in by such agreements. The parties to these negotiations had no common ground. Pakistan sought to preserve peace and governmental control, at least outside a recognised geographic area; the Taliban did not accept the ‘idea of Pakistan’ outside the framework of their goal of an Islamic emirate.

This problem has plagued efforts to arrive at reconciliation – or even a truce – for decades. The Pakistan government has repeatedly expressed confidence in its ability to fine-tune relations with the Taliban and related insurgents operat- ing in its territory. In fact, as Abbas recounts with skill and in detail, Pakistani governments – civilian and military alike – have systematically deluded them- selves (as well as their outside friends), hoping to retain the services of the ‘good Taliban’ to ward off the threat they most fear, from India.

The most valuable part of Abbas’s account deals with contemporary Pakistan. As he notes, the Pakistani Taliban directed the bulk of its 2013 election vio- lence against the more secular parties, going relatively easy on Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Once in power, Sharif pushed for negotiations with the Taliban, and eventually discovered that it was not interested in returning the favour. Once again, the Pakistani authori- ties failed to recognise that the Taliban was not interested in a modus vivendi: it was fundamentally challenging the state of Pakistan. The same kind of blind spot, Abbas argues, affects Pakistan’s analysis of Afghanistan. Members of the Afghan Taliban are not only divided: they are also, like other Afghans, deeply suspicious of Pakistan, and their approach to dealing with more powerful forces is to play them off against one another.

This last point should not surprise anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Afghan history, and yet the newspapers are filled with example after example of outsiders – Americans, Pakistanis and others – expecting linear logic to govern their dealings with Afghans. What makes Abbas’s message so powerful is the spotlight he shines on the illusions that, tragically, keep Pakistan’s leaders engaged in a conspiracy game that threatens the country itself.

Other Reviews of The Taliban Revival:
Foreign Affairs Reviewed by John Waterbury, Nov 2014.
Express Tribune Reviewed by Lamia Zia, October 17, 2014.
Interview with VOA with Jim Stevenson, October 6, 2014.
London Review of Books by Owen Bennett Jones, September 2014.

Monday, July 28, 2014

C-Span Book TV Features 'The Taliban Revival'

From C-Span Book TV
July 27, 2014

JULY 15, 2014: Book Discussion on The Taliban Revival - Carnegie Endowment 

Hassan Abbas talked about his book, The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier, in which he discusses the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He said that after being kicked out of power in 2001 by U.S. and NATO troops, the Taliban scattered around Afghanistan, but they eventually regrouped and had retaken large portions of the country. Professor Abbas spoke at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

For video, click here

Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Excerpt: 'The Taliban Revival' - Asia Society

Book Excerpt: 'The Taliban Revival' by Hassan Abbas

June 26th, 2014 by Asia Society

In 2001, when NATO forces entered Afghanistan in their offensive against Al-Qaeda, they also aimed to eradicate the Taliban, Islamic fundamentalists who had lent help to Osama bin Laden. The Taliban were flushed out of Afghanistan's major cities and a new, interim government under Hamid Karzai was established. However, a new book by Dr. Hassan Abbas shows that the Taliban, rather than disappearing, instead persisted and regrouped to the point where they were once again a significant security threat.

In The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier (Yale University Press, 2014), Abbas chronicles how the Taliban managed to not only survive, but spread as an insurgent movement. Furthermore, he writes, understanding the causes of this seemingly mysterious "Talibanization" is essential for reversing its resurgence in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Drawing on research and interviews in the area, The Taliban Revival presents a comprehensive account of the Taliban's fall and resurrection, beginning with Pakistan's volatile Pashtun frontier, weaving through the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and leading up to current U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan.

Hassan Abbas is Professor and Chair of the Department of Regional and Analytical Studies at National Defense University's College of International Security Affairs in Washington, D.C. He is also a Senior Advisor at the Asia Society and was an Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow in 2010. Below is an excerpt from his book.


In theory, a negotiated settlement with the insurgents is a necessary prerequisite for an end to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. But the million-dollar question is: at what cost? Reconciliation with the Taliban is an issue that affects more than just Afghanistan. It has regional implications: the interests of all neighbouring countries need to be taken into account before any major political adjustments can be made. The reality is that the Obama administration was initially very reluctant to pursue a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban, though President Karzai had already reached out to them for "reconciliation." After 2008, Pakistani intelligence also made a case to its U.S. pursuing talks with the Afghan Taliban, and it even offered to mediate. On the ground in Afghanistan, there was an important initiative from German diplomats to talk to the Taliban in 2010.

The problem is that the Afghan Taliban are no longer a hierarchical organization, with leaders who are easily identifiable. A range of localized insurgent groups with different agendas and grievances are operating in the field, as are criminal networks and organizations that are semi-independent Taliban affiliates, such as the Haqqani group, which uses Pakistan’s tribal areas as a base from which to conduct and coordinate its activities in Afghanistan. American defense officials believe that 10-15 percent of insurgent attacks inside Afghanistan are directly attributable to Haqqani group warriors. Pakistan is capable of bringing the Haqqani group to the table — and presumably others from the inner circle of Mullah Omar — but it is doubtful whether the Taliban sitting in Pakistan could negotiate on behalf of all Taliban insurgent leaders operating inside Afghanistan.

No major communication breakthrough with the Taliban leaders was in sight when former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a major policy speech at the Asia Society in New York in February 2011, in which she set out three conditions for the Taliban if they wanted to come to the negotiating table — sever relations with Al-Qaeda, renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution. For the Taliban, this was a non-starter. But they had little inkling that Secretary of State Clinton was moving in this direction after having overcome stiff resistance from the other important power centers in Washington. For Pakistan, it was a welcome development, though Islamabad believed in a slightly different approach, suggesting to the U.S. that the three preconditions could be converted into the end goals of a negotiated deal. Washington agreed in principle, and Pakistan was given the go-ahead to play its part in making this happen.

At the time, Pakistan was itself under tremendous pressure from the TTP — the local faction of the Taliban — which was constantly on the offensive, targeting major military and intelligence infrastructure counterparts from inside Pakistan. For Pakistan, an accommodation between the Taliban and Kabul would ease the pressure and also reinstate Pakistani influence in Afghanistan to balance the inroads India had made there.

Karzai, who was running his parallel reconciliation efforts via the "High Peace Council," led by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, wanted to control the process, but Pakistan was not inclined to trust him, and opted rather to communicate direct with the U.S. in this regard. The Afghan approach — enshrined in a document entitled "The Peace Process Roadmap to 2015" — emphasized an "Afghan-led" and "Afghan-owned" process that would ensure the freedoms and liberties of all Afghans. The assassination of Rabbani at the hands of Taliban (whose spokesman claimed responsibility) in September 2011 was to be a blow to the Afghan reconciliation effort.

Meanwhile the bold U.S. operation in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May 2011 to eliminate Osama bin Laden, followed in November 2011 by the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers and officers at the hands of NATO forces at Salala, a checkpoint on the Pakistan–Afghanistan border, changed the atmosphere in Pakistan and led to a deterioration in U.S.-Pakistani relations that froze the planned negotiation initiative.

The situation only improved in mid-2012 after some "give and take" that led to a resumption of Pakistani efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Over two dozen Taliban militants languishing in Pakistani intelligence "guest houses" (or in some cases in the "protective custody" of local militant groups) were advised to return to Afghanistan. In official U.S.-Pakistan discussions on the subject, Pakistani military and intelligence officials continued to emphasize that there were no "guarantees" and that they only promised "facilitation."

The opening of a Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, in June 2013 for talks with the U.S. and the Afghan government was an important step. The initial agenda included the issue of Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the removal of some Taliban leaders from the UN sanction lists.

The plan foundered, however, when the Taliban erected a plaque outside the office that read "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" and hoisted the Taliban flag — despite a categorical objection from the U.S. According to an American insider, it was all a misjudgement on the part of the government of Qatar, which acceded to the Taliban request. Anyway, President Hamid Karzai was not amused. He conveyed his displeasure to Qatar, and that led to cancellation of the whole process.

The whole episode exposes a debilitating disconnect, caused by mutual apprehensions on the part of all the sides involved in this sensitive and controversial enterprise. Soon afterward, a senior Pakistani diplomat asked me: "Are the Americans really serious in negotiating with the Taliban, or is this only a tactic to force Pakistan to show its hand?" The inference was that perhaps the U.S. is indirectly attempting to drive a wedge between Pakistan and Afghan Taliban leaders. This perception explains Pakistani skepticism about U.S. interests and its long-term commitment to the region.

For complete excerpt, click here

Related Media Coverage:

Book Review: Kirkus Review
India Today: 'Pakistan tried to woo Taliban post 26/11, says new book The Taliban Revival'

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Does Modi's rise mean .....

What Does the BJP's Big Win Mean for India? Experts Weigh In
by Joshua Rosenfield, Asia Society, New York, May 16th, 2014

In the wake of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s resounding victory in India’s elections, Asia Society reached out to our network of fellows and experts in a variety of fields for their reactions to the vote. What do the election results mean? And what developments should observers watch for and expect as Narendra Modi is seated as Prime Minister and begins to implement the BJP’s agenda?

Hassan Abbas
Senior Advisor, Asia Society; Author of the forthcoming book The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan–Afghanistan Frontier

Though in India, the political rise of Narenda Modi and the revival of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is being projected as the victory of common man, Pakistanis recognize him more as a right-leaning politician who was hands-in-gloves with elements who orchestrated the brutal killings of Muslims in communal violence in Gujarat in 2002.

Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif called Modi to congratulate him on BJP’s landslide election victory and invite him to visit Pakistan, hoping to fully revive the peace process which Sharif had initiated with India in early 1999 when another BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister of India. Sharif, like many other leading Pakistani politicians, is now convinced that peace with India is a must for Pakistan’s progress. The question is whether Sharif can “help” Pakistan’s military establishment in overcoming their concerns and inhibitions in the matter. Pakistan’s right-wing political forces are also ever ready to obstruct any talk of peace with India.

On the brighter side, one earnestly hopes that soon-to-be Prime Minister Modi will follow what he said about relations with Pakistan in early May in an interview with The Times of India: “Both countries faced a common enemy in widespread poverty which they could tackle to together if a new trust could be established.”

Alyssa Ayres
Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

Mr. Modi has campaigned on an economic growth and governance platform. That’s likely good news for resolving many of the U.S.-India economic frictions, such as FDI limits, tax predictability, and openness to greater trade in general. American companies are looking forward to getting back to business with India.

Surjit S. Bhalla
Columnist, The Indian Express; Chairman, Oxus Investments; Senior Advisor, Zyfin

This election will be a significant departure from history. While the curtain has not yet been dropped on caste politics, we are near to that dream reality. It is poetic justice that Narendra Modi, a lower caste OBC, and one who has never played the caste card and indeed vehemently argued against it, should be the one to provide a death blow to Mandal politics. What has also nearly ended is Communist politics. The Left parties managed to obtain only 10 seats, half their 2009 amount, and ended their masquerade as a national party.

But the real political story of this election is the near complete decimation of the Congress party. The party has had two humiliating defeats in the past: the first in the old India of 1977, and the second in 1999. Election 2014 is witness to the Congress hitting its lowest ever seats, 45. The reality is that the Congress as we know it, and have loved and hated it, is destroyed, and it is the political death of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. When a 130-year-old national party obtains less than a twelfth of the total seats on offer, and barely makes it as the second-largest political party, regional or otherwise, it cannot, should not, and for its own survival must not remain the same.

Marshall Bouton
Interim Director, Asia Society Policy Institute; Senior Fellow, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania

From a politics of scarcity to a politics of aspiration—that is the central meaning of the historic Indian election so resoundingly concluded today. Over the last 15 to 20 years the Indian people have discovered that with economic growth comes the possibility of better lives for themselves and their children. No longer is the struggle about who gets what slice of an unchanging chapati, but how growth can afford more opportunity for many. And those young Indians for whom this was the first time to vote have never known the politics of scarcity and will accept nothing less than a positive vision based growth and opportunity.

Nor is the new narrative of Indian politics just an urban phenomenon. Exit polls showed the BJP and its allies winning almost as decisively in the rural areas as in the cities, despite the UPA Government’s multiple schemes to shower goodies on farmers and rural labor.

Somehow the Congress Party missed the emergence of a new India that is optimistic about the future. Perhaps lacking true political leadership, it has been imprisoned in the mindset that elections can be won by framing “rights” and implementing poorly designed welfare schemes.

For all the credit due to Mr. Modi—and yes, this was a Modi wave election—he faces the enormous challenge of somehow fulfilling the high expectations of renewed growth, more jobs, subdued inflation, improved infrastructure, and less corruption that the Indian people have placed on him and his party. If he strays from the pursuit of growth and opportunity that he has promised, and especially if he allows the agenda of the Hindu right to distract his government and the country, he will in time be held equally to account.

For complete story, click here


Friday, May 16, 2014

Pakistan Conference at Oxford University (May 9-10, 2014)

Scholars Discuss Pakistan Beyond Bombs and Beards
The Asians, May 14, 2014
Pakistan is a land of opportunity which like USA was built by keeping an eye on future. These views were expressed by scholars debating Pakistan’s current state of politics, economy, foreign policy, media and education at a conference in Oxford University on May 10-11.
The conference, titled ‘Pakistan: Opportunity in Crisis,’ brought together 27 established as well as emerging academics and policy experts from Pakistan, UK and other countries, and around 150 delegates from across Britain. It was convened by Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad, the Quaid-i-Azam Fellow at Oxford University and was hosted by Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College.
In the opening address, Imran Mirza, the Acting High Commissioner said, “There is a different Pakistan beyond the narrative of bombs and beards. It’s the tale of a society resilience enough to defy all doomsday predictions, of an economy that has innate ability to absorb global financial crisis, and of a people with exceptional traits of hospitality.” 

Tahir Wasti (speaker) with Mosharraf Zaidi and Imtiaz Gul

In his keynote address, Dr. Faisal Devji, Director of Asian Studies Centre, said that Pakistan was founded with an eye into the future, just as the United States. This remarkable reality, in his view, was contrary to the role that factors such as soil, blood and history played in the founding of traditional European nation-states. Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, the newly appointed chairman of Higher Education Commission, pointed out in his keynote address that, even amid apparent security quagmire, the higher education sector in the country had flourished unprecedentedly. “Expanding international collaborations with universities and academics in all disciples of humanities, social and natural sciences is our priority at HEC.” Speakers on the occasion, among others, included Prof Ian Talbot, Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, Prof Mohammad Waseem, Prof Saeed Shafqat, Imtiaz Gul, Prof Hassan Abbas, Dr. Adeel Malik, Tariq Malik, Owen Bennett-Jones, Prof Maya Tudor, Taoha Qureshi, Prof Rashid Amjad, Mosharraf Zaidi, Hamayoun Khan, Dr. Tahir Wasti, Hannes Ebert, Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, Prof Yunas Samad, Dr. Tahir Kamran, Dr. Yaqub Bangash, Tayyab Safdar, Mr Adnan Rafiq, and Huma Yusuf.

For complete article, click here

Mian Sohail, Ayesha Siddiqa, Hassan Abbas and Ishtiaq Ahmed -
outside Nissan Lecture Theatre, Oxford University

Also See:
Conference website:

Opportunity in Crisis By, Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Pulse, May 12, 2014

Pakistan's Multiple Crisis by Imtiaz Gul, Express Tribune, May 14, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

'Injustice of Silence': Dawn - Rape in Pakistan

For Details, click here

Preserving honour through a woman’s body

By Maliha Zia Lari - Advocate High Court

The criminality of rape is a contentious matter in Pakistan. Already entrenched in social stigma, the offence is so closely correlated with cultural and political conditioning, that it is difficult to treat the issue as merely a legal one.

In actuality, the crime, it’s investigation and it’s prosecution all reflect a deeper cultural dynamic that ultimately results in how rape is addressed in Pakistan.

In a patriarchal culture such as Pakistan’s, women are viewed to be subordinate to men. They are not recognised as individuals but through their relationships, those of a mother, daughter, sister, wife. Rather, seen as a ‘commodity’ being transferred from one man’s home (her father’s) to another (her husband’s), a woman must therefore be protected to maintain her best possible form until lead-time.

This prevalent mindset stems from local traditions, values and practices across the country that perpetuate pigeon-holed roles for women as mere reproducers.

The concept of ownership and with it the ‘preservation’ of a woman is the crest of why men exert control over restrictions of space, mobility, and behaviour among other liberties.

This control is designed to ensure that a woman does not bring shame to her family. While she is contrastingly viewed as ‘fragile’, the weight of upholding her family’s honour starts the day a girl is born.

With such limited social standing, women often suffer the lack of financial benefits of their work, inevitably rendered as the ‘family’s’ money. In some cases, women are not allowed to work, in many others, they are unable to due to illiteracy, resulting in permanent economic handicap.

Consequently, women are unable to leave abusive relationships where they are consistently exploited without an avenue of long-term state support.

The core reason behind the rising incidence of rape in Pakistan lies within the confines of sexual objectification – violating a woman’s body for the ultimate dishonour.

This is evidenced by the punishments meted out by the illegal parallel systems such as jirgas and panchayats, that order the rape or stripping of womenwhen men in their family have committed an offence. Such systems are particularly dominant in southern Punjab, where the majority of rape cases are reported.

For complete article, click here

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Nature of the threat from the Punjabi Taliban

'The Punjabi Taliban' by Dr. Syed Manzar Abbas Zaidi
Centre for International and Strategic Analysis, February 2014

Executive Summary

This paper discusses the evolution of the Punjabi Taliban in context of their organizational depth in Punjab in Pakistan, and argues since they share a confluence of interests with regards to global jihadism, they are a logical ally of the Taliban & al-­‐Qaeda groups. The author argues that it was natural that they would be activated due to this confluence of interests, particularly in wake of the of Pakistani Army's military operations in the tribal areas which placed the TTP under duress. This confluence of interests-­‐ activation sequence is argued by the author in the post 2008 period with the help of examples, whereby the terrorist threat from the Punjabi Taliban has become a distinct possibility.


The discourse on Punjab has to be understood in two contexts. Punjab is not a Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA); the analogy of 'lawless badlands' which tends to be applied to FATA is far away from the truth in reference to Punjab. It is considered by many as the most progressive province of Pakistan, and boasts a number of cities which are well established metropolitan centers of modernity and liberalism. At the same time there is the 'other ' Punjab. This is the rural Punjab of the South and even adjoining major urban centers, which has traditionally been the nursery for organizations like Sipah-­‐e-­‐Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Jaish-­‐e-­‐Muhammad (JM). These groups have sprung up from a conflict between a Shia elite and a burgeoning Sunni bourgeoisie in the city of Jhang in the case of SSP; and in the case of JM, a long standing toleration of militancy in Bahawalpur. This 'other' Punjab does not suffer from terrorist attacks as have been witnessed in cities in Punjab like Lahore and Rawalpindi, arguably because it is a sanctuary for these militants. As an Urdu proverb goes' One does not spit in the vessel in which one eats', the militants have tried not to attract attention in the South of Punjab so that they can continue to train and recruit without interference.

Punjab accounts for almost 50 percent of Pakistan’s 172 million population. There are more than 20,000 madrasahs in Pakistan, 44 percent of which are situated in Punjab. The government has banned 29 organizations and put 1,764 people on its wanted list, out of which 729 are from southern Punjab2. The linkages between both al-­‐Qaeda and the Pashtun Taliban groups to extremists in the core Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh has long been documented, but so far much of the fighting within Pakistan has remained a struggle between the Pakistani government and the Pashtuns. Accordingly, the mobilization of Punjabi islamist militants may be the next phase in the militancy as a consequence of the pressure on the Taliban in Waziristan and Swat due to the Pakistani Army’s military operations in these regions.

For complete article, click here

Sunday, February 16, 2014

An initiative by the Eqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education


GOAL: EACPE seeks to foster the use of science and reason to understand nature and society and so better enable citizens of Pakistan to participate fully in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of their society; to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities; to value human rights, democracy and the rule of law; to promote cultural and religious diversity; to raise awareness of global issues and the natural environment; and to advance the goals of international peace and justice.

The immediate aim is to produce and promote, equally in Urdu and English, 6-10 minute videos on important social, political, and scientific issues. One new video will be uploaded every week (see website).

Interviews of prominent Pakistani scholars and commentators will be undertaken at the next step.

We welcome others to be part of this effort and will host other suitable videos.

The current video list:

1. WHY IDEOLOGY? (Nazariyyeh Ki Zaroorat?)
Many people never ask, never question. They simply believe. Could this
be because of human biology?

2. A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS? (Tahzeebon Ka Tassadum?)
Many think that Islam and the West are at war with each other. True?
Let's have a second look.

(Ameer Aur Ghareeb Mulk -Akhir Kyon?)
Culture is critical in deciding between poverty and progress. But which aspects of culture?

4. THE DOWNSIDE OF NATIONALISM (Qaum Parasti Kay Muzir Asrat)
The world is integrated economically and yet torn apart by nationalist fervour. Why? After all, you and I had no choice in choosing our parents or country.

5. NATIONALIST MOVEMENTS ? GOOD OR BAD? (Kya Qaum Parast Tehreekon Ki Himayat Ki Jaey?)
Thousands have been killed in the separatist struggles against the central authority of various nation states in South Asia. Whose side should one be on?

6. THE BIG BANG - JUST A MYTH? (Big Bang - Mehz Aik Nazariya?)
Every culture and religion has its own version of creation. But here is the evidence that science offers.

7. WHERE IS THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE? (Kainat Ka Markaz Kahan Hai?)
A student recently asked me if Mecca was where the Big Bang started from. Yes, I said, but Karachi is also the centre....

8. HOW WILL OUR UNIVERSE END? (Kainat Ka Anjam Kya Hoga?)
Until a decade ago we didn't know how everything would end. Now, we do and it's nothing to look forward to!

9. BLACK HOLES IN EUROPE? (Zameen Par Black Hole Banana Mumkin Hai?)
Citizens of France and Switzerland are very worried they will be eaten up by a black hole made at CERN. Should they be?

10. LIFE IN OUTER SPACE? (Ghair Shamsi Sayyaron Par Zindagi?)
Over 1000 extrasolar planets have been discovered and there are billions more. What is the chance of finding life?

11. SWINDLES IN SCIENCE (Science Kay Double Shah)
A car that would run only on water enthralled Pakistan. How can we save ourselves from such embarrassments in future?

12. IS AMERICA CAUSING STORMS AND EARTHQUAKES IN PAKISTAN? (Kya Pakistan Main Anay Walay Toofan Aur Zalzalay Amrika Kay Tuhfay Hain? )
People allege that America has developed the means to change weather and Pakistan is among its victims. True?

Thank you,
Pervez Hoodbhoy