Pakistan still global jihad hub

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PESHAWAR: Pakistan is still a major destination for radicalised Muslims bent on a life of jihad, despite hundreds of US drone strikes, the death of Osama bin Laden and the fracturing of Al-Qaeda.

New battlegrounds have sprung up in Africa and the Middle East, but the number of foreign recruits smuggled into the northwestern tribal belt is increasing and they come from more diverse countries.

Since the 1980s “jihad” to expel Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Muslim fighters from all over the world have lived and trained on the Afghan-Pakistan border, moulded into Al-Qaeda and a host of spin-off militant networks.

After US-led forces in late 2001 evicted the Taliban in Kabul for sheltering Al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban fled across the border into Pakistan.

But Washington and Nato will end their combat mission in Afghanistan next year and these days the Taliban say their foreign allies are drawn to other conflicts, despite their support networks in a region outside direct government control.

“Al-Qaeda is shifting its focus to Syria, Libya, Iraq or Mali,” one member of the Afghan Taliban told AFP on condition of anonymity in northwest Pakistan.

Local officials estimate the number of Arab fighters has fallen by more than a half or two thirds in the last 10 years, to below 1,000.

In the last two years, some Al-Qaeda Arabs, particularly Libyans and Syrians, left to take part in the civil war in Syria and the violent uprising that overthrew Libya’s dictator Muammar Qadhafi in 2011.

Others migrated to Iraq in 2003, and others to Somalia and Yemen.

But Saifullah Khan Mehsud, executive director of the Fata Research Center, a think-tank focused on the tribal belt, says uprisings in the Middle East have had a minimal effect on the Arab presence in Pakistan.

“Arab fighters are not leaving in big numbers,” he told AFP. “They have been there for 30 years and it continues,” he added.

The number of fighters from other countries is also rising, say witnesses in Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan — the district with the largest concentration of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.

“The overall number of foreign jihadis has increased in the last two years. Every week we see new faces,” says one regular visitor.

There could be around 2,000 to 3,500 foreign fighters in the border areas from around 30 different countries. During the 1980s, the number was also estimated to have been several thousand.

More nationalities, same problems

Most of the current crop are Turkmens and Uzbeks, numbering between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters according to local officials, who have fled authoritarian secular regimes in their home countries to set up their own groups.

The Islamic Jihad Union, which splintered from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, is based in Pakistan’s border areas. It is committed to toppling the government in Uzbekistan, and fights alongside insurgents in Afghanistan.

It has also plotted an attack in Germany, which was foiled.

US officials say covert drone strikes have played a huge role in destroying training camps and disrupting Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 362 US drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since 2004 — 310 of them since US President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

Although North Waziristan locals say the strikes kill more Taliban than Al-Qaeda operatives, they have condemned foreign fighters to a life underground.

“They are low profile, they dress like locals, they avoid big meetings and above all they move all the time,” a local journalist told AFP.

Mehsud says that foreigners are coming from a more diverse number of countries than in years past.

“A few months ago, we even welcomed some (two or three) people from Fiji for the first time!” says the Taliban member who spoke with AFP.

“There are more nationalities because they face the same problems. They tell us that they feel left aside by capitalism and discriminated by unfair laws, like the Swiss one on minarets or the French one on hijabs,” he adds.

Local and Western officials say the number of Western militants have fallen to dozens compared to the several hundreds of a few years ago.

A Canadian, who uses the name Mohammad Ibrahim, told AFP that he had been in Pakistan for three years but was now preparing to leave to wage jihad at home.

“Foreigners are now afraid to come to Pakistan because of the drone strikes,” he says, putting the number of his compatriots at 14, compared to “60 to 85 three years ago”.

A mechanical engineer by training, he says he works in “technical and logistic affairs” but does not elaborate further.

“I often met British, Spanish, Italians, Algerians and Germans. But now…our movements have been limited because of the drone strikes,” he says.

Courtesy: DAWN
http://dawn.com/2013/01/27/pakistan-still-global-jihad-hub/

China Industrial Companies’ Profits Climb a Fourth Month

By Bloomberg News

Chinese industrial companies’ profits rose for a fourth month in December, adding to signs the country’s economic rebound is gaining momentum.

Net income increased 17.3 percent from a year earlier to 895 billion yuan ($144 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics said today in Beijing, after a 22.8 percent jump in November. Earnings for the full year gained 5.3 percent.

Industrial profits may rise by an average 30 percent this year as the world’s second-biggest economy recovers from a seven-quarter slowdown, businesses start restocking and export demand improves, Standard Chartered Plc forecasts. Expansion in gross domestic product may accelerate to 8.1 percent this year from 7.8 percent in 2012, according to the median of 44 analyst estimates in a Bloomberg News survey this month. …

Read more » Bloomberg
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-27/china-industrial-companies-profits-climb-a-fourth-month.html

Beheading soldiers is not a Pakistani monopoly. Karan Thapar in the Hindustan Times when the Indian Army too beheaded Pakistan soldiers and displayed their heads as trophies.

The lines of control

By Karan Thapar

The beheading of an Indian soldier on the LoC and the mutilation of another were undoubtedly unacceptable and unpardonable. This was barbaric behaviour. The anger and revulsion it’s provoked is understandable. There’s no denying that. However, there’s one question we need to ask but mainly failed to raise. Have we ever been guilty of similar behaviour ourselves?

From what I can tell the answer seems to be yes. On the 10th, The Hindu reported that last year, during a skirmish at Karnah, “Indian Special Forces responded by attacking a Pakistani forward post, killing several soldiers, and by the account of one military official which The Hindu could not corroborate independently, beheaded two.”

What makes this claim credible is that it’s reported by military sources who not only ought to know but would not denigrate the reputation of Indian soldiers.

Alas, there’s more evidence. This time from eye-witnesses.

In her ‘Confessions of a War Reporter’, published in June 2001 by Himal, a well-known Nepalese magazine, Barkha Dutt recounted how she witnessed a decapitated Pakistani soldier’s head at Kargil. This is what she wrote: “I had to look three times to make sure I was seeing right … “Look again,” said the army colonel, in a tone that betrayed suppressed excitement. This time, I finally saw. It was a head, the disembodied face of a slain soldier nailed onto a tree. “The boys got it as a gift for the brigade,” said the colonel, softly, but proudly.”

Harinder Baweja, the editor (Investigation) of this paper, witnessed something similar. This is the account from her book A Soldier’s Diary, Kargil — The Inside Story: “The experiences of 18 Garhwal show another side of the war … one of them took out his knife and slit the head of a Pakistani soldier in one stroke. The head was sent to Brigade Headquarters at Drass and pinned to a tree trunk … the enemy head, a grisly trophy, became an exhibition piece. Major General Puri came down from Mughalpura to see it. Other officers dropped in to Brigade Headquarters to take a look. So did some journalists … it was there pinned on the tree for anyone who could bear to look at it.”

Continue reading Beheading soldiers is not a Pakistani monopoly. Karan Thapar in the Hindustan Times when the Indian Army too beheaded Pakistan soldiers and displayed their heads as trophies.

Japan Keeps Its Cool – Why Tokyo’s New Government Is More Pragmatic Than Hawkish

By J. Berkshire Miller and Takashi Yokota

Japan’s recent territorial tussles with China and South Korea and the election of the conservative Shinzo Abe as prime minister have the world worrying that the country is taking a hawkish turn. In practice, however, Tokyo’s new government will toe a moderate line and concentrate on strengthening its diplomatic ties. ….

Read more » Foreign Affairs
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138770/j-berkshire-miller-and-takashi-yokota/japan-keeps-its-cool?cid=soc-twitter-in-snapshots-japan_keeps_its_cool-012213

Pakistan – a failed state on a tinderbox

By Joel Brinkley

Distracted by the deadly violence in Mali and Algeria, no one seems to be paying adequate attention to the tragicomedy under way in Pakistan.

This matters because events of the last several weeks demonstrate without equivocation that Pakistan is an utterly failed state – but one that possesses nuclear weapons. The country is tumbling down the abyss. Where else could a fundamentalist Muslim cleric who lives in Canada draw tens of thousands of fans to a rally calling for dissolution of the government – speaking from inside a shipping container with a bulletproof window?

That’s just one in a litany of absurdities going on there.

At the same time comes the latest round of unresolvable acrimony between President Asif Ali Zardari and the country’s Supreme Court, which has been trying to bring him down for years.

Courtesy: San Francisco Chronicle

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/brinkley/article/Pakistan-a-failed-state-on-a-tinderbox-4224701.php#ixzz2JBWx9ixN