Sunday, 28 September 2014

My views on operation Zarb-e-Azb

The operation looks on course as far as regaining the territory of North Waziristan is concerned. It would serve [as] a significant symbolic as well as psychological blow to many jihadis who had developed a deep affinity with this area.
However in the long run, there are quite a few challenges. First, as a state, we still lack a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. There is no clarity of thought over Islamist militancy within the general public at large and much of the ruling class.
Even most of our policy-makers have fallen for the very propaganda narratives they once created to delegitimise the enemy. As a result of this, many of the policy-makers continue to consider some militants as allies and strategic assets when in fact those militants are hand-in-glove with Al Qaeda.
There are way too many contradictions in the Pakistani narrative on jihadi groups. My research into militancy shows that this flawed narrative serves as the quickest and most convenient approach to draw many Islamists into the fold of militant Islamism.
We need to realise that the formulation of a successful counter-terrorism strategy would require some serious introspection and analysis of our worldview and strategic focus.
Published: Dawn, 28th July 2014

How successful has been the North Waziristan military operation?

Karachi airport attack - My views on the BBC

Dialogue with the Taliban - What next?

Still fighting the last war

By Hasan Abdullah
The script is so predictable it has lost the climax. Militants attack a sensitive installation. While destruction and mayhem are still ongoing, there are clumsy statements apparently aimed at damage control. Statements claiming that strategic assets are safe and the attackers have been pushed back. Once that particular saga is over, condemnations follow. Then there are calls from the highest executives at provincial and/or federal levels directing the concerned departments to investigate the incident and present a “report”.
“You get the impression that a chief minister or the prime minister has to instruct the relevant agencies to

Foreign militants seeking ‘safe passage’

By Hasan Abdullah
MIRAMSHAH: As the government team prepares for another meeting with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), many of the foreign militants based in and around North Waziristan feel they are facing an uncertain future and are not only seeking assurances from their hosts but are also weighing options for moving out to others places, like Afghanistan and Syria, to continue their ‘jihad’.
This emerged during a series of interviews conducted by this corespondent with scores of foreign militants, mainly around North Waziristan, on getting exclusive access to various groups and to some of the most wanted fugitives in the country.

TTP frustrated at ‘defiance’ over ceasefire

By Hasan Abdullah
KARACHI: While there are growing demands for a full-scale military operation following the post-ceasefire terrorist attacks, some experts are urging the government to better understand the militant mindset and use that to the state’s advantage.
“Our society is polarised along the superficial ‘only talks’ and ‘only military operation’ lines. What we need to do is understand the thought process of the militants, their differences with each other and use these differences to pit them against each other,” said an official from the security establishment, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Consortium Of Terror

By Hasan Abdullah
Despite hundreds of attacks and the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis, there is still a great deal of confusion about the number, nature and end goals of the militant organisations operating in Pakistan. For some, they remain figments of a fevered imagination. To others they are proxies of foreign powers.
This belief has not come out of the blue. It is part of an obscurantist narrative the state itself created and propagated. The problem with this narrative is that while it may have delegitimised some jihadi groups within public ranks, it is counter productive in the long run for a number of reasons. First of all, it fails to address the very ideology that promotes militancy and hence the state’s failure to present an effective counter-ideology.

Media now in TTP crosshairs

By Hasan Abdullah

KUNAR: After killing thousands of members of various state organs, as well as others, the violent Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has decided to extend its war by declaring the country’s media as “party” to the conflict.
For the first time since its inception in 2005, the banned militant outfit has not only issued a fatwa against the media but has also prepared a media hit-list — a copy of which is available with Dawn.
The 29-page fatwa accuses the media of siding with the “disbelievers”, against Muslims, in the “war on Islam” and inciting people against “the mujahideen” through propaganda as well as of propagating promiscuity and secularism.

Taliban’s change of heart on polio vaccination

By Hasan Abdullah
KUNAR: Apparently on feeling growing pressure from the sympathisers of those affected by the crippling polio disease, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has officially distanced itself from some of the recent attacks on polio vaccinators in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi, saying it has nothing to do with these killings.
But at the same time there are some senior members in the organisation who have not ruled out the possibility of involvement of some “hard-liners” or “overzealous” members for such violent actions against the polio workers.

While politicians squabble, the TTP gears up

By Hasan Abdullah
KUNAR: While Pakistan’s politicians show only indecisiveness over a strategy for dealing with militants, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has quietly been making the most of the situation and is gearing up for what it conceives of as the “long war ahead”.
Some of Pakistan’s politicians appear to believe that the country’s militancy issues would be resolved once the US and its allies exit Afghanistan. But commanders of the officially banned TTP and even the Afghan Taliban are convinced otherwise.

The big ban theory

By Hasan Abdullah
From the confines of her room, Uzma Riaz has been successfully running a small business for the last few years. She describes herself as a ‘full-time mother’ with an interest in fashion designing, bridal dresses being her niche. Most of her customers are people of Pakistani origin based in Western European countries. She says her laptop fitted with audio/video facilities and an internet connection is the backbone of her business. She talks to her clients through Skype and Viber, but is now worried.

Swat TTP claims it carried out Dir attack

By Hasan Abdullah
LAHORE: The Swat chapter of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the killing on Sept 15 of a major general, a lieutenant colonel and an army soldier. The two officers and the soldier lost their lives when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Upper Dir.
The claim was made in a 20-minute video, which is exclusively available with Dawn.
It purports to show a military jeep driving up a mountainous track while a Taliban cameraman tracks the shot. Suspected militants can be heard in the background praying for “success”.

Lives at airport threatened by bogus bomb detectors

By Hasan Abdullah

KARACHI The lives of thousands of passengers are at stake owing to a major security flaw at the country's busiest airport, technical experts have warned.

The Airport Security Force is continuing to use a bomb detector at the Jinnah International Airport despite the fact that British government and scientists have declared the device “not suitable for bomb detection”.

Staff drain may leave IB spyless

By Hasan Abdullah
KARACHI, Jan 13 A growing number of middle-ranking officers working for the Intelligence Bureau (IB) are desperate to leave the spy agency seeking other options, well-placed sources have told Dawn.
There is a growing feeling within the agency that it stands today “no more than a sarkari ahbaar with its officers collecting reports from TV and friends in journalism”, said an Islamabad-based assistant director at the IB.

“We simply collect these IR (information reports), put them together in the form of a DSR (daily situation report) and forward it to the prime minister,” he said, adding that “journalists are quicker and tend to know more than us anyway”.