By Matthew Fricker, Avery Plaw and Brian Glyn Williams
Widely-cited reports of the inaccuracy and disproportionality of civilian to militant deaths in the CIA’s ongoing Predator drone campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan are grossly misleading. The most detailed database compiled to date, assembled by the authors of this article, indicates (among other important findings) that the strikes have not only been impressively accurate, but have achieved and maintained a greater proportionality than either ground operations in the area or targeting campaigns elsewhere. 
This finding is striking because highly critical reports over the last year, emanating in particular from the Pakistani press, have impugned both the accuracy of the CIA’s drone strikes in the tribal areas of that country and the proportionality of the civilian collateral damage they cause. In April 2009, for example, the Pakistani daily The News published an article by terrorism expert Amir Mir reporting Predator strikes had killed only 14 high value al-Qaeda targets but were responsible for 687 civilian fatalities – a 1:49 ratio of terrorist to civilians (The News [Islamabad], April 10, 2009; see also Terrorism Monitor, February 19). To put it another way, Mir’s report suggested that 98.14% of fatalities associated with the Predator strikes were civilians. On February 1 of this year, Mir added that Continue reading
Karachi’s famous shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi was attacked a while ago. Over 60 people are injured and 12 are dead. After Lahore’s Data Darbar attacks, this is a trend that is gaining an ugly momentum. We condemn this act and mourn the deaths of innocent people who were visiting to perhaps allay their stress and seek some peace from the place. Shrines are not just religious – these are public spaces and also cultural markers. What a shame that terrorists are trying to destroy our culture and turning us into a bunch of afraid people living in a fractured and violent society.
Thursdays are special for shrine-goers. And this is what suits the terrorists’ agenda. This is not the first time that such a heinous tragedy has occurred. We are living amid barbarians who have no tolerance for people with inclusive and plural Sufi thought. Karachi has suffered such an attack for the first time. Reports of the city having turned into a hub of Al-Qaeda and faith-based militants are all too well known. A new phase of terror may have bgun for the city that has already been suffering ethnic, sectarian and other forms of violence. This does not augur well for the port city, its centrality to our economy, trade and prospects. Continue reading
Nasima Zehra Awan laments the media romances with sectarian Islamists while the country drowns
The August 21st editorial by DAWN is a good example of what is wrong with the media in Pakistan. “Hardliners and Flood Relief” is precisely the kind of vacillating apologia for extremists that is the bane of the local media.A media that has anointed itself as “Independent” for hounding out elected politicians at the behest of a powerful establishment, has failed in informing the public about the various Islamist militant groups and their agendas. In this regard, it is baffling that DAWN’s editorial prefers to maintain an Ostrich-like approach to the exponentially growing existential threat from these sectarian bigots.
President Zardari is absolutely correct in pointing out this threat. The exclusive bashing of elected PPP leaders is the national sport in our elite drawing rooms and reflects our impotent rage that can never be directed at the actual source of our problems but at those who cannot strike back. It is therefore sad that DAWN follows suit and completely disregards the warning of Pakistan’s elected president and chooses to maintain the establishment-led status quo in protecting its Jihadi assets.
In covering the hundreds of targeted killings of minority sects and religious groups like the Ahmadis, Shias and Christians, DAWN studiously maintains a policy of obfuscating the issue via the use of euphemisms. In doing so, it dishonestly creates a false symmetry between the victims (Ahmadis, Shias and Christians) and their killers, the vast nexus of sectarian Salafist Jihadi groups like Sipah Sahaba, its militant wing, Lashkar Jhangvi, Lashkar Tayabba, Jaish Mohammad and Harkat ul Mujahideen amongst a host of other related subsidiaries. For a newspaper that allies itself with Jinnah, the irony that the country’s Shiite Muslim founder would have been a fair game for these sectarian groups is completely lost on DAWN!
Since the beginning of the flood crisis, Pakistan’s media has preferred to lynch the elected government as opposed to galvanizing the public and the International community towards relief efforts. In trying to divert attention away from banned groups who are using the tragedy of these floods to increase their hold on Pakistan, DAWN has allied itself with the same reactionary and bigoted class that prefers an authoritarian future for Pakistan under an Continue reading
PTH is starting a series of posts devoted to the Pakistan’s current crisis effects of which will be long term in nature. While millions of Pakistanis are in dire need of emergency help, our country’s political and economic instability will have ramifications for the region and the world. This is why it is extremely important to understand how several parts of Pakistan have lost decades of development and a state with weak capacities needs billions of dollars in the short term to start a major programme of rehabilitation. If Pakistani state is unable to intervene, the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda militants (and their allies in South Punjab) will find a golden opportunity to annihilate the Pakistani state, discredit constitutional governance and capture political space. Pakistanis cannot be silent victims and therefore we will speak. Pakistan has to be rescued and the international community cannot absolve itself of the responsibility towards its frontline state. Raza Rumi
AA Khalid, a regular at PTH, has written the first article for this series.
Pakistan Floods – Issues and Lessons
The weakness of the State in Pakistani politics has always been a concern but with the advent of the tragic floods it has been exemplified and magnified. In a recent Guardian article it has been observed that:
‘’Ever since Pakistan was created, the army has been the only institution capable of responding to natural disasters. One of the reasons that the military has been so politically dominant is that successive civilian governments have relied on the generals to help them deal with national crises.’’
This is not a problem contingent on which political party is in office, but rather is a comment on the inability of the State to take control and have a discernable sphere of influence and power.
Elsewhere it has been noted that the problem of the international response has been marred by perceptions of Pakistan that have been focused and limited to violence. In another Guardian article:
‘’ Compare and contrast: within days of the 2004 tsunami, £100m had poured into Oxfam, the Red Cross and other charities, and by February 2005 when the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) closed its appeal, the total stood at £300m. The Haiti earthquake appeal closed with donations of £101m. The DEC total for the Pakistan floods appeal has just reached £10m. .’’ Continue reading
Cross Post from Terrorism Monitor
By Sadia Sulaiman
Perhaps no one has greater stature or importance in the Pakistani Taliban leadership than Hafiz Gul Bahadur, supreme commander of the North Waziristani Taliban. A direct descendant of Mirza Ali Khan, a legendary Waziristani freedom fighter who fought against the British Indian government and later against the newly established Pakistani State, Bahadur is known for hosting foreign militants, mainly al-Qaeda and other Arab groups, as well as Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani of the cross-border Haqqani network.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur is 48 years old and belongs to the Madda Khel clan of the Uthmanzai Wazir. He is a resident of Lwara, a region bordering Afghanistan and is reported to have received his religious education from a Deobandi madrassa (seminary) in Multan (The Post [Lahore], August 19). Bahadur subscribes to the Deobandi Islamic revivalist ideology and maintains a political affiliation with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F), a Deobandi political party. Bahadur fought in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s and again during Taliban rule. Continue reading
A small headline made its way to the newspaper today. Mian Nawaz Sharif admitted that the proxy policies that Pakistan pursued in Afghanistan during the 1990s were wrong and destructive for Afghanistan. He realizes that “’Our policy in the past has failed. Neither will such a policy work in future. We have a centuries-old relationship, and we can maintain this relationship only when we remain neutral and support the government elected there with the desire of the Afghan people.”
In between bleak and despondent atmosphere that comes from reading Pakistani news, we tend to forget our land is still governed by a working democracy, free press and free judiciary. While we never cease to malign the very leaders that we elect (and they do leave a lot to desire at times with their short sighted actions), we have two major parties that have worked together on charter of democracy, NFC accord, and are in general agreement against the scourge of religious based extremism that has morphed into a existential threat for Pakistan itself.
For the first sixty three years of our existence, we are still in the process of finding our footings. Our geographic location is a mixed blessing as we found ourselves right in the midst of the great conflict that raged between the Red Russia and the ascendant West. The Muslim nationalism that formed the basis of our existence did include our religion as one of the major influences. As the twentieth century rolled on and more Muslim countries gained independence from the colonial rules, Islam-as-a-political-system ideology started finding proponents in the Middle East and the Indian Sub Continent. Pakistan as a new state gained for Muslims fell progressively to the vague and undefined relationship that Muslim nationalism and Islamic theocracy engenders. In the absence of a prescient leadership, Pakistan never was able to segregate the role of religion from its political system. The confusion morphed into a full blown infection as decades rolled on.
By Basim Usmani
Cross Post from The Guardian
The violence seen in Lahore last week was aided by a bigoted constitution. How has stock in our nationhood plummeted so?
The recent attacks on a prominent shrine in Lahore demonstrate how the unrest in Pakistan is caused by a minority of few who cannot tolerate the plurality of beliefs in Pakistan. The Tehrik-e-Taliban are lying through their teeth when they claim that they do not attack public places. It’s becoming more and more apparent that these militants aren’t resisting American hegemony; this a war to determine Pakistan’s future and, by proxy, the future of Islam.
Whether the Tehrik-e-Taliban actually arranged the bombers’ suicide belts is irrelevant; they have created a domino effect that’s likely to spread from commercial capitals such as Lahore to cities with historic shrines and Pakistani historical sites, such as Multan, or Taxila.
Unlike Baghdad, where violence between Islamic sects is a product of the war America is waging, the onus of last Thursday’s blasts falls squarely on us, the citizens of Pakistan. We have been complacent about sectarianism for too long.
A good friend who works for a transportation company told me in 2007 that in villages along the highways to Waziristan where the Taliban had seized control were the bodies of butchered Shia Muslims. That year, Lahore’s public was too busy mobilising about the judiciary and President Musharraf to pay the violence any mind.