What happened at Sahiwal?

Four years after the APS Massacre, and one year after the killing ofNaqeebullah Mehsud, Pakistan was once again struck by the tragic incident at Sahiwal in which innocents lost their lives in what was clearly an encounter killing (and not a terrorism related incident). If the state authorities had been more vigilant against terror groups, APS could have been avoided. Similarly, if clear and direct action had been taken against Rao Anwar then another encounter killing could also have been avoided.

On Saturday, three members of a family— husband, wife and their teenage daughter — and their friend were killed in what the Punjab police referred to as “a shootout with terrorists near Sahiwal. The couple’s minor son sustained a bullet injury while two other daughters remained safe. The family was travelling in a car when the alleged encounter — which the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials later termed an ‘intelligence-based operation’ — took place on GT Road in Qadirabad area near Sahiwal.”

According to eyewitness accounts, however, “the three family members and their driver were shot dead in “cold blood by the police”. They categorically stated that no weapon was recovered from the vehicle after the alleged shootout. A video of the crime scene, available with DawnNewsTV, shows the bodies lying in the bullet-riddled car after the firing incident. In another video, also doing rounds on social media, eyewitnesses and people present at the hospital can be seen suggesting that police shot the family members in cold blood and following the incident, the CTD personnel initially abandoned the wounded children at the crime scene and left. They alleged that it was only after some time that they returned to the crime scene and shifted the three injured children to a government-run hospital nearby.”

Further, “The deceased were identified by relatives as residents of the Kot Lakhpat area in the suburbs of Lahore. They include grocery store owner Mohammad Khalil, 42, his wife Nabila, 38, their 13-year-old daughter Areeba and their friend, Zeeshan Javed, who was driving the car and police said he was on the country’s wanted terrorist list. Khalil is survived by his wounded son Umair and two daughters aged below five years.”

At a press conference on Sunday Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat “termed the killings of three members of the same family in a Sahiwal police ‘encounter’ “collateral damage” — caused during security personnel’s attempt to eliminate a suspected terrorist who along with his accomplices could cause large-scale destruction.”

Amidst outcry, Prime Minister Imran Khan “contacted Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and sought a report in connection with the Sahiwal incident. The prime minister also directed to hold a transparent and detailed inquiry into the incident to uncover the facts.

Later in the day, Buzdar ordered the arrest of the CTD officials involved in the tragic incident, DawnNewsTV reported. Meanwhile, the Punjab Inspector General (IG) has announced the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the incident. The provincial police chief said that DIG Zulfikar Hameed will head the JIT, which comprises officials from the Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau and Military Intelligence. The team has been asked to submit its report within three days.”

‘Imran Khan’s Mr. Clean Image Takes Hit with Sister’s unexplained Fortune’

Imran Khan ran his campaign and has been trying to run his government under the image of Mr Clean. While we at New Pakistan have always been skeptical of such claims, the story of Mr Khan’s sister, Aleema Khan needs to be discussed.

In October 2018 a report submitted by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to the Supreme Court revealed that “Several prominent political figures and government officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khanum, own benami properties in Dubai.”

On November 30, 2018, then Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar during the hearing of a suo motu case pertaining to foreign property holdings of Pakistani nationals had inquired from Chairman FBR “if the premier’s sister owns any property in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and further inquired if she had benefited from an amnesty scheme.”

In early January an investigative report in The News proved that Ms Khan “owns expensive property in the United States. According to Ahmed Noorani, Aleema Khan owns three flats of a four-story building in New Jersey, while her business partner owns a single flat. The current worth of Aleema Khan’s New Jersey property is over Rs45 crore, Noorani said, adding she holds 75 percent of the property.”

Subsequent investigations have revealed that Ms Khan owns considerable assets within Pakistan as well. “Aleema Khan, Prime Minister Imran Khan s sister who has been accused of concealing her assets, owns a company named Cotcom Sourcing Pvt Ltd, according to data available with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), which is the financial regulatory body in Pakistan. Dunya News has obtained documents which reveal that she is presently the CEO of the Cotcom Sourcing Pvt Ltd, whereas her sons Shahrez Azeem Khan and Shershah Khan are directors of the company. Besides, her company is also included in the Active Taxpayers List (ATL) of the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR). According to the documents, the company paid Rs18,27000 tax for the financial year 2016, Rs32,82000 for the financial year 2015, Rs24,90000 for the financial year 2014. For the financial year 2013, Aleema Khan paid Rs20,62000 tax, Rs1,58000 for the year 2014, Rs1,86000 for the year 2015 and Rs1,30000 for the year 2016.”

When questioned Ms Khan argued that she had bought the Dubai and US properties “through her export business and assets transferred from her father. “I am a businesswoman for the last 20 years and nothing was hidden from the concerned authorities. I have declared everything in my wealth statement, she responded when questioned whether she is benamidar of PM Imran Khan.”

What we at New Pakistan find interesting is that Ms Khan claims she inherited lots of property from her father and she used that to become the businesswoman that she is today.

However, Mr Khan always claimed that his father di dnot have enough money, that he and his sister were raised poor and that the reason he decided to build a hospital in his mother’s memory was because she died and their family did not have enough money for her treatment.

We wonder what the truth really is.

Is U.S. underestimating Terrorists’ Strength and Malign Intent in Afghanistan?

At a time when the US is contemplating military withdrawal from Afghanistan it appears that the US military is underestimating the strength of its opponent.

In a recent piece, noted analyst Bill Roggio argues that the US military is “grossly underestimating” the size and scope of the Afghan Taliban. “In its latest quarterly report, US Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) approximated the Taliban’s strength as between 28,000 and 40,000 fighters.” Roggio terms this as “wildly unrealistic given the level and intensity of fighting in Afghanistan, as well as the number of Taliban casualties claimed by Afghan security forces.” Instead he states that the Taliban’s strength “is likely to number well over 100,000 fighters.” This is because the Taliban “could not possibly do what it has done with merely 40,000 fighters.”

Roggio also argues that there is a need to end the distinction that is made between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Haqqani Network as it “is one without difference; Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, has been the deputy to Taliban emir Mullah Habiatullah and military commander of the group since 2015. The two groups stopped denying that they are separate entities in 2008.”

The Long War Journal article argues that “the lowball estimate of Taliban strength may reflect a fundamental problem that the US military and intelligence community have had in attempting to estimate the strength of insurgent and terrorist groups throughout the world. To find an example of this inherent problem, look no further than Afghanistan and the US military’s faulty estimate of al Qaeda’s strength. Between 2010 and 2015, the US military and intelligence agencies claimed that al Qaeda maintained 50 to 100 fighters in the country. FDD’s Long War Journal, using the US military’s own press releases that documented raids against al Qaeda, disputed this static estimate. That delusory estimate of al Qaeda strength was used by the Obama administration to claim that al Qaeda was “decimated” and rendered ineffective. The military’s estimate of al Qaeda manpower did not change for six years, up until the US military raided two al Qaeda camps in Shorabak district in Kandahar. More than 150 al Qaeda fighters were killed during that raid alone. This forced the US military to revise its estimate of al Qaeda strength from 50-100 to 100-300. LWJ has maintained that the revised number is still far too low. Ironically, the US military’s current estimate of al Qaeda strength of 200 fighters is the average of the revised estimate from 2015.”

Further, “The US military and intelligence community have failed spectacularly in estimating the strength of terrorist groups in other theaters. For instance, the strength of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 2013 was first estimated to be about 10,000 fighters. Then it was revised upward to between 20,000 to 32,000. The US military has since claimed to have killed that many ISIS fighters since then. In Yemen, the number of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was estimated at several hundred when the group overran large areas of the south. Today, the number is said to be 6,000 to 7,000. If the US military’s claim that the Taliban has 28,000 to 40,000 fighters in its rank and file are to be believed, then it reflects quite badly on the Afghan security forces. Additionally, it does not explain how the Taliban has had the initiative throughout the country and magically regenerates its battlefield losses. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) “numbered 312,328 personnel in July 2018, including 194,017 ANA [Afghan National Army] personnel and 118,311 ANP [Afghan National Police] personnel,” according to the Inspector General’s report. Additionally, there are more than 16,000 NATO troops operating under Resolute Support’s mission, and another 8,000 US troops operating under the command of USFOR-A. If USFOR-A’s current estimate is correct, then the coalition is getting hammered by a force one-tenth its size.”

Finally, “The Taliban, despite US Department of Defense claims to the contrary, has the initiative in Afghanistan. It is fighting in nearly all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. If the Taliban evenly distributed its forces through the 34 provinces (it does not), it would have an estimated 1,100 fighters in each. Of course, the Taliban does not operate this way, instead it distributes its fighters based on need. Provinces such as Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul, and Ghazni draw a large number of Taliban fighters. In these provinces, the Taliban controls and contests large numbers of districts. To accomplish this, logic dictates that the Taliban must deploy tens of thousands to these five provinces alone. But the Taliban’s strength nationwide is significant. It is a powerful force in the eastern provinces of Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Logar, Wardak, and Laghman. In the northeast, it controls or contests a significant amount of terrain in Kunar, Nuristan, and Badakhshan. The same is true in the north in the provinces of Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar, Balkh, Jawzjan, Sar-i-Pul, and Faryab, and the western provinces of Herat, Farah, Badghis, and Nimruz. Even in the central provinces of Bayman, Ghor, and Daykundi, the Taliban has made significant inroads. Even the high-end estimate of 40,000 Taliban fighters does not hold up to scrutiny if you factor in the average of daily Taliban casualties given by Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior. Based on press releases, the Defense and Interior Ministries claim that between 30 to 50 Taliban fighters are killed daily. If this is averaged out over the course of a year, the Taliban would incur 11,000 to 18,000 fighters killed each year. This would mean the Taliban is regenerating losses of between 28 and 45 percent each year. These numbers do not include wounded, many of which would be unfit to return to the fight.”

Why is Pakistan continuing to Slide?

Whither Pakistan and does anyone care where we are going today?

In his latest piece, veteran journalist Irfan Hussain tries to answer the question about “Our Missing Mojo.”

According to Hussain, “Older readers will recall that there was a time when Pakistan punched above its weight, and was taken seriously in international forums. Now, our green passport is listed at fifth from the bottom by the Henley Passport Index that ranks the acceptability of passports by other countries that permit their holders entry on arrival. Thus, Japanese passports, at the top of the index, are accepted at the airports of 190 countries, while 33 nations extend a similar courtesy to Pakistani passports. Even this number seems a bit high, considering the hoops Pakistanis are made to jump through when applying for a visa to most countries.”

Hussain traces the “slide to the bottom” to a number of factors: “So why have things got so bad? Wars have consequences, and this is something past generals did not manage to grasp. The 1965 war over Kashmir under Ayub Khan, the 1971 war under Yahya Khan, and the absurd Kargil conflict unleashed by Musharraf all had one thing in common: they were led by generals who had seized power through coups. Out of the three wars, the 1971 conflict with India has left the deepest scars, and not just because we lost on the battlefield. The bloody civil war and the widespread killing of Bengalis tarnished Pakistan’s image around the globe.”

Further, 1971 “was followed by decades of increasing levels of extremism that led to terrorism on a huge scale. Minorities and foreigners have been targeted, and the state and security personnel challenged as never before. As a result, the abiding image of Pakistan abroad has been that of a breeding and training centre for jihadis. Although the security environment has improved considerably over the last year, many still see the country as ground zero for the global jihad. Every now and then, televised images of ferocious, bearded men holding the country to ransom are beamed around the world.”

Also, “Constant political upheavals have not helped in changing this perception. Elected governments have either been turfed out by the military establishment, or destabilised by ambitious rivals. A hyperactive judiciary has added to the political uncertainty.”

Also, according to Hussain, “the rest of the world is tired of the 70-year-old Kashmir problem, and even our closest friends no longer talk about implementing the old UN resolutions on the Valley. This may seem unfair, but who said life was fair? The reality is that India is a huge market, and its soft power gives it a clout few countries can match. And our two-faced posture towards the Taliban in Afghanistan has served to lose us friends in the West, with Nato soldiers being killed and wounded by fighters who allegedly found shelter in our tribal areas. Small wonder our stock in Washington is the lowest it has been in decades.”

‘How the world sees Pakistan & its problems’

An international consensus appears to be building that the narrow worldview of Pakistan’s army and the policies it espouses are the reason for Pakistan’s perennial crisis.  

The Economist recently summarized the experts’ views in its January 12, 2019 issue, under the title “Praetorian penury: Pakistan’s army is to blame for the poverty of the country’s 208m citizens.” It blamed the Pakistani army for fostering “the paranoia and extremism that hold the country back.”

The Economist editorial is a must-read for all Pakistanis. It argues that Pakistan “has for so long been a country of such unmet potential that the scale of Pakistan’s dereliction towards its people is easily forgotten. Yet on every measure of progress, Pakistanis fare atrociously. More than 20m children are deprived of school. Less than 30% of women are employed. Exports have grown at a fifth of the rate in Bangladesh and India over the past 20 years. And now the ambitions of the new government under Imran Khan, who at least acknowledges his country’s problems (see Briefing), are thwarted by a balance-of-payments crisis. If Mr Khan gets an imf bail-out, it will be Pakistan’s 22nd. The persistence of poverty and maladministration, and the instability they foster, is a disaster for the world’s sixth-most-populous country. Thanks to its nuclear weapons and plentiful religious zealots, it poses a danger for the world, too.”

Next, it says, “Many, including Mr Khan, blame venal politicians for Pakistan’s problems. Others argue that Pakistan sits in a uniquely hostile part of the world, between war-torn Afghanistan and implacable India. Both these woes are used to justify the power of the armed forces. Yet the army’s pre-eminence is precisely what lies at the heart of Pakistan’s troubles. The army lords it over civilian politicians. Last year it helped cast out the previous prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and engineer Mr Khan’s rise (as it once did Mr Sharif’s).”

And, “Since the founding of Pakistan in 1947, the army has not just defended state ideology but defined it, in two destructive ways. The country exists to safeguard Islam, not a tolerant, prosperous citizenry. And the army, believing the country to be surrounded by enemies, promotes a doctrine of persecution and paranoia. The effects are dire. Religiosity has bred an extremism that at times has looked like tearing Pakistan apart. The state backed those who took up arms in the name of Islam. Although they initially waged war on Pakistan’s perceived enemies, before long they began to wreak havoc at home. Some 60,000 Pakistanis have died at the hands of militants, most of whom come under the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (ttp). The army at last moved against them following an appalling school massacre in 2014. Yet even today it shelters violent groups it finds useful. Some leaders of the Afghan Taliban reside in Quetta. The presumed instigator of a series of attacks in Mumbai in 2008, which killed 174, remains a free man.”

Further, “Melding religion and state has other costs, including the harsh suppression of local identities—hence long-running insurgencies in Baloch and Pushtun areas. Religious minorities, such as the Ahmadis, are cruelly persecuted. As for the paranoia, the army is no more the state’s glorious guardian than India is the implacable foe. Of the four wars between the two countries, all of which Pakistan lost, India launched only one, in 1971—to put an end to the genocide Pakistan was unleashing in what became Bangladesh. Even if politicking before a coming general election obscures it, development interests India more than picking fights. The paranoid doctrine helps the armed forces commandeer resources. More money goes to them than on development. Worse, it has bred a habit of geopolitical blackmail: help us financially or we might add to your perils in a very dangerous part of the world. This is at the root of Pakistan’s addiction to aid, despite its prickly nationalism. The latest iteration of this is China’s $60bn investment in roads, railways, power plants and ports, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (cpec). The fantasy that, without other transformations, prosperity can be brought in from outside is underscored by cpec’s transport links. Without an opening to India, they will never fulfil their potential. But the army blocks any rapprochement.”

Finally, “Mr Khan’s government can do much to improve things. It should increase its tax take by clamping down on evasion, give independence to the monetary authority and unify the official and black-market exchange rates. Above all, it should seek to boost competitiveness and integrate Pakistan’s economy with the world’s. All that can raise growth. Yet the challenge is so much greater. By mid-century, Pakistan’s population will have increased by half. Only sizzling rates of economic growth can guarantee Pakistanis a decent life, and that demands profound change in how the economy works, people are taught and welfare is conceived. Failing so many, in contrast, really will be felt beyond the country’s borders. Transformation depends on Pakistan doing away with the state’s twin props of religion and paranoia—and with them the army’s power. Mr Khan is not obviously the catalyst for radical change. But he must recognise the problem. He has made a start by standing up to demagogues baying for the death of Asia Bibi, a Christian labourer falsely accused of blasphemy. However, wholesale reform is beyond the reach of any one individual, including the prime minister. Many politicians, businesspeople, intellectuals, journalists and even whisky-swilling generals would far rather a more secular Pakistan. They should speak out. Yes, for some there are risks, not least to their lives or liberty. But for most—especially if they act together—the elites have nothing to lose but their hypocrisy.”