Stories about Haqqani network

Pakistan and Afghanistan are in a dangerous stalemate — with no resolution in sight

Last month, Pakistan suffered its deadliest spasm of terrorist violence since 2014. Over a period of four days in February, militants struck all four Pakistani provinces and three major urban spaces. The bloodshed culminated on February 16 with an assault on a revered Sufi shrine that killed nearly 90 people. It was the deadliest terrorist attack on Pakistani soil since a school massacre in the city of Peshawar that killed 141 people, most of them students, in 2014. This killing spree has dangerous implications, not only for Pakistan, which has enjoyed a relative respite from terrorist violence over the last ...

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Are more children going to pay the price for Pakistan’s indecisive stance towards religious extremism?

Back in December 2014, Taliban terrorists attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing 151 people, most of them students. It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan’s terrorism-tortured history, and prompted some Pakistanis to describe it as their 9/11. National leaders, meanwhile, described the massacre as a turning point in the nation’s approach to terrorism. They vowed to crack down more robustly against all terrorists in Pakistan– not just those, like the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), that strike in Pakistan, but also those like the Haqqani Network that strike only in neighbouring countries. To an extent, Pakistan did indeed intensify its campaign against terrorism. It ramped up military operations against the ...

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General Raheel Sharif in Washington: Déjà Vu all over again

As Raheel Sharif visits the United States, it’s worth taking stock of how little has changed in US-Pakistan relations. Imagine you’re the US ambassador to Pakistan, and you’ve been tasked to draft a cable to prepare American officials in Washington for the visit of General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani army chief who has arrived in town for a five-day trip. So what would you say? First, you’d counsel some conciliatory comments: “We should recognise growing Pakistani casualties in the fight against militants … (and) reiterate the long-term US commitment to support Pakistan.” Soon thereafter, however, you’d urge your Washington counterparts to get down to business: “We need ...

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Is Pakistan capable of protecting its minorities?

The recent attack on the Ismaili Muslims in Karachi brought a lot of things into perspective. Firstly, it exposed the ineffectiveness of various military, rangers and police operations, and, secondly, it unveiled the dangers our minority communities are exposed to. But seeing this attack in isolation would not be of any help. We need to understand how religion has facilitated the state and, by extension, the militant organisations over the past decades and how it has led to the conundrum that we find ourselves in now. The first time Islam came to serve the government was in 1953, for Mumtaz Daultana, which led to ...

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How serious is the ISIS threat to South Asia?

Recent weeks have brought a bevy of news headlines attesting to the rising profile of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in South Asia. The group’s literature has circulated in Pakistan, and its flags have been spotted in Kashmir. Several Pakistani militant commanders expressed their allegiance to ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Alleged ISIS recruiters were arrested in Pakistani and Indian cities. Officials in Afghanistan declared that ISIS is “active” in the country’s south. Most significantly, last month, ISIS’s spokesman officially announced the group’s expansion into what he identified as “Khorasan” — a region encompassing present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite all this, some observers, including those writing for the South Asia Channel, argue that ISIS ...

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How long will the US assist Pakistan?

State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki went off the cuff last week to announce that Pakistan has not received any development assistance from the United States since 2013. That was news – Pakistani papers Express Tribune and Dawn headlined it. But it was wrong. Congress released funding to Pakistan in September 2014.  Under the “Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB)” bill, Congress authorised $1.5 billion in development assistance for Pakistan for five years, from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2015. But because USAID must get Congressional blessing of its program plans before it gets the money, money rarely comes through in the year it is budgeted for. So Pakistan received funds ...

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Stop blaming FATA and take responsibility for the IDPs, Pakistan

After months of dithering, the Pakistani government finally approved the long-awaited offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last week. The decision came in the wake of the audacious terrorist attack on the country’s largest airport that reportedly killed at least 29 people. While the decision is a welcome move, the way it was arrived at revealed the ‘reactive’ nature of and the laxity and arbitrariness associated with the country’s policy-making process. Given the existential threat it poses, terrorism should have been the foremost priority of the new government and therefore must have been dealt with in a more pro-active and robust way. Unfortunately, ...

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Will Zarb-e-Azb bring peace to Pakistan?

After much dillydallying, useless discussions and utterly unsuccessful peace talks, Pakistan has, finally, launched a “decisive” operation, code named Zarb-e-Azb, against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in the North Waziristan Agency. The Pakistan Army claims that around 180 Taliban have been killed so far, with dozens other captured and their safe havens and ammunition depots taken out, in jet bombings and face-to-face skirmishes. All exit points from North Waziristan Agency have been cordoned off and the Taliban are not being given any opportunity to slip to adjacent areas and elude the fire. There is a growing impression that the Taliban have been cornered. However, the ...

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Here’s why Pakistan may not win this fight against the militants

After many rumours and false starts, and after years of requests from US officials, Pakistan has finally launched a major military offensive in North Waziristan, ground zero for militancy in that country. Extremist organisations use North Waziristan as a base for attacks on US forces in Afghanistan and to mount assaults on targets in Pakistan. The remnants of al Qaeda central, including perhaps supreme leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, have a presence there, as do Uzbek extremist groups, one of which claimed responsibility for the recent Karachi airport attack. Even Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who attempted to blow up Times Square in 2010, received training in North Waziristan. ...

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4 reasons elections won’t fix Afghanistan

Observers across the board – from think-tankers and diplomats, both current and retired, to journalists and election monitors – are describing Afghanistan’s elections on April 5, 2014 as critical for its stability. And for good reason. A successful election would be a democratic milestone since it would mark the first time Afghanistan has experienced a peaceful transfer of power. A legitimately elected new leadership, particularly one seen as effective and above all clean, could conceivably help convince Afghans that their government is a better alternative to the Taliban – and thereby, weaken recruitment to the insurgency. It would also bring to power a leader not named Hamid Karzai – and therefore, ...

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