Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Pakistani IT Scammers

National Review, by Andrew McCarthy, July 29, 2017:

In Washington, it’s never about what they tell you it’s about. So take this to the bank: The case of Imran Awan, Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s mysterious Pakistani IT guy, is not about bank fraud.

Yet bank fraud was the stated charge on which Awan was arrested at Dulles Airport this week, just as he was trying to flee the United States for Pakistan, via Qatar. That is the same route taken by Awan’s wife, Hina Alvi, in March, when she suddenly fled the country, with three young daughters she yanked out of school, mega-luggage, and $12,400 in cash.

By then, the proceeds of the fraudulent $165,000 loan they’d gotten from the Congressional Federal Credit Union had been sent ahead. It was part of a $283,000 transfer that Awan managed to wire from Capitol Hill. He pulled it off — hilariously, if infuriatingly — by pretending to be his wife in a phone call with the credit union. Told that his proffered reason for the transfer (“funeral arrangements”) wouldn’t fly, “Mrs.” Awan promptly repurposed: Now “she” was “buying property.” Asking no more questions, the credit union wired the money . . . to Pakistan.

As you let all that sink in, consider this: Awan and his family cabal of fraudsters had access for years to the e-mails and other electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. It turns out they were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment — including hard drives that Awan & Co. smashed to bits of bytes before making tracks.

They were fired in February. All except Awan, that is. He continued in the employ of Wasserman Schultz, the Florida Democrat, former DNC chairwoman, and Clinton crony. She kept him in place at the United States Congress right up until he was nabbed at the airport on Monday.

This is not about bank fraud. The Awan family swindles are plentiful, but they are just window-dressing. This appears to be a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.

At the time of his arrest, the 37-year-old Imran Awan had been working for Democrats as an information technologist for 13 years. He started out with Representative Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.) in 2004. The next year, he landed on the staff of Wasserman Schultz, who had just been elected to the House.

Congressional-staff salaries are modest, in the $40,000 range. For some reason, Awan was paid about four times as much. He also managed to get his wife, Alvi, on the House payroll . . . then his brother, Abid Awan . . . then Abid’s wife, Natalia Sova. The youngest of the clan, Awan’s brother Jamal, came on board in 2014 — the then-20-year-old commanding an annual salary of $160,000.

A few of these arrangements appear to have been sinecures: While some Awans were rarely seen around the office, we now know they were engaged in extensive financial shenanigans away from the Capitol. Nevertheless, the Daily Caller’s Luke Rosiak, who has been all over this story, reports that, for their IT “work,” the Pakistani family has reeled in $4 million from U.S. taxpayers since 2009.

That’s just the “legit” dough. The family business evidently dabbles in procurement fraud, too. The Capitol Police and FBI are exploring widespread double-billing for computers, other communication devices, and related equipment.

Why were they paid so much for doing so little? Intriguing as it is, that’s a side issue. A more pressing question is: Why were they given access to highly sensitive government information? Ordinarily, that requires a security clearance, awarded only after a background check that peruses ties to foreign countries, associations with unsavory characters, and vulnerability to blackmail.

These characters could not possibly have qualified. Never mind access; it’s hard to fathom how they retained their jobs. The Daily Caller has also discovered that the family, which controlled several properties, was involved in various suspicious mortgage transfers. Abid Awan, while working “full-time” in Congress, ran a curious auto-retail business called “Cars International A” (yes, CIA), through which he was accused of stealing money and merchandise. In 2012, he discharged debts in bankruptcy (while scheming to keep his real-estate holdings). Congressional Democrats hired Abid despite his drunk-driving conviction a month before he started at the House, and they retained him despite his public-drunkenness arrest a month after. Beyond that, he and Imran both committed sundry vehicular offenses. In civil lawsuits, they are accused of life-insurance fraud.

Democrats now say that any access to sensitive information was “unauthorized.” But how hard could it have been to get “unauthorized” access when House Intelligence Committee Dems wanted their staffers to have unbounded access? In 2016, they wrote a letter to an appropriations subcommittee seeking funding so their staffers could obtain “Top Secret — Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearances. TS/SCI is the highest-level security classification. Awan family members were working for a number of the letter’s signatories.

Democratic members, of course, would not make such a request without coordination with leadership. Did I mention that the ranking member on the appropriations subcommittee to whom the letter was addressed was Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

Why has the investigation taken so long? Why so little enforcement action until this week? Why, most of all, were Wasserman Schultz and her fellow Democrats so indulgent of the Awans?

The probe began in late 2016. In short order, the Awans clearly knew they were hot numbers. They started arranging the fraudulent credit-union loan in December, and the $283,000 wire transfer occurred on January 18. In early February, House security services informed representatives that the Awans were suspects in a criminal investigation. At some point, investigators found stolen equipment stashed in the Rayburn House Office Building, including a laptop that appears to belong to Wasserman Schultz and that Imran was using. Although the Awans were banned from the Capitol computer network, not only did Wasserman Schultz keep Imran on staff for several additional months, but Meeks retained Alvi until February 28 — five days before she skedaddled to Lahore.

Strange thing about that: On March 5, the FBI (along with the Capitol Police) got to Dulles Airport in time to stop Alvi before she embarked. It was discovered that she was carrying $12,400 in cash. As I pointed out this week, it is a felony to export more than $10,000 in currency from the U.S. without filing a currency transportation report. It seems certain that Alvi did not file one: In connection with her husband’s arrest this week, the FBI submitted to the court a complaint affidavit that describes Alvi’s flight but makes no mention of a currency transportation report. Yet far from making an arrest, agents permitted her to board the plane and leave the country, notwithstanding their stated belief that she has no intention of returning.

Many congressional staffers are convinced that they’d long ago have been in handcuffs if they pulled what the Awans are suspected of. Nevertheless, no arrests were made when the scandal became public in February. For months, Imran has been strolling around the Capitol. In the interim, Wasserman Schultz has been battling investigators: demanding the return of her laptop, invoking a constitutional privilege (under the speech-and-debate clause) to impede agents from searching it, and threatening the Capitol Police with “consequences” if they don’t relent. Only last week, according to Fox News, did she finally signal willingness to drop objections to a scan of the laptop by federal investigators. Her stridency in obstructing the investigation has been jarring.

As evidence has mounted, the scores of Democrats for whom the Awans worked have expressed no alarm. Instead, we’ve heard slanderous suspicions that the investigation is a product of — all together now — “Islamophobia.” But Samina Gilani, the Awan brothers’ stepmother, begs to differ. Gilani complained to Virginia police that the Awans secretly bugged her home and then used the recordings to blackmail her. She averred in court documents that she was pressured to surrender cash she had stored in Pakistan. Imran claimed to be “very powerful” — so powerful he could order her family members kidnapped.

We don’t know if these allegations are true, but they are disturbing. The Awans have had the opportunity to acquire communications and other information that could prove embarrassing, or worse, especially for the pols who hired them. Did the swindling staffers compromise members of Congress? Does blackmail explain why were they able to go unscathed for so long?

And as for that sensitive information, did the Awans send American secrets, along with those hundreds of thousands of American dollars, to Pakistan?

This is no run-of-the-mill bank-fraud case.

To Break the Stalemate in Afghanistan, America Must Break Pakistan’s Pathologies

National Interest, by Robert Cassidy, April 6, 2017: (h/t Anthony Shaffer)

“Twenty U.S.-designated terrorist organizations operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan sub-region; seven of the 20 organizations are in Pakistan. So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan. Of particular concern to us is the Haqqani Network (HQN) which poses the greatest threat to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.”  General Joseph Votel, Posture Statement Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, March 2017.

“The Taliban and the Haqqani network are the greatest threats to security in Afghanistan. Their senior leaders remain insulated from pressure and enjoy freedom of action within Pakistan safe havens.  As long as they enjoy external enablement, they have no incentive to reconcile.  The primary factor that will enable our success is the elimination of external sanctuary and support to the insurgents.”  General John Nicholson, Statement Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan, February 2017.

After 15-plus years, the war in Afghanistan remains a strategic stalemate because defeating an enemy requires taking away its capacity and will.  The Coalition and Afghan forces have hit the enemy’s capacity year after year but the Taliban’s will—their senior leaders, support, resources, rest, regeneration, and arms—continue to benefit from sanctuary and support from Pakistan’s security establishment.  In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in February of this year, the theater commander, General John Nicholson, stated that he believed the war in Afghanistan was a stalemate.  It has been a strategic stalemate for at least the last ten years and arguably for the last 15 years.  As early as 2003 the then-top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General John Vines, stated publicly that the Taliban were benefiting from Pakistan’s sanctuaries to regroup.  So despite suffering many losses in leaders and capacity inside Afghanistan year after year, the Taliban have not quit, and are resilient in regenerative capacity.  Tactical and operational momentum have ebbed and flowed throughout the war.  The Coalition and its Afghan partners have made some errors, but they have improved and adapted during the course of the war.  The Afghan security forces have grown in quantity and improved in quality, and have led the fight for several years.  During the peak numbers of exogenous forces for the war in 2010-2011, the Coalition forces, along with their Afghan partners, achieved marked tactical gains and operational momentum.  To be sure, Coalition and Afghan forces have undertaken many counterterrorism and counterinsurgency actions that have punished, disrupted, and displaced the Taliban and the Haqqani leadership and infrastructure, year after year.

Yet these gains at the tactical and operational levels have been short-lived and have generally lacked meaning in the face of the most conspicuous impediment to strategic success: Pakistan’s sanctuary and support for the enemy.  Killing, capturing, disrupting, and displacing insurgent and terrorist enemies, fighting season after fighting season, absent genuine strategic momentum, have made this a perpetual war.  It is beginning to seem like a Groundhog-Day war where fulfilling the purpose remains elusive.  In theory, the purpose of war is to serve policy; in practice, if war is not linked to strategic rationale and momentum, the nature of war is to serve itself.  Fighting year after year within the context of a strategic stalemate is essentially violence and war serving themselves and not policy.

[…]

Conclusion

Pakistani strategic culture stems from pathological geopolitics infused with a Salafi-Deobandi jihadist ideology, suffused by paranoia and neurosis.  The principal but not exclusive reason that Afghanistan has seen discernibly improved quality and quantity in its forces as well as fighting capacity, yet continues to face a strategic stalemate, is the Pakistani security elites’ malign strategic calculus.  The Taliban would have been a marginal nuisance, without the full support that Pakistan’s security establishment bestowed to pursue Pakistan’s imaginary notion of strategic depth on its western flank by asserting control over Afghanistan through its zealous proxies.

Pakistan has nurtured and relied on a host of Islamist insurgents and terrorists.  It is home to the world’s highest concentration of terrorist groups.  Of the 98 U.S.-designated terrorist groups around the world, 20 operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The ISI has maintained links with Al Qaeda, its longtime Taliban allies, and a host of other extremist groups inside Pakistan. It is possible for Pakistan to become a genuine U.S. strategic partner only if it ceases its support of proxy terrorists and insurgents.  The fact that America has paid Pakistan in excess of $33 billion for Pakistan’s malice and treachery since 9/11 is repugnant and ridiculous.

The U.S and the Coalition must desist in the illusion that Pakistan, one of the foremost ideological and physical breeders of Islamist terrorists, is an ally or a friend.  It is neither.  Pretending that Pakistan is an ally in the war against Islamist militants, one that would act in ways to help defeat Islamist networks in the border tribal areas, has made the West complicit in and partly responsible for Pakistan’s machinations.

Since this war began, the U.S. has on a number of occasions stipulated that Pakistan must curb all domestic expression of support for terrorism against the U.S. and its allies; demonstrate a sustained commitment to, and make significant efforts towards, combating terrorist groups; cease support, including support by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, for extremist and terrorist groups; and dismantle terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the country.  Clearly, Pakistan has not complied with these stipulations and continues to do the converse, serving as the most significant supporter and employer of Islamist insurgents and terrorists.

The United States and its Coalition allies have not crafted a Pakistan strategy that uses their substantial resources to modify Pakistan’s strategic calculus.  An effective Pakistan strategy must use the full weight of the U.S. and other regional actors to compel Pakistan to alter its strategic conduct and to stop supporting terrorists.

Investing in and increasing the Afghan Special Security Forces and the Afghan Air Force to create overmatching offensive capacity, to then build tactical and operational momentum, will help assert influence over key population areas and take away Taliban capacity, but this will be ephemeral if not coupled with strategic momentum.  To break the strategic stalemate, the Coalition should cast off its illusions about Pakistan.  For far too long, Pakistan has been viewed and treated as an important non-NATO ally in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, but it is essentially an abysmal ally, a veritable foe, because it acts in ways inimical to Coalition troops, our and the aims of the Afghan state.  After 15-plus years of Pakistan’s perfidy, it is essential to go heavy on sticks and light on carrots to break Pakistan of its pathologies and their pernicious effects in Afghanistan.  Sticks and fear will work where carrots, cash, and cajoling have not.  The U.S. and the Coalition must consider tapping into the Pakistan establishment’s fear, honor, and interests.  U.S. fears that the Pakistani state will collapse, implode or fracture are overstated.  Pakistan is hard and resilient in deep and broad ways.

The following stipulations, steps, and ultimatums, in order of escalation, are the way to break Pakistan of its pathologies and break the stalemate: 1) stop paying for malice; 2) end major non-NATO ally status; 3) state intention to make the line of control in Kashmir permanent; 4) shut down ground lines of communications via Pakistan; 5) declare Pakistan the state sponsor of terrorism that it is; 6) issue one last ultimatum to Pakistan to end sanctuary for insurgents and not impede success; 7) invite the Indian Armed Forces into Afghanistan for security operations in the Pashtun eastern and southern regions; and 8) as a last resort, reciprocate Pakistan’s malice and perfidy.  Uncontested sanctuary contributed to the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan, and it continues be the single biggest obstacle to defeating the Taliban and the most significant cause of the stalemate.

It is difficult, if not impossible to win in counterinsurgency when the insurgents benefit from what is essentially unimpeded sanctuary.  What’s more, if the Taliban were to revive an Islamist emirate in Afghanistan, there is every reason to forecast a future with more attacks against the West, planned and orchestrated with increasing scope and intensity from Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Colonel Robert Cassidy, Ph.D., U.S. Army, is the author of three books and a host of articles about irregular warfare and Afghanistan.  He has served in Afghanistan four times.  The works of practitioners-scholars Fair, Gregory, Husain Haqqani, Zalmay Khalilzad, Ahmed Rashid, Rubin, and the Schaffers informed this article.  These views are from the author’s studies and service in the region and do not reflect the views of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Naval War College, or the U.S. Department of Defense.

Ayman al Zawahiri warns against ‘nationalist’ agenda in Syria

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN,  April 23, 2017:

Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, released an audio message from emir Ayman al Zawahiri earlier today. The audio file, which was spliced together with images from the Sunni jihad in Syria, is just over six minutes long. It was released via social media, including on As Sahab’s Telegram channel.

Zawahiri warns that the Syrian war shouldn’t be considered an exclusively “nationalist” effort, because this is what the Sunni jihadists’ enemies want. Instead, he says the Syrian conflict should be viewed as the “cause of the entire Ummah,” or worldwide community of Muslims.

Zawahiri’s comments are potentially interesting in light of Al Nusrah Front’s rebranding last year, and then the group’s merger with several others to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of the Levant”) in January. Various al Qaeda actors and other jihadists inside Syria have debated how to best portray themselves to the world. Al Nusrah’s relaunch in July 2016 was blessed beforehand by Zawahiri’s deputy, but some al Qaeda figures rejected it.

Zawahiri does not specifically mention Hay’at Tahrir al Sham or any other group in Syria, so we can only speculate if he is commenting on some specific debate within jihadist circles. But that appears likely.

Zawahiri does explicitly endorse the insurgency in Syria, saying that it is a “guerrilla” war and the jihadists should not focus on holding territory at this time. Instead, Zawahiri says, they must focus on weakening their enemies.

“To begin with, I would like to tell our beloved people in Sham [the Levant] that your wounds are the wounds of the entire Ummah, and your pain is the pain of the entire Ummah. You are in our prayers at every moment, and we wish to sacrifice our souls for you,” Zawahiri begins his message, which was released with an English transcript.

“If anything stands in our way,” Zawahiri continues, “it is the fact that we are engaged in fighting the same Crusader enemy which you are up against, though on a different front.”

The al Qaeda chieftain claims that the “only reason” Sunni Muslims in Syria “are being targeted” is that they “want Islam to rule over the land of Sham.” The “International Satanic Alliance will never accept this, and it will spare no effort to stop this Islamic tide,” Zawahiri says.

Consistent with al Qaeda’s messaging in the past, Zawahiri portrays the US and the West as being in league with Iran and Bashar al Assad’s regime. Indeed, he advises the people of Syria to “prepare” themselves “for a protracted war against the Crusaders and their Rafidhi [derogatory term for Shiites and Iran] and Nusayri [meaning the Assad regime] allies.”

Zawahiri praises the people for having “taken up the path of jihad in the way of Allah to raise the flag of Islam and jihad on the land of Sham, and to liberate it from oppression, tyranny and corruption.”

“So do not backtrack,” he says. “Know no wavering or compromise. Die honorably, but never accept a life of humiliation.”

The al Qaeda head reiterates his organization’s call for unity within the insurgency. Since the beginning of the war, with a few exceptions, al Qaeda’s men have attempted to remain as closely allied with other rebel groups as possible. This strategy was upset by the rise of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State in 2013 and 2014, but al Qaeda’s arm continued to cooperate with other Islamist, jihadist and Free Syrian Army-branded outfits.

“Unite and close your ranks with your Muslim brothers and mujahideen not just in Sham, but the entire world, for it is a single Crusader campaign being waged against Muslims the world over,” Zawahiri says.

He then pivots to a critique of anyone who thinks the Syrian war can be separated from the jihad elsewhere around the globe.

Speaking to the jihadists in Syria, Zawahiri says that some “wish to deceive you into buying the myth that only if you were to change your jihad to an exclusively nationalist Syrian struggle, [then] the leading international criminals would be pleased with you.”

“My people and my brothers in Sham,” Zawahiri says, “I would like to offer here a few words of advice as a reminder to you and myself.” Then, somewhat cryptically, he adds: “We must constantly review our actions, and retract ourselves from everything which is capable of hindering victory. For we can never be better than the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who were denied victory when they disobeyed. Critical reassessment and correction of mistakes is the first step in the patch to victory.”

Zawahiri does not say which “mistakes” he has mind.

“In my humble opinion,” the al Qaeda head continues, “the strategy for jihad in Sham must focus on a guerrilla war aimed at wearing down the enemy and bleeding it to death.” This “has been the weapon of choice of the oppressed against arrogant transgressors in every age,” Zawahiri says. “Do not occupy yourselves with holding on to territory, instead focus on destroying the morale of your enemy. Take the enemy to the point of abysmal despair by inflicting unrelenting blows and unbearable losses on its forces.”

For the second time in his short message, Zawahiri again warns against treating the Syrian conflict as a “nationalist” struggle. The “cause of Sham is the cause of the entire Ummah,” he says. “We must not present it as merely a cause of the people of Sham, and then further narrow it down to a cause of Syrians alone, for this is precisely the enemy’s plan and his much sought after objective.”

“The enemy seeks to transform the jihad in Sham from a cause of the Muslim Ummah to an exclusively nationalist Syrian cause, then turn the nationalist cause to an issue of specific regions and localities, and finally reduce this to an issue of a few cities, villages and neighborhoods,” Zawahiri argues. Therefore, it “is incumbent upon us to confront this evil strategy by declaring that the jihad in Sham is the jihad of the Muslim Ummah aimed at establishing the rule of Allah in the land of Allah. This must coincide with encouraging the entire Ummah to participate in the jihad of Sham with its sons, wealth, efforts, and energies.”

Zawahiri provides a short list of Muslims who have “defended Sham earlier in history,” including Salahuddin and the Ottoman Turks. He points out that “none” of the people on his list “were Syrians, but were Muslims and mujahids before anything else.” This is likely a reminder to jihadists to treat the many foreign fighters in Syria who have joined the anti-Assad insurgency as equals.

The al Qaeda leader closes by saying that the jihadists should not seek to placate the West, or any others. “We must not submit therefore to the dictations of the leading criminals, who seek to intimidate us with accusations of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism,’” Zawahiri says. He warns that this will lead to the same fate as that suffered by Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who briefly served as president of Egypt.

“These are the same forces that did not even spare Mohamed Morsi, inspite of the fact that he had given them all they had asked for,” Zawahiri says. He adds: “I ask Allah to give our people in Sham steadfastness. May Allah bless them with His victory and support, and guide them to take a common stance alongside their Mujahideen brethren the world over against a common united enemy.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

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Pakistani student accused of blasphemy beaten to death on campus

Mashal Khan (FB)

Reuters, by Jibran Ahmed, April 13, 2017:

A mob beat a Pakistani student to death at his university campus on Thursday after he was accused of sharing blasphemous content on social media, university and police officials said.

A group of about 10 students shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack on fellow student Mashal Khan, who was stripped naked and beaten with planks until his skull caved in as other students looked on, video obtained by Reuters showed.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive topic in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where insulting the Prophet Mohammed is a capital crime that has dozens languishing on death row and where even an accusation can lead to violence.

In recent months, Pakistan’s government has been vocal about the issue, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issuing an order last month for removal of blasphemous content online and saying anyone who posted such content should face “strict punishment under the law”.

Ten students have been arrested after Thursday’s attack the grounds of a university in the northern city of Mardan, local police chief Mohammad Alam Shinwari said.

“After severe torture that led his death, the charged students then wanted to burn his body,” said Shinwari.

At least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

It was unclear exactly what online posting had prompted the blasphemy accusation against Khan, who was studying journalism.

One of Khan’s teachers recalled that he was a passionate and critical student.

“He was brilliant ‎and inquisitive, always complaining about the political system of the country, but I never heard him saying anything controversial against the religion,” said the teacher.

In 2011, a bodyguard assassinated Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer after the governor called for reforming blasphemy laws.

Taseer’s killer, executed last year, has been hailed by religious hard-liners as a martyr to Islam and a shrine has been erected at his grave.

Recently, fighting blasphemy has also become a rallying cry for the government.

Pakistani online activists believe blasphemy-related crack downs on social media are veiled attempts by the country’s powerful military to limit dissent on human rights violations.

In January, five online activists went missing and were publicly accused of blasphemy while they were absent. Four of them have reappeared and at least one has said he was abducted and interrogated by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.

The military has denied any part in the activists’ disappearances.

***

How Pakistani Law Enshrines Extremism and Weakens Counter-Terror Efforts

pakistanby Ammar Anwer
Special to IPT News
February 24, 2017

Pakistani extremists have killed nearly 50,000 people since 9/11. But government ineffectiveness has stymied efforts to contain terrorist violence. The government and military often are not on the same page, or have chosen a narrow and selective approach towards extremism, fighting one outfit and at the same time supporting the other.

For instance, former President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that Pakistan cultivated and possessed a soft spot for the Afghan Taliban. In addition, Pakistan has failed to take a firm stand against Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a radical outfit famous for its hateful rhetoric against India. The U.S. designated the organization as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2001, and the United Nations designated it as a terrorist outfit in 2005.

Lately, signs of hope have started to emerge. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif seem to agree about extremism and also seem to lack the selective approach that their predecessors had often adopted. As evidence, more than 250 people have been arrested for propagating hate speech, and a ban has been imposed on loudspeakers, which were often used to promote sectarian violence.

In addition, Pakistan launched a host of military operations against militants, including 2014’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which targeted militant groups including the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Network. As a result, most of North Waziristan is now controlled by the military.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2015, complied by the international research group the Institute for Economics and Peace, analyzes the impact of terrorism on the global community. The report conceded success of Zarb-e-Azb and stated, “Pakistan was the only country in the ten most impacted countries that saw a decline in deaths” but still ranked third in the world.

Pakistan still has a long way to go to eradicate Islamist extremism.

Pakistani law remains an obstacle to accomplishing this goal. Its constitution paves the way for religious intolerance as the following examples show:

Declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims

Discrimination against Ahmadis began shortly after Pakistan’s inception in 1947. In 1953, a series of violent attacks was instigated against the Ahmadiyya community in Lahore. The Lahore riots resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims.

In 1974, due to the strong pressure from fundamentalists, Ahmadis were officially declared non-Muslims in Pakistan. To this day Ahmadis suffer religious discrimination and persecution while the state shows no inclination toward amending the law or eradicating the discrimination.

Ehtaram-e-Ramadan Ordinance

The Ehtaram-e-Ramadan ordinance was passed in 1981 during the tenure of General Zia-Ul-Haq, and is part of the constitution. It prohibits public eating during Ramadan’s fasting hours. It is a blatant violation of religious freedom for non-Muslims and secular Muslims. The ordinance requires that restaurants remain closed during fasting hours. Violations are punishable by up to three months in prison or a fine.

But vigilantes often take this law into their own hands. During the last Ramadan, an elderly Hindu man was badly beaten for eating publicly.

Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy law

Blasphemy is the act of insulting, showing contempt or a lack of reverence for God or that which is considered sacred. The blasphemy laws are now enshrined in section 295 A, B and C of the Penal Code, with their focus to protect Islam.

Pakistan uses this controversial law at a level unparalleled in any other country. The law has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities. Minorities, which comprise just 4 percent of Pakistan’s population, are targeted in more than half of the 702 total blasphemy law cases. The laws routinely are used to target religious minorities like Hindus or Christians for personal or political motives.

This action contradicts Pakistan’s constitution which guarantees the right to profess religion, equality of citizens and protection of minorities.

The law perpetuates an environment of intolerance and discrimination. To guarantee equal treatment and fundamental rights, the blasphemy laws must be eliminated or dramatically changed. Without this improvement, the state will never be able to achieve peace, tolerance and equal human rights.

Conclusion

The facts are before us, though they might be difficult to face. However, as Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

We in Pakistan cannot claim that we are fighting a war against extremism if there are extremist tenets within our constitution. Until we change those laws, the fight can never be won.

Ammar Anwer is an ex-Islamist who writes for The Nation, Pakistan Today and other media outlets. He believes in secularism and democracy and aspires to see Pakistan become a pluralistic state.

Sanction Pakistan As State Sponsor Of Terror

hqdefault_0Forbes, by Anders Corr, Feb 23, 2017:

In the past two weeks, Pakistan has closed border crossings with Afghanistan, and attacked Afghan soil with airstrikes and heavy artillery, causing 200 families to flee. Pakistan claims that these measures counter cross-border terrorists. But in so doing, Pakistan punishes Afghanistan economically and obfuscates the primary source of South and Central Asian terrorism: Pakistan itself. Pakistan is a supporter of the Taliban, Haqqani, Islamic State, and Al Qaeda. To convince Pakistan to cease supporting terrorism, influential nations must label Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, and impose economic sanctions.

Pakistan seeks to turn Afghanistan into its backyard and put the government under its sphere of influence. It seeks “strategic depth” in Afghanistan for Pakistan’s competition with India. It seeks to influence, through political, military, and economic measures, the government of Afghanistan in order to limit Iranian influence in the country. Pakistan is doing this with military strikes, state-sponsored terrorism, economic inducements, and economic punishments such as border closings.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, but it is nobody’s backyard. It is a sovereign and exceedingly fragile democracy of 30 million people under siege by terrorists. The democratically-elected government of Afghanistan needs the support of Pakistan in its fight against terrorism. Afghanistan’s struggle to provide peace and development to its citizens deserves that support.

Pakistan must honor its commitments in the 2016 Quadrilateral road map negotiated with Afghanistan, the U.S., and China, as Afghanistan plead for on Saturday. The government of Afghanistan invited the Taliban to talks, but the Taliban refused. Now, Pakistan must take action against cross-border Taliban terrorists in Pakistan. That will be politically impossible within Pakistan until the U.S. and E.U. take very tough economic and diplomatic measures. It is time to label Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, and support targeted sanctions against select military- and intelligence-linked Pakistani companies.

 Anders Corr is the Principal of Corr Analytics Inc, providing international political risk analysis to government and commercial clients. Twitter – @anderscorr, email – corr@canalyt.com.

Is Pakistani Intelligence Behind the Democrats’ “Secret” IT Scandal?

Center for Security Policy, by Frank Gaffney, Feb. 22, 2017:

There’s an ominous scandal unfolding on Capitol Hill.  But you’d never know that from the complete absence of coverage of it by the mainstream media.

Currently, there are many more questions than answers about the several individuals from Pakistan who long provided IT services to a large number of Democratic members of the House of Representatives. For example: Did they use their access to the lawmakers’ email systems to steal sensitive official and/or personal information? If so, was the ISI, their homeland’s aggressive intelligence service, involved?

The ISI has long run collection and influence operations against the United States government and interests. Notably, Pakistani intelligence has been a prime enabler of Sharia-supremacists like Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

The biggest question though is: Why are we not hearing about this scandal – and getting answers about its potentially serious national security implications?

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Another Pakistan spy scandal that was ignored by the media:

The Biggest D.C. Spy Scandal You Haven’t Heard About (Part Two)