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Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief detained by Pakistan

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Islamabad: Eleven days after Pakistani terrorists attacked an IAF base in Pathankot, Pakistan said on Wednesday it had detained terrorist leader Maulana Masood Azhar who India says plotted the mayhem.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief, known for his close ties with Pakistani intelligence agencies, was taken to an undisclosed destination and was questioned as part of a crackdown, media reports said.

Also detained were his brother Mufti Abdul Rauf and brother-in-law Ashfaq Ahmad as well as some 10 others, the reports said.

Masood Azhar and two other Pakistani terrorists were freed by India in December 1999 in exchange for the passengers of an Indian Airlines flight hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

The hijacking, from Kathmandu, was masterminded by a brother of Masood Azhar. Once the three terrorists were handed over to the hijackers in the Taliban-controlled Kandahar, they fled to Pakistan.

Pakistani media quoted unidentified sources as saying that “concerned authorities” interrogated Masood Azhar and the others about the Pathankot attack that left seven security personnel dead.

Pakistan earlier said that several JeM activists had been arrested and its offices sealed as part of an investigation into the suspected Pakistani links to the January 2 terror attack. It was not clear if Masood Azhar was among the arrested or had been merely detained for questioning.

The announcement followed a high-level meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired here on Wednesday to review the progress in the investigation against alleged Pakistani masterminds of the terror attack. Army chief General Raheel Sharif, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar and many senior government figures attended the meet.

India says all six terrorists who raided the IAF base and got killed were Pakistanis and were allied to the JeM. India later said it had delivered “actionable intelligence” for Pakistan to act against the attack plotters.

A Pakistani government statement said considerable progress had been made in the probe “against terrorist elements reportedly linked to the Pathankot incident.

“In the spirit of the cooperative approach, it was also decided that in order to carry the process forward, additional information would be required, for which the government of Pakistan is considering to send a SIT to Pathankot, in consultation with the government of India.”

The Pathankot attack took place just a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Lahore and met Sharif in a bid to push forward the dialogue between the two countries.

News of Wednesday’s arrests came ahead of a scheduled meeting between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in Islamabad on January 15. Amid doubts, New Delhi has not said if it will take part in the talks.

In Pakistan, Masood Azhar keeps ranting against India.

After the Pathankot attack, the JeM uploaded an audio clip on a website making startling disclosures about how the Pathankot airbase was raided — and how “Indian tanks, military cars and helicopters” were fired at.

Indian defence agencies were also ridiculed for failing to tackle the six “mujaheedin”, and how they fought “for 48 hours in such freezing temperatures, harsh weather conditions, without sleeping, without eating”. (IANS)

(Photo courtesy: dawn.com)

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No Safe Haven for Terrorists in the Country, Asserts Pakistan ; Becomes Vary of Coercive Action by the US

Rejecting claims of terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, Pakistani Defense minister has asserted that his country is not feeling threatened by the U.S. following Trump's harshly worded speech.

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terrorists in Pakistan
Pakistan police officers fire tear gas shell to disperse Shiite Muslims during an anti-U.S rally, when they tried to march toward the U.S. consulate, in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan) (VOA)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump in his speech called out Pakistan for harboring terrorist organizations, including the Taliban and Haqqani network
  • US considering strict measures like increasing diplomatic and economic pressure, and intensifying anti-terrorism drone strikes to keep terrorist sanctuaries under check in Pakistan
  • Pakistani ministers have rejected claims of hosting any terrorist sanctuaries 

Islamabad, September 6, 2017 : Pakistan says it seeks to amicably resolve issues with the United States, cautioning “any [coercive] American action” would cause instability in the country.

The remarks by Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan came days after U.S. President Donald Trump singled out Pakistan for harboring terrorist organizations, including the Taliban and Haqqani network, which destabilize Afghanistan and plot attacks on American troops there.

Trump did not outline what actions he might order to pressure Islamabad to move against the alleged terrorist sanctuaries. A range of punitive measures reportedly is being considered, though, such as increasing diplomatic and economic pressure, and intensifying and expanding anti-terrorism drone strikes inside Pakistan.

terrorists in Pakistan
Pakistani protesters burn posters of U. S. President Donald Trump in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Protesters have rejected Trump’s allegation that Islamabad is harboring militants who battle U.S. forces in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad) (VOA)

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Islamabad, Defense Minister Khan again rejected that there are any terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. He said Pakistani security forces already have taken action against all terrorist groups and are in the process of eliminating their “remnants” in the country.

Minister Khan also cited U.S. military assessments that say less then 60 percent of Afghan territory is under the control or influence of the Kabul government.

“That is why we are all gravely concerned about the fact that 40 percent of Afghanistan has perhaps become a safe haven [for terrorists],” he said.

US relationship

The Pakistani minister added that his country is not feeling threatened by the U.S. following the harshly worded Trump speech.

“However, we are maintaining an extremely strict monitoring of our land, sea and air frontiers,” noted Khan.

He sounded upbeat, though, about “better and quality future engagements” between Islamabad and Washington.

Khan said the Pakistani foreign minister, Khawaja Muham­mad Asif, plans to travel to Washington for official talks after consulting key regional partners, including China, Russia, Iran and Turkey.

“We are trying to resolve the issues amicably because any American action would cause instability in Pakistan,” the defense minister warned.

BRICS on terrorism

On Monday, China, and the four other countries that comprise the BRICS group of major emerging economies — India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa — agreed to boost cooperation against terrorist organizations threatening the region.

A statement issued after a BRICS’ leaders’ summit hosted by China contained the names of Pakistan-based, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad militant groups blamed for orchestrating attacks against India. Pakistani authorities already have outlawed the organizations.

terrorist in Pakistan
In this April 3, 2012, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawwa and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, talks with the Associated Press in Islamabad, Pakistan. (VOA)

Responding to the BRICS’ announcement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said it also is concerned about the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in South Asia.

In a brief statement, the ministry pointed to the presence of terrorist groups in “the ungoverned spaces of Afghanistan,” including the Pakistani Taliban and its associates like Jamaatul Ahrar, Islamic State and anti-China militants.

“Pakistan also remains concerned at the rise of extremist ideologies and intolerance in the region encouraging social stratification and systematic targeting of minorities,” the statement reads.

Islamabad alleges that India is partnering with the Afghan intelligence agency to support anti-state militants sheltering in Afghanistan to plan attacks against Pakistan, charges Kabul and New Delhi reject. (VOA)

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Jihadis targeting India are seen as ‘the good guys’: Haqqani

Pakistani scholar and author Husain Haqqani talks about his recent book 'India vs Pakistan: Why Can't We Just be Friends?'

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Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, scholar and author Husain Haqqani who is an integral part of the powerful elite in Islamabad, talks about his recent book ‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just be Friends?’, discussing jihad, relations with India, terrorism and the connection between Pakistan’s military intelligence service – the ISI and Islamic jihadi forces.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Can you explain ex-ISI chief Shuja Pasha’s statement on 26/11 terror attack, “Log hamare the, operation hamara nahi tha” (our people but it was not our operation)?
A. Pasha said, “our people” were involved, he didn’t say it was Pakistan army officers or ISI men. Pasha could have meant Pakistanis or he could be referring to LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) as “our people.” However, Pasha had told ex-CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, that “retired Pakistani army officers and retired intelligence officers” were involved in the planning. General Hayden says so in his book. Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State, has also written the same.
Since 26/11, Pakistan never went into the depth of the case even though proof was presented. We did arrest some, but we have not successfully prosecuted those responsible and until that is done, questions will remain.

Q. Rice had warned Pakistan to shut down terror operations. However, nothing has changed.
A. Prosecution is difficult in a system where jihadis targeting India are seen as ‘the good guys’. Yes, Secretary Rice had told Islamabad to shut down all terrorist operations. But that wasn’t the first time and certainly not the last. Pakistan has persisted with the same policy since the 1990s. When pushed by US on terror: first deny, then list Pakistani grievances, bring up Kashmir and blame India, provide commitments and assurances and end again with denial. This is not working.

Q. Though US had named Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi of LeT as the 26/11 mastermind, he is roaming around freely in Pakistan. What is stopping Islamabad from taking action?
A. Pakistan sees jihad as a low cost option to bleed India. The security apparatus views terrorism as irregular warfare. Islamabad feels this is the only way to ensure some form of military parity.

Q. Is there a concerted attempt by the Pakistan army to thwart peace talks?
A. As an analyst, I have seen that over the last 69 years, Indian and Pakistani leaders have met 53 times and yet been unable to change the course of their ties. Whenever the two try to move forward, the military has reacted. Civilian and army leaders have lost power after attempting to make peace.

Q. What should be Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir?
A. Having a normal relationship, people-to-people ties and trade doesn’t mean giving up on legal or political claim. The question I ask is: Is Kashmir really Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ if it has survived for 69 years without it? Should the two risk nuclear mass destruction over a quarrel they have not been able to resolve for so long?
However, Pakistan’s military has insisted on resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio before opening trade or travel.

Disputed Areas of Kashmir, Wikimedia Commons
Disputed Areas of Kashmir, Wikimedia Commons

Q. Pakistan’s Kashmir policy remains by and large in the hands of the military even when a civilian prime minister holds office. How can we expect a solution?
A. Under civilian prime ministers, Pakistan has moved forward with India. But Pakistan’s security establishment insists on controlling foreign and security policy, including the Kashmir policy. They have not been able to reach any long-lasting solution. Pakistanis realise that it is only civilian leaders who can actually reach a solution.

Related article: The Fight for Kashmir

Q. In your opinion, Indira Gandhi had been magnanimous with the Shimla Pact, but Pakistanis saw the absence of pressure for a full settlement of Kashmir as an opportunity to keep the conflict alive. Should she have been more assertive on Kashmir?
A. Mrs Gandhi did not trust (prime minister) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto but she saw him as preferable to a military regime. For India, domestic unrest or balkanisation of Pakistan, is not a favorable development.
The compromise was to declare in Shimla that “the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations.” This was meant to preclude any future war.

Q. The book mentions how Pakistan intelligence had passed on the information of 10 terrorists who sneaked into Gujarat in March. Do you feel that its a sincere move to preempt a crisis after Pathankot?
A. It’s very positive that Pakistan has shared intelligence with India. But it was more because pressure from India and US. India cancelled scheduled talks and (Prime Minister Nawaz) Sharif was eager to resume dialogue. It was less likely that this move reflected concern for possible Indian casualties and was more to do with the need to deflect international pressure.

Q. Are you hopeful of a breakthrough in Indo-Pak relationship after Pathankot?
A. The two foreign secretaries met in New Delhi for the Heart of Asia conference and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is scheduled to travel to Islamabad for the SAARC summit in November this year. So, talks will continue as before but for a breakthrough, the two sides need to move beyond simply cancelling or rescheduling talks and create an environment for change.

Q. You also talk about the shrinking space for friendship and increasing ‘saffronisation’ of India. How harmful is this for ties?
A. Indo-Pak ties have become a victim of two parallel and contending nationalisms. In recent years, we are increasingly resembling each other in rage, resentment and public displays of religion.

Q. How do you see US policy towards Pakistan in the wake of US elections?
A. Neither of the current Presidential candidates have expressed a positive view of Pakistan. What should worry my countrymen is that entire US think tank and the average American share the same view.
Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State in 2011 said, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.” US policy towards Pakistan has been built on what I call ‘Magnificent Delusions’. Pakistan saw the US as its superpower ally who would build its resources to stand up to India, but Washington never saw India as a threat. US and Pakistan have very different goals but still assume they can get the other to work to their advantage.

Source: IANS
(Preetha Nair can be reached at preetha.n@ians.in)

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NIA raids six places for investigation related to Pathankot attack

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New Delhi: Six places were raided in the town of Amritsar and Gurdaspur in Punjab on Thursday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) detectives following the 2nd January Pathankot terror attack.

The places where the raids were carried out belong to suspected Punjab Police officer Salwinder Singh and his two companions who were allegedly kidnapped by the terrorists hours before they mounted the attack at the air base.

“Two days after the lie detector test of Salwinder Singh, we carried out raids at six locations, four in Gurdaspur and two in Amritsar,” an NIA official said.

“The locations include the residential places of Singh, his friend Rajesh Verma and his cook Madangopal.”

Singh’s lie detector test was conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday.

Singh, at present, is posted as assistant commandant of 75th Punjab Armed Police after being shunted out as the superintendent of police headquarters at Gurdaspur.

Six Pakistani terrorists believed to be from the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit sneaked into Punjab from across the border and took the Punjab Police officer hostage before taking away his vehicle.

They attacked Singh’s friend and cook, but left the police officer himself unharmed and untouched, raising suspicions about his role in the whole episode.

The six terrorists later attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, killing seven security personnel.(IANS)