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Aftermath of Taliban’s deadly attack on Karachi airport

12 July 2014

A deadly attack on Karachi’s International Airport has raised questions about Pakistan’s security and the government’s ability to thwart terrorist attacks.

Pakistan was shaken to its core when militant commandos, disguised as government security forces, stormed Karachi’s international airport. It’s not clear if the militants were trying to hijack a commercial airliner or blow up an oil depot.

To discuss the attacks carried out by the Pakistani Taliban on Karachi Airport and the response by the government, CCTV’s Anand Naidoo is joined by Raza Rumi, a Pakistani policy analyst and journalist; Shuja Nawaz, Director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council; and Mubashir Zaidi, who is an investigative journalist. The interview is divided into two parts.


Raza Rumi at CCTVAmerica 1 by razarumi1


Raza Rumi at CCTVAmerica 2 by razarumi1

Exodus from Pakistan’s troubled north presents risks, opportunities

27 June 2014

By Raza Rumi, Special to CNN

Polio

 

Pakistan’s much-awaited military offensive in North Waziristan was launched more than a week ago, and followed an attack on Karachi airport that left at least 36 people dead.

Due to the strategic calculations of the Pakistani state, North Waziristan has steadily fallen into the hands of motley militant networks, and has become a mountainous zone for the Pakistani Taliban to recruit, regroup and launch attacks against the country.

The Pakistani Army conducted a similar operation in the Swat Valley in 2009, not too far from the tribal areas, that has been a relative success in reclaiming territory. It is unclear which direction the latest operation will go. But a major humanitarian crisis is brewing in the wake of the new offensive.

As of Wednesday, the government had registered over 450,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been fleeing the area in view of the aerial bombardments and warnings by military authorities. There are fears the figures could be much higher. (more…)

My Name is Khan and I am not a Terrorist: IDP’s of North Waziristan

26 June 2014

Here are some of my tweets shedding light on the plight of IDP’s of North Waziristan and the long forgotten miseries of FATA.

Challenges for the PML-N

22 June 2014

In early June, the PML-N completed one year in office and presented its second budget before the Parliament. Both these events were overshadowed by the ghastly attack at Karachi airport and the vulnerability of the major installations to terrorism. Within days of this attack, the long-delayed operation in North Waziristan was launched. Nearly a week ago, the PML-N blundered by using excessive force against the workers of Paksitan Awami Tehreek (PAT), a political adversary in Lahore resulting in the deaths of eight PAT activists. Such use of brutal force has led to public outrage and nervousness in the PML-N camp is evident.

The succession of events comes in the wake of four major developments. Three are domestic and the fourth is regional. First, tensions between Pakistan’s powerful military and the prime minister have been building up. While the structure of Pakistan’s power relations is tilted towards the civil-military bureaucracy, the immediate cause for the recent tensions happens to the continued incarceration of former President Musharraf. Dozens of conspiracy theories are flying around but this was bound to happen. Sharif and his cabinet are doing what the law tells them to. After all, General Musharraf violated the Constitution for the second time in November 2007. The first violation — the 1999 coup — gained some measure of legal cover through the Supreme Court decision but the second one was not ratified by a judiciary which shifted its policy of siding with the military executive in early 2007. (more…)

MQM’s MNA Tahira Asif Died, a clear Target Killing

20 June 2014

MQM’s legislator Tahira Asif has been killed after being shot 4 times by “unknown” assailants in Lahore two days ago. She raised the issue of cleaning Punjab University from Al-Qaeda elements. My tweets!

What the Karachi airport attack says about the Pakistani Taliban

10 June 2014

By Raza Rumi, Special for CNN

Security personnel guard the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, on Tuesday, June 10, after gunmen targeted the Airport Security Forces academy nearby. Two days earlier, militants launched an attack in the cargo area of the airport. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the five-hour assault, which left at least 36 people dead, including 10 militants.

Security personnel guard the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, on Tuesday, June 10, after gunmen targeted the Airport Security Forces academy nearby. Two days earlier, militants launched an attack in the cargo area of the airport. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the five-hour assault, which left at least 36 people dead, including 10 militants.

Editor’s note: Raza Rumi is a policy analyst, columnist and consulting editor at The Friday Times, Pakistan. He is also the author of “Delhi By Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller,” (Harper Collins). The views contained in this opinion piece are solely his.

(CNN) – It would be an understatement to say that Pakistan is under attack.

This week, the Pakistani Taliban bypassed all security checks at the country’s largest airport in southern port city of Karachi.

A few hours earlier, another affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban massacred nearly 30 members of Pakistan’s minority Shiite community in Balochistan province.

A few hours after the Karachi airport was reclaimed by Pakistan’s security agencies, a suicide bomber rammed a truck into a military checkpoint in North Waziristan, close to the Afghanistan border, killing at least three soldiers.

The attack on Karachi’s international airport resulted in the deaths of 29 people, including security personnel. The bodies of another seven cargo workers were recovered Tuesday from a cold storage facility at the airport. All 10 terrorists died during the assault.

Even after those attacks, for the second time in two days, Pakistan’s largest and busiest airport was forced to shut down after militants launched a brazen attack on airport security forces. Tuesday’s assault targeted the Airport Security Forces academy near Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, the airport’s manager told CNN’s Saima Mohsin in Karachi. The attackers fled, and no one was killed in the attack, officials said.

The obvious question is: How did the militants manage to enter the airport premises with heavy arms and ammunition?

Major security lapses

This security lapse however is not new. In 2009, militants breached an otherwise impregnable fortress – the General Headquarters of the Army in Rawalpindi — and continued their operation for hours.

Similarly, the Pakistani Taliban also attacked Karachi’s naval base in 2011, destroying expensive equipment and killing 10 soldiers.

In 2012, they were also successful in carrying out suicide attacks at Peshawar’s International airport, resulting in more loss of life.

Despite these major lapses, Pakistan’s system of intelligence gathering and sharing has been reformed. The new internal security policy, agreed in December 2013, aims to centralize the intelligence sharing process, but it is yet to be implemented.

In the case of the Karachi airport attack, the military’s swift response helped salvage the situation. Within five to seven hours the airport had been cleared and, given the high-value targets there, major damage was prevented.

Military seizes initiative

Another key feature of the operation was the decisive role of the military, as the civilian government apparently took a backseat.

Under Pakistan’s constitution, federal ministries are responsible for aviation and airport administration, but the ministers were nowhere to be seen.

Even in terms of media management, the military seized the initiative as the head of inter services public relations (ISPR), a major general, was live tweeting and informing about the progress of the operations.

In any other country this would not seem extraordinary. But, given Pakistan’s peculiar history and the recent civil-military tensions, these developments were meaningful. There was a clear public message that the Army was at the forefront and in control of security policy and operations.

Negotiations with the TTP

In the weeks before the attack, Pakistan’s civil and military branches of government had been struggling to find a way out to deal with the TTP.

Civilians are afraid of the reprisal attacks, and the military is in no mood to allow the TTP to continue killing its soldiers.

Formal talks with the TTP commenced in February 2014 but these disintegrated a fortnight ago. Concurrently, the military had been launching airstrikes and the Karachi attack came in the midst of policy shift in Islamabad. The airstrikes resumed after the airport attack was foiled.

Since Pakistan’s new Army Chief Raheel Sharif assumed charge in November 2013, the military has given clear signals of its intent to tackle the TTP militarily. The TTP is believed to have killed between 5,000 and 15,000Pakistani soldiers including generals in recent years. Pakistan’s Army did not suffer such losses in three wars against India (1965, 1971 and 1999).

Civilian leaders are worried about the potential backlash of such military operations.

What complicates the issue further is that some of the factions of TTP are in league with the (Pakistan-friendly) Afghan Taliban, and an all-out operation would hit them as well.

The Pakistani Taliban are not in a position to take over the country. However, the three terror incidents in the past 48 hours underscore their capacity to launch attacks on multiple fronts. They gained media attention and reminded everyone of their cohesion, weeks after reports that the TTP was in disarray after a major faction split from the group in May.

Is the TTP in crisis or cohesive?

In its official statement accepting the responsibility for this attack, TTP cited the Karachi attack as a revenge for the martyrdom of its leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last year.

Since then the TTP — a loose umbrella of various militant groups — has been in a crisis of sorts. Its leader Fazlullah reportedly operates from Afghanistan and, according to Pakistani official sources, gets support from the Afghan authorities. For the latter, Fazlullah’s presence is a lever to get even with Pakistan for its purported support to the Afghan Taliban, who launch frequent attacks and are contenders for the power pie after NATO’s drawdown in 2014.

It is unclear if the recent attacks will lead to the emergence of a coherent policy and civil-military consensus in Pakistan. Civilians are afraid of the reprisal attacks; and the military is in no mood to allow TTP to continue killing its soldiers.

And with the withdrawal of foreign troops, soon the neighboring Afghanistan may turn into an easier space for Pakistani Taliban and their affiliates.

It is time for Pakistan to make a hard choice.

In its strategic calculus, it needs to address mending relations with the Afghan government and viewing terrorism as a shared problem.

Karachi airport attack a sign of wider security challenges

10 June 2014

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack on Karachi airport, that’s killed at least 28 people, including the ten suicide terrorists.

The militant group says the attack was in revenge for the killing of their leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who died in a US drone strike last year.

The United States has offered to help Pakistan in investigations, but it’s not clear if the offer will be taken up.

So what has led to this huge security lapse in Pakistan’s biggest and most violent city?

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Raza Rumi, Pakistani journalist, columnist, blogger and consulting editor for the Friday Times

RUMI: Karachi is Pakistan’s largest urban centre, where the writ of the state has been withering over time. And you have, as a result, nearly one-third of the city functioning as a stateless zone where private militias, extremist organisations rule the roost and control affairs. So in such a situation, it is easy for sleeper cells or other terrorist networks to breed and exist. And this is what’s happened, that they perhaps were there for some time and had local intelligence, and they managed to breach the security of an otherwise well guarded airport.

(more…)

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