July 30, 2017 - AsiaNet-Pakistan

Archive for July 30th, 2017

US Confirms Killing of Additional IS Leaders in July 11 Airstrike

July 30, 2017 |

ISLAMABAD � U.S. military officials have confirmed the death of four additional senior Islamic State leaders in a July 11 airstrike in northeastern Afghanistan that also killed the top leader of the terrorist group.

The drone attack struck IS headquarters in Kunar province, which borders Pakistan, and eliminated Abu Sayed, the amir of Islamic State’s self-styled Khorasan province branch, or ISK-P.

A U.S. military statement Sunday listed names and titles of the four slain terrorists identified as senior IS advisors, including Sheik Ziaullah, Mulawi Hubaib, Haji Shirullah, and Assadullah.

The U.S. military confirmed Sayed’s death at the time, but could not immediately provide details of other commanders killed by the missile strike.

Sayed was the third ISK-P chief the U.S. military has eliminated in the past year in its bid to prevent the group from establishing a foothold in Afghanistan.

“We will be relentless in our campaign against ISIS-K, the statement quoted General John Nicholson, Commander of U.S. forces in the country. He used one of several IS names.

“There are no safe havens in Afghanistan. We will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region, he added.

Observers acknowledge the death of Abu Sayed and other top leaders have dealt a considerable blow to the group’s Afghan operations.

U.S. airstrikes have primarily been responsible for killing about 20 founding and some of second-generation leaders of ISK-P since it launched extremist activities in the country two years ago, notes Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN).

The ‘decapitation’ of ISK-P has been well underway over the past two years as the US military has stepped up its military campaign, mainly through air strikes, against the group in Nangarhar, the non-governmental organization wrote in an article last week.

The eastern province of Nangarhar borders Kunar, and several of its districts are considered IS strongholds. Afghan security forces, backed by U.S. airpower, have been conducting major operations in the province to eliminate IS bases.

IS is also under attack from Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency and facing emerging internal differences, but there are no visible signs its appeal to some radicalized sectors is fading, AAN warns.

ISKP has shown it is resilient. Recruits continue to pour in to Nangarhar from various provinces of Afghanistan as well as from Pakistan, the watchdog noted, adding the group can be expected to put all its efforts into holding out against Afghan and U.S. forces to retain its strongholds in Nangarhar.

Source: Voice of America

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Pakistan’s Parliament To Elect New PM On August 1

July 30, 2017 |

Pakistan’s parliament will meet on August 1 to elect a new prime minister after the resignation of Nawaz Sharif.Sharif resigned on July 28 shortly after the country’s Supreme Court ordered his removal from office in connection with corruption charges s…

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At Least 8 Killed In Crash In Northwest Pakistan

July 30, 2017 |

Pakistani police say at least eight people have been killed after a collision between a van and truck in the country’s northwest.Police said a speeding truck crashed into a van that was traveling from the city of Rawalpindi to Peshawar, the provincial …

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US Confirms Killing of Additional IS Leaders in July 11 Airstrike

July 30, 2017 |

ISLAMABAD � U.S. military officials have confirmed the death of four additional senior Islamic State leaders in a July 11 airstrike in northeastern Afghanistan that also killed the top leader of the terrorist group.

The drone attack struck IS headquarters in Kunar province, which borders Pakistan, and eliminated Abu Sayed, the amir of Islamic State’s self-styled Khorasan province branch, or ISK-P.

A U.S. military statement Sunday listed names and titles of the four slain terrorists identified as senior IS advisors, including Sheik Ziaullah, Mulawi Hubaib, Haji Shirullah, and Assadullah.

The U.S. military confirmed Sayed’s death at the time, but could not immediately provide details of other commanders killed by the missile strike.

Sayed was the third ISK-P chief the U.S. military has eliminated in the past year in its bid to prevent the group from establishing a foothold in Afghanistan.

“We will be relentless in our campaign against ISIS-K, the statement quoted General John Nicholson, Commander of U.S. forces in the country. He used one of several IS names.

“There are no safe havens in Afghanistan. We will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region, he added.

Observers acknowledge the death of Abu Sayed and other top leaders have dealt a considerable blow to the group’s Afghan operations.

U.S. airstrikes have primarily been responsible for killing about 20 founding and some of second-generation leaders of ISK-P since it launched extremist activities in the country two years ago, notes Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN).

The ‘decapitation’ of ISK-P has been well underway over the past two years as the US military has stepped up its military campaign, mainly through air strikes, against the group in Nangarhar, the non-governmental organization wrote in an article last week.

The eastern province of Nangarhar borders Kunar, and several of its districts are considered IS strongholds. Afghan security forces, backed by U.S. airpower, have been conducting major operations in the province to eliminate IS bases.

IS is also under attack from Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency and facing emerging internal differences, but there are no visible signs its appeal to some radicalized sectors is fading, AAN warns.

ISKP has shown it is resilient. Recruits continue to pour in to Nangarhar from various provinces of Afghanistan as well as from Pakistan, the watchdog noted, adding the group can be expected to put all its efforts into holding out against Afghan and U.S. forces to retain its strongholds in Nangarhar.

Source: Voice of America

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Pakistan Set to Elect New Prime Minister Tuesday

July 30, 2017 |

ISLAMABAD � Pakistan’s lawmakers will elect a new prime minister on Tuesday to replace ousted leader Nawaz Sharif, with ruling party stalwart Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expected to become interim leader until Sharif’s own brother is eligible.

The confirmation from parliament came after Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain convened a special session after Sharif decided to put forward his ally Abbasi as interim leader and named his brother Shahbaz, 65, as long-term successor.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party holds a majority with 188 seats in the 342-member parliament, so it should be able to swiftly install its choice, barring any defections from its own ranks.

A quick handover could ease the political upheaval sparked by a Supreme Court decision on Friday to disqualify Sharif for not declaring a source of income. The court also ordered a criminal investigation into him and his family.

Abbasi on Sunday vowed to continue Sharif’s work.

“I hope that God will help me in furthering Nawaz Sharif’s policies,” Abbasi told reporters in Islamabad, adding to speculation that Sharif will continue to run the show behind the scenes.

The turmoil and the premature end to Sharif’s third stint in power has also raised questions about Pakistan’s democracy. No prime minister has completed a full term in power since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

“We wanted to make sure there is a smooth transfer of power and no constitutional crisis,” said Miftah Ismail, a senior PML-N official and Sharif ally.

Succession Plan

On Sunday evening, thousands of supporters of opposition politician Imran Khan held a celebration rally in Islamabad, waving flags and cheering Sharif’s ouster.

Khan, who spearheaded a campaign for the Supreme Court case that removed Sharif, has said he expects to win the next general elections in 2018.

Meanwhile, Sharif loyalists incensed by his ouster cheered his arrival in the hill town of Murree.

Sharif has lashed out against the court’s decision and opponents who used the Supreme Court to topple him. He has vowed his party would continue to focus on development, touting a faster-growing economy as proof of his success.

“Wheel of development is moving and may God keep it rolling and may it never stop,” he told members of PML-N on Saturday night.

On Sharif’s arrival, supporters chanted: “The Lion is here.” But his foes slammed PML-N’s plans as dynastic and undemocratic. Khan called it a form of “monarchy.”

Sharif said the plan is for former petroleum minister Abbasi to stay in power for less than two months until Shahbaz, who is the chief minister of the vast Punjab province, wins a by-election to the national assembly and becomes eligible to be prime minister.

Abbasi and Shahbaz will have to work fast to tackle Pakistan’s worsening ties with the United States, frayed relations with India, and persistent attacks by Islamist militants, including the Pakistani Taliban and Islamic State.

They will also need to boost economic growth above the current rate of 5.3 percent to find employment for millions of young people entering the job market every year in a nation of nearly 200 million people.

Economists say this will prove tricky, with the current account deficit is ballooning and an overvalued currency is hurting exports.

Court Ruling

Sharif, whose PML-N party won elections in 2013, said he was shocked by Friday’s Supreme Court ruling disqualifying him from office over unreported income from a company owned by his son in Dubai.

Sharif said the monthly salary – equivalent to $2,722 – was nominal and he never actually received any of it.

The Supreme Court employed little-used Article 62 of the Constitution, which calls for the dismissal of any lawmaker deemed dishonest, to dismiss Sharif. His allies believe the verdict smacks of judicial overreach. Others say privately elements of the military had a hand in the process.

“People of Pakistan haven’t accepted the decision,” Abbasi said.

The army has not commented on Sharif’s departure, or on allegations they were involved. It has also dismissed claims in the past that they were behind the Supreme Court’s push.

Sharif’s two previous stints in power were also cut short, the second ending in a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

Shahbaz Sharif, who has been in charge of Punjab since 2008, has better relations with the military than his brother. He has built a reputation as a competent administrator focused on building infrastructure.

Source: Voice of America

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Pakistan’s Northwest Region Continues its Struggle Against Terror Financing

July 30, 2017 |

WASHINGTON � Pakistan’s restive northwest province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has issued directives to its administrative and security departments to make serious efforts to cut off the money supply of banned terror groups.

The provincial departments have been instructed to devise a strategy to crack down and to closely monitor the proscribed groups and individuals involved in raising funds illegally for welfare or religious purposes, Pakistani media reported.

Despite its continued efforts against terrorism, terror financing remains a challenge for Pakistan due to political resistance, sympathizers and money trails that are hard to track, analysts say.

Pakistan will have to come up with a strategy to freeze assets of terror groups, make it difficult for terrorists to gather funds, but to also spot those who’ve adopted new identities and have re-established their networks, A. Z. Hilali, head of political science department at the Peshawar University told VOA.

Suspect groups identified

The official document circulated by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s government emphasized banned groups are not allowed to gather money under any circumstances and security forces and the administration should ensure people and groups raising money for mosques, charity or madrassas (religious seminaries) are lawfully doing so.

In 2015, Pakistan banned around 200 terror groups after establishing their involvement in sectarian and terrorism related activities against the state.

Pakistan had also frozen around $3 million worth of assets of 5,000 suspected terrorists last year. “We will make every possible effort to implement National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terror financing in our province, Shaukat Yousafzai, spokesperson for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government told VOA.

“We’re the biggest victim of terrorism and we do not want them [terrorists] to succeed. We’ll also work to start awareness programs so that banned groups can be prohibited from gathering funds from the masses, Yousafzai said.

A report issued by the Financial Monitoring Unit of Pakistan in March estimated the annual operational budget of terrorist organizations is $48,000 to $240,000.

The terror groups in Pakistan generate hefty amounts through charity and welfare work, receive huge foreign donations and use the “hawala system,” an alternative finance system, used for money laundering, experts say.

National plan

Pakistan’s National Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy aimed at eliminating extremism mentions the state should choke financing for terrorist and terrorist organizations.

Hilali says there is a need to introduce legislation to prohibit collection of funds from the general public. Terrorists collect large sums of money especially during the holy month of Ramadan under the guise of Zakat [mandatory Islamic charity].

The madrassas [religious seminaries] also play an important role and we are aware that a few of them remained involved in collecting funds on behalf of banned terror outfits in the past, Hilali added.

Security analysts also stress that the government should regulate and register all the religious seminaries across the country and should practice caution before making donations to religious organizations and seminaries.

In 2016, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s government received scathing criticism when it allocated a grant of $3 million to Darul Uloom Haqqania, a religious seminary that is interpreted by some critics as the University of Jihad.

The Haqqani network, considered a terrorist group by Afghanistan and the United States, continues to fight Afghan and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have long accused Pakistan of providing support to the Haqqani network. The U.S. State Department released its annual Country Report on Terrorism 2016 earlier this month. It criticized Pakistan and said it remained unsuccessful in stopping the activities of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Source: Voice of America

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