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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Country Reports on Terrorism 2007: South and Central Asia Overview - II

Friday , 09 May 2008

International terror organizations, including al-Qa’ida (AQ) and its supporters, operated and carried out attacks in Pakistan. Violence stemming from Sunni-Shia sectarian strife and militant sub-nationalists also claimed civilian lives. Attacks occurred with greatest frequency in the regions bordering Afghanistan: Balochistan, the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), and the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but militant attacks continued to grow and target urban centers including Karachi, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi.

The trend and sophistication of suicide bombings grew in Pakistan this year. The December 27 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in a suicide bombing after a political rally in Rawalpindi, was the most prominent suicide attack. Between 2002 and 2006, the Department recorded approximately 22 suicide attacks in the country, whereas in 2007 there were over 45 such attacks. These suicide attacks often resulted in large numbers of casualties, and several occurred in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. A number of these attacks targeted well-protected government targets and made use of coordinated and complex operations, such as the November 24 and September 4 suicide attacks in Rawalpindi. On October 18, the most deadly suicide attack in Pakistan’s history took place against Bhutto’s homecoming procession in Karachi, killing over 130, and injuring hundreds more. In separate suicide attacks in Peshawar and Charsadda, extremists targeted Federal Minister for Political Affairs Amir Muqam in November, and former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao in December and April; neither were killed, although there were civilian casualties.

Extremists led by Baitullah Mehsud and other AQ-related extremists re-exerted their hold in areas of South Waziristan and captured over 200 government soldiers, who were later released after a local peace deal collapsed. Earlier this year, extremists took over the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad for a number of months until they were ousted in July during a military operation. Extremists have also gained footholds in the settled areas bordering the FATA, including Swat, Tank, and DI Khan. The Taliban broke a peace agreement between the government and local leaders associated with the Taliban, which contributed to the increase in attacks. Maulana Hasan Jan, a prominent Islamic teacher who preached against the practice of suicide bombings, was assassinated in September. Taliban-linked extremists have closed barber shops and CD and music stores that were alleged to be anti-Islamic, through a series of bombings and threats in the NWFP. A number of girls' schools have closed due to similar threats. Pakistani security forces continued to fight militant leader Maulana Fazlullah in Swat, a settled area in NWFP, after his group tried to implement Sharia law there and displaced court and law enforcement authorities. As of early December, Pakistan’s military was conducting enhanced operations against Fazlullah, although Islamabad will likely continue to face challenges to its ability to enforce its writ of law there.

The government's crackdown on banned organizations, hate material, and incitement by religious leaders continued unevenly. Madrassa registration, foreign student enrollment in madrassas, and financial disclosure requirements remained a source of friction between government and religious leaders.

AQ's continued public calls for the overthrow of President Musharraf remained a threat to Pakistan, despite government efforts to eliminate AQ elements. Pakistan continued to pursue AQ and its allies through nationwide police action and military operations in the FATA and elsewhere. Despite having approximately 80,000 to 100,000 troops in the FATA, including Army and Frontier Corps (FC) units, the Government of Pakistan’s authority in the area continued to be challenged. While military operations caused disruptions in militant activities, there were no reports of the government capturing or killing any senior AQ leaders. Over 1,000 Pakistani military personnel have been killed since 2001 while carrying out counterterrorist operations.

Pakistani security services cooperated with the United States and other nations to fight terrorism within Pakistan and abroad. Hundreds of suspected AQ operatives have been killed or captured by Pakistani authorities since September 2001. Close cooperation between Pakistani, British, and American law enforcement agencies exposed the August 2006 London-Heathrow bomb plot, leading to the arrest in Pakistan of Rashid Rauf and other alleged conspirators connected to the case. On December 15, 2007, Rashid Rauf escaped from police custody in Rawalpindi and remained at large. Two of the police officers guarding him were arrested and questioned.

Pakistan's leaders took steps to prevent support to the Kashmiri militancy, and the number of violent attacks in Kashmir was down by approximately 50 percent from 2006, according to public statements made by the Indian Defense Minister. Meetings in September 2006 led to the March establishment of the Anti-Terrorism Mechanism to coordinate Pakistan-India exchange of information on terrorist threats.

Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT) and other Kashmir-focused groups continued regional attack planning. In 2007, Kashmir-focused groups continued to support attacks in Afghanistan, and operatives trained by the groups continued to feature in AQ transnational attack planning.

Armed conflict between the government and militant Baloch nationalists continued. Pakistani press reported that the government killed the leader of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Nawabzada Balach Marri, in November, although the details remained unclear. The BLA and its sympathizers responded with violent protests and terrorist attacks against the government leaving more than 12 dead. (Pakistan declared the BLA a terrorist organization in April 2006.)

Sectarian violence claimed hundreds of lives this year and increased since 2006, according to data from the Institute for Conflict Management. In November, more than 100 people were killed in Sunni-Shia fighting in Parachinar. In April, approximately 80 people were killed in Kurram (in the FATA), when sectarian fighting broke out after a religious procession was attacked.

In 2006, President Musharraf and governmental agencies developed the FATA Sustainable Development Program (SDP) to accelerate economic and social development and strengthen political administration and security in the region. The government created a FATA Development Authority and filled all of its executive positions in November 2006. Pakistan allocated 120 million USD in its FY-2007 budget for FATA development programming, with the bulk going to education and infrastructure projects. While capacity remained a serious challenge, the government continued to build schools, enhance security, and provide training and education.

Although Pakistan continued to work with the UNSCR 1267 Committee to freeze the assets of individuals and groups identified as terrorist entities linked to AQ and the Taliban, several UN-sanctioned entities continued to operate in Pakistan. In September, the long-awaited anti-money-laundering (AML) ordinance was adopted by presidential decree. Unfortunately, parts of the ordinance did not meet international norms and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations, particularly in the areas of designated offense categories and the statutory definition of money laundering. The AML ordinance formally established a Financial Management Unit (FMU) to independently monitor suspicious transactions.

The State Bank of Pakistan required all informal money changers (or hawaladars) to register as authorized foreign exchange dealers and meet minimum capital requirements, although enforcement was uneven. The regulation had limited success in consolidating the national foreign exchange regime, subjecting it to more stringent regulation and accounting standards. Despite government efforts, unlicensed hawalas still operated illegally in parts of the country (particularly Peshawar and Karachi). The informal and secretive nature of the unlicensed hawalas made it difficult for regulators to effectively combat their operations. Most illicit funds were transacted through these unlicensed operators.

Pakistan arrested or detained several high-profile terrorist suspects, but faced significant challenges in prosecuting such cases. The government freed 28 militants in November, three of whom were convicted on terrorism charges, in exchange for the release of 213 Pakistani soldiers held by militant commander Baitullah Mehsud. In August, the government released Muhammad Naem Noor Khan without formally charging him, even though the government claimed at the time of his arrest in July 2004 that he was a top AQ operative.

The United States and Pakistan engaged in a broad range of counterterrorism cooperative efforts including border security and criminal investigations, as well as several long-term training projects. Pakistan is the third largest recipient of U.S. military and economic assistance. (See Chapter 5, Terrorist Safe Havens (7120 Report), for further information on U.S. Assistance for Pakistan.)

U.S. State Department
30 April 2008

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