Dawn – The hollowing out of India

Latha Jishnu

Op/Ed, 18 September 2017. Buffeted by strong economic headwinds, which have gathered momentum since the insane demonetisation exercise of last November and made more fierce by a poorly designed change in the national taxation system, Indians have had little time to worry about what else is shaking their republic.

Perhaps they feel the tremors but are as yet unaware of how seriously the pillars of its democratic traditions are being rocked.

When everyone from IT-sector geeks to traders in the country’s most prosperous hubs see their livelihoods evaporating it’s difficult to focus on such things as the well-being of institutions that have been the bedrock of its democracy.

What the anarchic demonetisation exercise did, apart from reducing the country’s GDP by one per cent and sending the economy into a tailspin, is to undermine the Reserve Bank of India, which has long been lauded for its independence.

That reputation now lies in tatters after it was forced go along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political gamble.

Of more serious concern is what is happening to other institutions such as academia and, most worryingly, the armed forces. Take the curious case of Lt-Colonel Shrikant Purohit, which the previous government had highlighted as an instance of saffron terror.

Purohit was released on bail by the Supreme Court last month after spending nine years in jail. His case is important because he is the first serving Indian Army official to be accused of involvement in an act of terror.

The Modi government is chipping away at the institutions and traditions that define the republic

Purohit was arrested in 2008 as one of the conspirators in the Malegaon bomb blast, which killed seven persons and injured 100 in a town known for its Muslim weavers. What is unnerving is the silence of the army. The army has made no official statement but ‘sources’ were quoted as saying he would remain under suspension but would be attached to a unit.

For the ordinary person, it is difficult to fathom how an officer accused of terrorism will be rejoining duty. In the increasingly widening ‘reality distortion field’ that is India it is not easy to sift facts from the persistent propaganda, misrepresentation and hyperbole that accompanies all controversial events.

While TV channels notorious for toeing the official line have hailed Purohit as a hero in no uncertain terms, other media outlets have reminded us that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, which investigated the Malegaon attack, had found Purohit to be the founder of Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu extremist group that emulates Islamist militancy.

They have also pointed out that Purohit’s release was in line with the reluctance of the National Intelligence Agency to pursue the case vigorously and follows the bail given to other conspirators.

This was foretold by Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor in the case, who had revealed in a 2015 interview that she was under pressure from the NIA to go soft on the accused ever since “the new government came to power”.

Purohit’s case merits closer scrutiny. Although he maintains that he was the army mole in radical Hindu organisations, reports by the army has shredded his claim. A 2011 inquiry report of the Directorate General of Military Intelligence had found his presence in several of the Hindutva group meetings to be “illegal”.

Newspapers quoting from the report said DGMI had found that Purohit used his “relaxed work environment” to hold meetings with prominent religious leaders and arms dealers and that he was “involved in procurement and disposal of weapons for monetary benefits”.

These are murky waters and unsettling since it involves national security. It has deepened the unease over the ruling party’s politicisation of the armed forces, which has been talked about but seldom debated in public despite the seriousness of concerns it raises.

Eight months ago, the Modi government rattled India by casting aside a decades-long tradition and superseding two reputedly outstanding officers to appoint Bipin Rawat as the army chief.

Rawat appears to have been handpicked for his aggressive stance on the Kashmir problem, which is line with the BJP’s own hawkish policy and fits in nicely with the party’s nationalist discourse.

Given its penchant for the forces, it’s not surprising that military personnel have been used by the party and the RSS to undermine another institution: universities.

Last year, the RSS student wing ABVP invited former army officers to an event in memory of military martyrs at the JNU, at which pointed remarks were made about the lack of nationalism among the students.

Universities, inevitably, have been under relentless assault, with the RSS determined to take its ‘war for minds’ to the next level. Public universities known to be the citadels of liberal thought and left-wing student politics have come under systematic attack, their academic freedom hugely circumscribed by a slashing of funds.

JNU, for instance, has been forced to cut its intake of research scholars by over 80pc as the RSS goes ahead with its “ideological battle against Macaulay, Marx and Madrasawadis”.

If the government has been more cautious in meddling with another pillar of Indian democracy it has not been for want of trying. In April last year, Modi reduced former chief justice T S Thakur to tears in public because he said the judiciary was unable to handle the “avalanche” of litigation because of shortage of judges.

The Modi government has refused to increase the strength of judges from the current 21,000 to the required 40,000 in an effort to keep the judiciary, which has remained firm in its resolve to decide the appointments, firmly in check.

Damaging institutions, which can destroy modern democratic values based on the constitution, is patently not a concern for the BJP-RSS combine since its contempt for the constitution is barely disguised.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has indicated where the next battlefront will be: bringing in a new legal system based on the “ethos of the society”. Although the Indian constitution was based on an understanding of the ‘Bharatiya ethos’, our founding fathers did not get it quite right since many of the laws are from foreign sources.

This is something to be addressed, he says. In other words, it is not Hindu enough. Indian democracy’s next battle could be its most decisive yet.

The writer is a journalist based in New Delhi

Latha Jishnu



Dawn – Twenty-two injured in London Underground terror attack

London-UK, 15 September 2017. At least 22 people were injured in a bomb blast on a packed London Underground train on Friday.

Passengers were seen badly burnt and covered in blood after the “terrorist incident” which police said was caused by an “improvised explosive device”.

“At 8:20 this morning at Parsons Green station there was an explosion on a Tube train. We now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device,” police counter-terror chief Mark Rowley told reporters.

Witnesses reported seeing passengers with facial burns and hair coming off at Parsons Green station and seeing a fire or hearing an explosion on the train.

Eighteen were taken by ambulance and the other four made their own way to hospital, the NHS said, adding that the injured have been taken to four London clinics, the National Health Service said in a statement.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said she would be chairing an emergency cabinet meeting later on Friday.

Armed police and sniffer dogs were seen on the train and around the station, which is set in a leafy suburb of southwest London popular with well-off commuters and filled with chic cafes.

“Terrorist incident declared at Parsons Green Underground Station,” police said in a statement.

“It is too early to confirm the cause of the fire, which will be subject to the investigation that is now underway by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command,” it said.

“Explosion on Parsons Green District Line train. Fireball flew down the carriage and we just jumped out open door,” a Twitter user said.

The station was closed, as well as an entire section of the District Line where it is located and police urged people to stay away from the area.

A Metro.co.uk reporter at the scene was quoted by the paper as saying that some passengers were “really badly burned” and their “hair was coming off”.

The incident would be the fifth terror attack in six months in Britain since March, when a lone attacker mowed down pedestrians and stabbed a police officer outside the British parliament.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a former London mayor, appealed for calm.

“Obviously, everybody should keep calm and go about their lives in a normal way, as normal as they possibly can,” he told Sky News.

‘Covered in blood’

Passengers described chaotic scenes at the station in a leafy and normally quiet part of west London.

“There was panic, lots of people shouting, screaming, lots of screaming,” Richard Aylmer-Hall, 52, a media technology consultant, told the Press Association.

“There was a woman on the platform who said she had seen a bag, a flash and a bang, so obviously something had gone off,” he said, adding that “some people got pushed over and trampled on.

“I saw two women being treated by ambulance crews,” he said.

BBC correspondent Riz Lateef, who was on her way to work, said: “People were left with cuts and grazes from trying to flee the scene. There was lots of panic.”

One passenger, named only as Lucas, told BBC 5 Live radio: “I heard a really loud explosion”.

“I saw people with minor injuries, burnings to the face, arms, legs, multiple casualties,” he said.

Another witness, Sham, told the radio station he had seen a man with blood all over his face.

“There were a lot of people limping and covered in blood,” he said.

Nicole Linnell, 29, who works for a fashion label, said: “We saw people running down the tracks. About 30 or 40 people.

“They were running down the tracks outside our train,” she told the Press Association. “It was absolutely terrifying”.

Natasha Wills, assistant director of operations at London Ambulance Service said: “Our initial priority is to assess the level and nature of injuries”.

She said the ambulance service had sent “multiple resources” to the station, including a hazardous area response team.


Dawn – Amnesty International urges ban on pellet shotguns in held Kashmir

Srinagar-Jammu & Kashmir-India, 14 September 2017. An international human rights group urged India on Wednesday to immediately ban the use of shotguns by government forces in suppressing protests against Indian rule in India-held Kashmir, saying pellets fired by the weapons have blinded and killed people indiscriminately.

Amnesty International also criticised Indian authorities for failing to support those who have been injured and disabled by the weapons.

“Authorities claim the pellet shotgun is not lethal, but the injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bear testimony to how dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate it is. There is no proper way to use pellet-firing shotguns,” said Aakar Patel, head of the group’s Indian chapter.

Patel said shotguns have caused immense suffering in Kashmir and are not used anywhere else in India. “This weapon has only been reserved for Kashmiris,” he said. “It is irresponsible of authorities to continue the use of these shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do.”

The group issued a report, ‘Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns’, which profiles 88 people whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired by Indian forces between 2014 and 2017, showcasing what it called the “human cost of the government’s heavy-handed crackdown in [India-held] Kashmir”.

The report includes 14 female victims who were wounded inside their homes.

Indian authorities did not immediately respond to the report.

“These inherently inaccurate shotguns fire hundreds of metal pellets which spread over a wide area,” the report said. It said pellets alone have killed at least 14 people in a little more than a year since then.

“Authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not the solution,” Patel said. “Security forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by protesters by means that allow for better targeting or more control over the harm caused.”

He said the government should “immediately stop the use of pellet-firing shotguns and ensure that the use of all other weapons is in line with international human rights standards on use of force.”


Dawn – Hazara killings

Editorial, 12 September 2017. In the violence against civilians in the country, the repeated targeting of Hazaras in Balochistan stands out as a particularly grim failure of the state. On Sunday, yet another family of the Shia community was targeted in Kuchlak as they were travelling to Quetta.

Four individuals, including a child, were killed in the attack. What followed is also distressingly predictable: the assailants rode off on a motorcycle unimpeded; security forces arrived at the scene after the gunmen had fled; and hasty search operations in the immediate aftermath of the killing failed to lead to the attackers.

Meanwhile, the Hazara people have been left to mourn more deaths in a seemingly never-ending descent into fear and terror. To be sure, the vast physical expanse of Balochistan and the sparse population of the province mean that protecting all the people all the time would challenge even the best-resourced, most-committed security forces in the world.

But there have been several such incidents in Balochistan; they are clearly linked to a flawed security policy in the region and the failure of the political leadership. The Hazaras, as indeed the general population in Balochistan, will not be safe until the state changes its approach to security in the region.

Yet, delay in long-term changes should not stand in the way of short-term improvements where possible. The enemies of the Hazara people are a relatively narrow band of militants on the militancy spectrum. Among the groups likely to attack the Hazaras, active militants are estimated to be relatively small.

So while there is no possibility of physically protecting every Hazara, the state can use its significant intelligence and security apparatuses to identify and progressively shut down groups targeting the community.

Further, while the state has pointed repeatedly at external sponsors of militancy being responsible for terrorism in Balochistan, the networks used are invariably local. So is preventing violence against Hazaras not a priority for the state, or are lessons that ought to be learned not being learned because there is little accountability?

Finally, the Balochistan government, weak and sidelined as it may be in security matters, needs to take a stand. When it comes to the Hazaras, there has long been a suspicion that the political class is indifferent to their plight. The provincial government needs to demonstrate empathy and concern for all its people.

Hazaras are also targeted by terrorists in Afghanistan, and many Afghans look down upon them similar to the way many people in India still look down on Dalits. For better understanding of the Hqzaras I recommend reading ‘The Kite Runner’ by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini
Man in Blue


Dawn – UK seeks Pakistan’s help in Altaf hate speech probe

Owen Bennett-Jones

London, 6 September 2017. Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has asked for Pakistan’s help to bring charges against MQM-London leader Altaf Hussain, according to documents obtained by Dawn.

The British authorities are focusing on violence associated with speeches given by Mr Hussain on 11 March 2015 and 22 August 2016.

The charges being considered by the British range from encouraging violent disorder, inciting others to commit terrorism outside England and Wales to encouragement of terrorism.

Other charges could include intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence. The various offences fall under the Terrorism Act, the Serious Crime Act and the Public Order Act.

Asked about the British investigation into Mr Hussain’s speeches, the MQM declined to comment.

A British document sent to Pakistan on 8 August this year recounts how, after the 22 August 2016 speech, some of Mr Hussain’s supporters went on the rampage in Karachi. “Towards the end of the speech, he seemed to be encouraging the audience to go and attack local media stations,” the document says.

According to the CPS, the protesters attacked the ARY News office. “As a result of the violence, one person was killed and several others were injured.” The document names the deceased as Arif Saeed.

In the 22 August speech, Mr Hussain said: “Pakistan is headache for the entire world. Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism for the entire world. Who says long live Pakistan…it’s down with Pakistan.”

Later in the speech when he asked, “So you are moving to ARY and Samaa [offices] from here…right?”, he received from the crowd a unanimous and loud reply in the affirmative.

“So you go to Samaa and ARY today and then refresh [yourself] tomorrow for the Rangers place. And tomorrow we would lock down the Sindh government building, which is called Sindh Secretariat.”

The CPS document also cites a less well-known speech made on 11 March 2015 following the Rangers’ raid on Nine Zero. After that raid, the document says, Mr Hussain gave a live interview on Geo TV.

Reports about the interview indicate that Mr Hussain denounced the raid, and said the death of an MQM activist, Waqas Shah, during the raid deeply upset him. He also accused the Rangers of planting the ammunition they seized at Nine Zero

The most likely explanation of the CPS’s interest in the otherwise largely forgotten March 11 speech is that nine days later, on March 20, 2015 the Pakistani authorities lodged a complaint to the UK police requesting that Mr Hussain be investigated for his comments on March 11.

A potentially controversial aspect of the request concerns the death of Waqas Shah during the Nine Zero raid. The British document observes that: “The Rangers have denied that he was killed by them,” and goes on to request: “a statement and any further details from any pathologist regarding the post mortem or cause of death in relation to Mr Waqas Shah.”

The MQM has claimed that, in fact, Waqas Shah was killed by the Rangers. Earlier this month an MQM worker, Syed Asif Ali, was sentenced to death for the murder of Waqas Shah.

The CPS document appears confused as to the sequence of events on March 11. At one point it states that Mr Waqas Shah was killed during the raid on Nine Zero and before Mr Hussain gave his Geo TV interview.

But later the document says the death of Mr Waqas Shah followed Mr Hussain’s speech. The distinction would seem crucial to any attempt to prove incitement.

Asked how Mr Hussain could have incited a death that occurred before he spoke, the CPS said that due to staff leave they needed more time before making a statement.

The current enquiry into the speeches, called ‘Operation Demerit’, was established by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command in February this year and brought together two separate units that were looking into possible hate crime offences.

Initially Operation Demerit considered six of Mr Hussain’s speeches but the CPS document indicates that it is now focusing on just two of them.

Asked about the progress of Operation Demerit, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed to Dawn that an International Letter of Request has been sent to Pakistan and said that it is not yet clear how long it will take to decide whether or not to lay charges: “a decision will be made in due course: no time limit has been set.”

The CPS is requesting a significant amount of Pakistani assistance. London is asking Islamabad to provide copies of all the investigation files in relation to both speeches. It is hoping to receive the Sindh Police files, details of the Sindh Counter Terrorism Division investigation files, the FIA files and the Sindh Rangers files.

The CPS is also hoping to obtain copies of the speeches and any video of the aftermath that “may help identify criminal offences committed by Mr Hussain.”

The British government also wants details of any suspects arrested in relation to incidents following the two speeches and anything else Pakistan would consider useful to progress the cases in relation to possible incitement.

The British document makes it clear that any material provided by Pakistan could be used in criminal proceedings in the UK. And it adds that in the future Pakistan could expect to experience similar co-operation from the British government.

“I confirm that the assistance required above may be obtained under current English law if in a like case a request for such assistance were made to the authorities in England and Wales,” the document says.

Pakistan has previously made attempts to link the MQM cases to the presence of Baloch separatists in London. The current investigation into Mr Hussain’s speeches is the only active British police enquiry into MQM-London and its leader.

A source close to the investigation has said that some British officials remain determined that the politics surrounding the various cases should not be allowed to obstruct justice.

Over the last 12 months the British authorities have dropped two large-scale and long-running investigations into MQM-related matters. The first, into possible money laundering offences, had involved the UK police gathering evidence of significant flows of money coming into MQM-London, some of it from Indian sources.

The second into the 2010 murder of MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq identified two individuals in Pakistan who were suspected of having travelled to London to carry out the murder.

Both investigations collapsed amidst private expressions of mutual distrust and frustration by the British and Pakistani authorities. The MQM has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to both cases and says the decision to close down the investigations was a vindication of its longstanding protestations of innocence.


Dawn – Chances to solve Siachen, Sir Creek disputes missed: Shyam Saran

Our Correspondent

New Delhi, 8 September 2017. India and Pakistan came close to demilitarising the Siachen Glacier in 1989, 1992 and 2006, on all occasions during Congress party governments, a former Indian foreign secretary has claimed.

The Hindu on Thursday quoted top diplomat Shyam Saran as blaming then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s national security adviser M K Narayanan as opposing the Siachen move at the last minute during a meeting of the cabinet’s security committee in 2006.

Releasing his book, How India Sees the World: Kautilya to the 21st Century, here on Wednesday, Mr Saran also described the ‘missed opportunity’ to solve the Sir Creek dispute.

India and Pakistan nearly came to an agreement on demilitarising the Siachen Glacier at least three times, he said.

Dr Manmohan Singh launched the book and former national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon discussed it.

In a discussion on the reasons for the failure of the two sides to come to an agreement in 2006, during tenures of the Manmohan Singh government and the Musharraf regime, Mr Saran said the two had even agreed on authenticating ground positions of the troops before the deal fell through.

The setback came as the crucial meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) was held on the eve of India-Pakistan defence secretary-level talks in May 2006, where the draft agreement that had been approved by the Indian army and other stakeholders was to be discussed.

Mr Saran said two crucial players, then NSA Narayanan and then army chief General J J Singh, made last-minute interventions to cancel the proposal.

“When the CCS meeting was held on the eve of the defence secretary–level talks, Narayanan launched into a bitter offensive against the proposal, saying that Pakistan could not be trusted, that there would be political and public opposition to any such initiative and that India’s military position in the northern sector vis-à-vis both Pakistan and China would be compromised.

“General Singh, who had happily gone along with the proposal in its earlier iterations, now decided to join Narayanan in rubbishing it,” he said.

The Hindu quoted Mr Saran as saying that both Indian and Pakistani armies had agreed to authenticate the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), and sign an annexure with maps marking exactly where Indian and Pakistani troops held positions.

As a result, says Mr Saran, Indian troops who occupy the heights of Siachen would be able to mutually withdraw and be spared “extreme cold and unpredictable weather in inhospitable areas, [where] their psychological isolation was just as bad as their physical hardship”.

The former secretary’s revelations are significant as it is the first time that an Indian official of the time has accepted that agreements on Siachen and Sir Creek, often called the “low-hanging fruit” of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue between the two countries, was a reality.

In 2015, Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri wrote about the agreements in his memoirs Neither a Hawk nor a Dove, with an account of the Pakistani side of those negotiations.

During the book launch on Wednesday, retired General J J Singh, who was also in the audience, asked Mr Saran whether it would have been possible, in fact, to “trust Pakistan”, and ensure Pakistani troops wouldn’t return to occupy positions in Siachen.

“In matters of international diplomacy, it is a convergence of interests rather than trust that counts,” Mr Saran was quoted as saying in his reply.

The Hindu said the book also records what Mr Saran calls a “missed opportunity” to solve the Sir Creek dispute in Kutch, with the solution crafted by the navy to divide the creek between India and Pakistan according to the “equidistance” principle.

When asked by Mr Menon whether the opportunities to resolve the longstanding issues with Pakistan still existed, Mr Saran said: “Opportunities are perishable. When they aren’t seized, they don’t return.”


Dawn – Peshawar’s Sikh community school gets new lease on life

Ali Akbar

Peshawar-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa-Pakistan, 6 September 2017. A school run by the Sikh community in Peshawar will continue operations after fears arose earlier that it would have to halt operations after being asked to vacate premises on Wednesday.

The Rising Hope Public School located in Peshawar’s Jogan Shah area, next to a historical Gurdwara, is the only private school providing education to the Sikh community in the area.

Principal Gurpal Singh explained that the school administration does not own the property where it is built, “and this is a problem” as it has had to change three buildings due to various problems.

Earlier today, the owner of the premises had asked the admiministration to vacate the building as it was to be sold, Gurpal said.

However, the crisis was averted after the administration approached the new owner of the building and requested them to allow the school to continue operations over there.

“The new owner agreed to give the building on rent to the school management at new contract,” Gurpal said, adding that the new owner had also increased the monthly rent of the building from Rs30,000 to Rs35,000 and the security deposit of Rs150,000 to Rs300,000.

“However, this is a temporary solution and the community wants to see a more permanent solution to the problem,” the principal said, adding that they were looking to the government for a permanent solution to the problem.

Gurpal said that the school’s administration had also approached the provincial education department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak, and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan for a permanent building for the school but to no avail.

However, earlier today when the issue had yet to be resolved, the PTI had tweeted offering students at Rising Hope enrollment in other KP public schools.

Rising Hope Public School began as a single-room school almost three years ago, and had attracted a number of children from the neighbourhood.

Over 250 students, including girls, are currently enrolled in school which primarily runs on community donations.

Over 50 per cent of the students, mostly from the Sikh community, are receiving free education at the school.

Although Rising Hope is a Sikh community school, it also serves Christian, Hindu and Muslim students.

Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh
Jogan Shah – Namakmandi
Peshawar, KP


Dawn – BRICS commit to ‘intensify cooperation’ against terror financing, money laundering

Staff Reporter

Karachi-Sindh-Pakistan, 6 September 2017. The BRICS countries, following the summit in Xiamen, have committed to intensifying their cooperation against terror financing and money laundering, within the framework established by the United Nations, specifically the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

“We call for swift and effective implementation of relevant UNSC Resolutions and the FATF International Standards worldwide. We seek to intensify our cooperation in FATF and FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs).

We recall the responsibility of all states to prevent financing of terrorist networks and terrorist actions from their territories.”

The “relevant UNSC resolutions” referred to in the statement includes UNSC 1267, which lists all those groups, entities and individuals that have been designated as terrorists by the United Nations Security Council. A large number of groups and individuals based in Pakistan, as well as the aliases used by them, are listed in that resolution.

The statement makes repeated mention of terror financing as an area of concern where the signatory countries will cooperate in the future. It calls for “blocking sources of financing terrorism” as well as to “tackle all sources, techniques and channels of terrorist financing.”

Pakistan has been struggling since 2015 to get a clean bill of health for its financial system following the removal of the country’s name from the so-called FATF “black list”, or list of countries whose financial system is vulnerable to being used for purposes of terror financing.

More recently, banks have found their foreign operations coming under increasing scrutiny by global regulatory authorities, as well as becoming the target of enforcement actions, due to vulnerabilities to terror financing.

“We have to be extremely careful,” says a senior source in the world of banking who has intimate familiarity with the matter. “It’s like a minefield out there. You have to be very careful as you navigate your country and your financial system through this”.

He adds that the requirements of the FATF are applicable to all countries, not only Pakistan, and the need to bring one’s financial system into compliance with global guidelines is becoming increasingly urgent because the costs of lack of compliance could well be rising, and are also being refracted through the prism of bilateral and regional relations that every country has with others.

Pakistan has struggled for more than a decade to come into proper compliance with FATF guidelines. A law against money laundering and terror financing has been passed, as well as strengthening the SECP to pursue cases of terror financing.

The State Bank has updated its guidelines for banks to detect and prevent terrorist funds and money laundering. But Pakistan’s track record of fully implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1267 remains under review by the FATF.


Dawn – Camps reach capacity as Rohingya Muslims pour into Bangladesh

Dhaka, 3 September 2017. Aid officials said relief camps were reaching full capacity as thousands of Rohingya refugees continued to pour into Bangladesh on Sunday fleeing violence in western Myanmar.

Some 73,000 people have crossed the border since violence erupted on August 25 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Vivian Tan.

The violence and the exodus began after Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar police and paramilitary posts in what they said was an effort to protect their ethnic minority from persecution by security forces in the majority Buddhist country. In response, the military unleashed what it called “clearance operations” to root out the insurgents.

Another aid official said on Saturday that more than 50 refugees had arrived with bullet injuries and were moved to hospitals in Cox’s Bazar, on the border with Myanmar.

Refugees reaching the Bangladeshi fishing village of Shah Porir Dwip described bombs exploding near their homes and Rohingya being burned alive.

Both Myanmar’s security officials and Rohingya insurgents are accusing each other of atrocities. The military has said nearly 400 people, most of them insurgents, have died in clashes.

Aid workers said that large numbers of refugees required immediate medical attention as they were suffering from respiratory diseases, infection and malnutrition. The existing medical facilities in the border area were insufficient to cope up with the influx and more aid and paramedics were needed, aid workers said.

“We fled to Bangladesh to save our lives,” said a man who only gave his first name, Karim. “The military and extremist Rakhine are burning us, burning us, killing us, setting our village on fire.”

He said on Saturday he paid 12,000 Bangladeshi taka, or about $150, for each of his family members to be smuggled on a wooden boat to Bangladesh after soldiers killed 110 Rohingya in their village of Kunnapara, near the coastal town of Maungdaw.

“The military destroyed everything. After killing some Rohingya, the military burned their houses and shops,” he said. “We have a baby who is 8 days only, and an old woman who is 105.”

Satellite imagery analysed by Human Rights Watch shows hundreds of buildings had been destroyed in at least 17 sites across Rakhine state since August 25, including some 700 structures that appeared to have been burned down in just the village of Chein Khar Li, the rights watchdog said.

The government blames the insurgents for burning their own homes and killing Buddhists in Rakhine.

Longstanding tension between the Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists erupted in bloody rioting in 2012, forcing more than 100,000 Rohingya into displacement camps, where many still live.

Bangladeshi police said Thursday that three boats carrying refugees had capsized in the Naf River, killing at least 26, including women and children.


Dawn – Hasty departure of an ex-general

Abbas Nasir

Op/Ed, 2 September 2017. A news item that didn’t seem to get any traction at all in Pakistan this week was the filing of war crimes charges in Brazil and Colombia against the former chief of the Sri Lankan army General Jagath Jayasuriya who is reported to have fled from Latin America.

The charges relate to the alleged war crimes, including summary execution of surrendered/captured Tamil Tiger cadres, rape and torture of men and women, disappearances, and then mass-scale targeting of civilians in ‘no-fire-zones’ recorded in eastern Sri Lanka using rockets and artillery.

Jayasuriya was the operational commander as a major-general in northern Sri Lanka during the last stretches of the war which saw the army finally crushing the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and declaring victory in May 2009, bringing to a close the quarter century-old conflict.

Later, after his elevation as army chief which was followed by his retirement from the army in 2015, Jayasuria was posted as his country’s envoy to Brazil with simultaneous accreditation to Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Chile and Suriname based in Brasilia.

The charges were filed by the South Africa-headquartered International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in partnership with human rights organisations in Latin America. They were represented by Spanish lawyer Carlos Castresana Fernández.

Charges relate to Jayasuriya’s role in the final phase of the Sri Lankan civil war when the UN estimated between 40,000 and 70,000 Tamil civilians were killed.

In 1996, Mr Fernandez was among the Spanish lawyers who filed cases against Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in the Spanish National Court. As head of the Commission Against Impunity in Guatelama (CICIG), he indicted Guatemala’s former president Alfonso Portillo and a number of other Guatemalan war criminals including members of organised crime.

He was also involved in the cases against Argentine dictator General Rafael Videla for crimes committed during his tenure from 1976 to 1981. “I am shocked to see there is even more evidence of grave crimes in this lawsuit than in the cases we started against Gen Pinochet or Videla,” said Castresana, according to the ITJP.

“Nobody believed at first that the Pinochet case would go anywhere or that the Argentinian courts would ever be able to make the military juntas accountable; nobody believed the Guatemalan security forces could be held accountable, but with a handful of good, committed people I want to tell you that it is possible to deliver justice for the victims.

I don’t care that he fled Brazil; the case is just starting. He has made things easier for us, because fleeing he will not enjoy immunity anymore.”

The ITJP says the charges relate to Jayasuriya’s role in the final phase of the civil war in 2009 when the United Nations estimated between 40,000 and 70,000 Tamil civilians were killed and a 2015 UN Investigation found reasonable grounds to conclude the Sri Lankan military had committed systematic and widespread violations of international humanitarian law.

The lawsuit filed in Brasilia and Bogotá on Monday alleges that Jayasuriya bears individual criminal responsibility as the commander of units that committed repeated attacks on hospitals, carried out acts of torture and sexual violence and were responsible for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Jagath Jayasuriya was the Vanni Security Force commander from 2007-09 and, by his own admission, overseeing the entire conduct of the final phase of the war during which Tamil civilians were indiscriminately shelled and bombed and hospitals targeted.

He oversaw the offensive from one of Sri Lanka’s most notorious torture sites, known as Joseph Camp. The ITJP has collected testimony from 14 survivors of torture and/or sexual violence in this camp that occurred while General Jayasuriya was in command of the site.

Joseph Camp had purpose-built torture chambers, equipped with manacles and chains, pulleys for hoisting detainees upside down, bars for handcuffing them to the ceiling and underground holding cells. Victims describe hearing other detainees screaming at night, which the general would also have been able to hear from his house in the camp.

The lawsuit also alleges Jayasuriya, who went on to become Sri Lankan army commander, had command responsibility for acts of extrajudicial execution and the enforced disappearance of hundreds of those who surrendered at the end of the conflict.

The Sri Lankan government, for its part, rejected the charges against one of the country’s war heroes and described them as part of the Tamil diaspora’s ‘propaganda’ against Colombo and its forces. It has also said it is happy to investigate any credible charges of such crimes.

Having read through the details of testimonies of some of the survivors a picture of immense horror emerges of brutal torture and sex crimes against the detainees before their summary execution.

In many cases, soldiers involved in the actions were making videos of the whole exercise on their phones, lending credence to charges that this was an orchestrated effort.

One is, of course, not naïve about how vicious this war was and how nearly insane was the LTTE’s founder-leader Vellupillai Prabhakran as his quest for a separate Tamil homeland in the north of the country included using child soldiers and deploying suicide bombers.

He also spurned a credible peace effort a few years before being killed in the final phase of the conflict.

But that a country’s trained armed forces would so systematically disregard the law and trample on human rights is shocking to say the least. Whether Jayasuriya is ever brought to court anywhere in the world one can’t say.

What one can say is that such cases should serve as a warning to other autocratic governments and officials that one day their horrible crimes will chase them and leave them with no place to hide. Look at the Sri Lankan general’s fate.

From representing his country in several countries in South America, he will now live the rest of his days on his small island state, too fearful to step out let alone travel abroad for fear of facing justice.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn