in the web
Arrest of five American students from Sargodha reveals al-Qaeda and Taliban are effectively using online terrorist recruiters for identifying potential extremists
By Shaiq Hussain
In the wake of arrest and subsequent court trial of five Muslim American students in Sargodha on terrorism charges, the US and Pakistani authorities are working to unravel a terrorist recruiters' network, which uses internet for the radicalisation of young men and women in the country and across the globe.
The American students were detained in Sargodha in December, last year. Police charged them with trying to join the jihadi organisations by first establishing contacts with the defunct Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. After being rebuffed by the two outfits, they intended to travel to North Waziristan to meet al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership for the purpose.
The five Ramy Zamzam, 22, Ahmad A. Minni, 20, Umar Chaudhry, 24, Waqar Khan, 22, and Aman Hassan Yemer, 18 were taken as CIA agents by the Lashkar and Jaish people, who believed it was a CIA sting operation. Umar and Waqar, among the five, are of Pakistani origin and the others are from Egypt and other Islamic countries.
"These students came across a recruiter for the Pakistani Taliban, Saifullah, via YouTube in August last year, and after that they started exchanging e-mails that culminated in their travel to Karachi and Sargodha from Washington," said an official involved in the investigation with a request for anonymity.
He said Saifullah told the group of five to reach Mianwali by different buses from Sargodha after they failed to win the trust of Lashkar and Jaish people. From there they were supposed to be taken to North Waziristan.
He said Saifullah seemed to have prevailed upon the Pakistani Taliban leadership that the boys from Washington were trustworthy and could be used in future acts of terror. The police, however, got a tip-off about the presence of these students in Sargodha and arrested them before they could leave for Mianwali, he said.
"It's a matter of satisfaction that these potential jihadis have been arrested before they could carry out any act of subversion on Pakistani soil or anywhere else. Apart from other important material, sensitive information about Chashma nuclear power plant has also been recovered from their possession," the official said.
However, he said a serious dimension of the issue was the revelation that al-Qaeda and Taliban were effectively using online terrorist recruiters like Saifullah for identifying and recruiting potential extremists.
The official said the likely arrest of Saifullah, who also played a key role in terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore last year, would help unravel a global network of terrorist recruiters. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which questioned the American students, was also on the trail of these jihadi recruiters, he disclosed.
According to the official, internet is being used for years now across the globe, especially in the Middle East, as a tool to recruit thousands of jihadi volunteers. "There are thousands of terrorist-linked websites, and each day the FBI and other world agencies wrestle with them for the web control. But, the exposure of such network in our part of the world is a new phenomenon that needs to be taken seriously," he said.
Asked about the latest development on Saifullah's manhunt, the official said, "We have found some important clues which cannot be shared with media because of their sensitive nature, but I can tell you that some terrorists currently in police detention are being questioned to know the whereabouts of Saifullah and linkages are being drawn."
The five US students, who were produced early this month in anti-terrorism court of Sargodha, will appear before the court now on January 18. "They will face the court on January 18 in jail in an in-camera session for which all arrangements have been made," Tahir Gujar, a senior police official in Sargodha, told TNS. He said the police investigations showed the American students had not only been in contact with Saifullah, but some other people from different militant organisations as well. However, he declined to identify them.
The accused, in their last court appearance, denied having links to al-Qaeda or planning to carry out terrorist attacks. They reportedly told the court that they intended to travel to Afghanistan only to help their Muslim brothers who were being victimised by the US and Nato forces.
One important question being debated upon after the arrest of these students was their likely deportation to the United States. However, the filing of terrorism charges in a Pakistani court seems to have hampered the US authorities' extradition efforts.
Before taking the matter to court, the Punjab government had asked the federal authorities to take up extradition of former Bank of Punjab (BoP) President Hamesh Khan, currently detained in the United States, with the US administration. "We had asked Islamabad to demand extradition of Hamesh Khan from the US authorities if the American students were to be handed over before the court proceedings. However, now the matter is in court," said an official of the Punjab government desiring not to be named.
He, nonetheless, said that irrespective of what would be the outcome of American students' case, the Punjab government would continue with its efforts along with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for the extradition of Khan wanted in a Rs9 billion fraud case.
Will the recently announced relief package be sufficient to rebuild militancy-wrecked NWFP and tribal areas?
By Mushtaq Yusufzai
The relief package for militancy-wrecked NWFP and adjacent tribal areas announced by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has not only failed to instil hope among the affected people, but also aroused criticism from industrialist and traders.
People of this volatile region had attached high hopes to the long-awaited visit of the prime minister, expecting him to announce a huge relief and developmental package that could, at least, ease some of their sufferings.
Even when Prime Minster Gilani was speaking at a function organised by Sarhad Chambers of Commerce and Industries (SCCI) on Jan 7, 2010 at the highly-fortified Frontier's House, some of the disgruntled traders stood on their seats and raised objection over what they described a "vague relief package" for the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) and largely neglected Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). And when the traders and industrialists attending the function were raising questions about the package, it was not the prime minister but the Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen who tried to appease the displeased traders, but not so convincingly.
A day after Prime Minister Gilani's visit to Peshawar, the government issued details of the relief package for revival of agriculture, business and industry, which were adversely affected by terrorism and militancy. The government also decided to exempt some of the severely affected areas from tax for which the region was divided into three categories.
All the seven tribal regions which form Fata, including Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Kurram, Orakzai and South and North Waziristan agencies, as well as Malakand division and settled districts like Hangu, Bannu, Tank and Kohat were declared the most-affected areas.
Being provincial metropolis and hub of commercial activities of the province, Peshawar bore the maximum brunt of terrorism and was chosen by terrorists for most of their devastating suicide bombings.
However, Peshawar, Charsadda, Dera Ismail Khan, Battagram, Lakki Marwat, Swabi and Mardan districts were put in the moderately-affected category while Nowshera, Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra and Kohistan districts were declared the less-affected areas.
As per details of tax relief, the federal government would allow registered persons/importers or any other business entities owing any amount in the form of customs duty, sales tax or excise duty and income tax, a waiver of the entire amount of penalty and default surcharge if the principal amount is paid by June 30, 2010. This treatment shall apply to the most affected and moderately affected areas.
Similarly, sales tax on electricity consumed by the manufacturing units operating in these areas, whether registered or unregistered, would also be exempted -- that will give a boost to the marble, cosmetics and silk industries. Income tax payable along with electricity bills of commercial and industrial consumers located in the most and moderately affected areas will be fully exempted.
Federal excise duty on goods produced and services rendered will be reduced total exemption for Fata, Pata and other most-affected areas and 50 percent in moderately affected areas. The prime minister also waived off electricity and gas bills in the troubled Malakand division from May to September 2009. According to the relief package, loans of Rs2.56 million for small farmers in Malakand division and Fata would be waived off.
The business community complained the relief package was insufficient to compensate people of this severely-affected region. Expressing his displeasure over the package, noted industrialist Nauman Wazir said, "This is not a relief package but a slap on our face."
Talking to TNS, Nauman Wazir said the government had kept the people in dark by announcing Fata and Pata to be exempt from sales and income taxes as, he argued, Income Tax Ordinance has never been extended to Fata and Pata. Therefore, he said, there was no need to exempt people of these areas from taxes -- rather, "the industrialists in NWFP and Fata were expecting the government to exempt them from gas and power loadshedding like Sindh and Balochistan provinces where the industry had the privilege of power and gas supply without any interruption".
"Under article 158 of the constitution if a province generates gas and electricity more than its requirements then there can be no loadshedding of the facility in that particular region", explained Nauman Wazir, adding that NWFP generates six percent of the total natural gas produced in the country while it hardly consumes one percent of the total production, and thus it gives 4.7 percent of its own production to other provinces.
He was of the opinion that NWFP generates 4500 mega watts of electricity from hydel generation while its total requirement of power is 1200 mega watts in winter. "What the federal government had given us are our constitutional rights and not incentives or any aid package," he noted.
He lamented the deplorable condition of business community and industrial units in NWFP due to a host of reasons -- "It was mainly because of gas and power outages and partially because of militancy that majority of units had been closed leaving thousands of people jobless."
"There were 1654 running units at the end of 2008 which came down to 540 units at the end of 2009, rendering around 330,000 people jobless," said the industrialist, adding the only burning issue that made lives of the people miserable in NWFP was gas and power loadshedding.
Similarly, a tribal parliamentarian from the most-troubled South Waziristan, Senator Maulana Saleh Shah, felt the government should do more than just announcing packages for winning hearts and minds of the tribal regions. "Hearts and minds of the people, who suffered irreparable losses, cannot be won with just a sack of atta and a tent. Let me tell you, tribesmen are not happy and have serious reservations over continuous step-motherly treatment meted out with them by all the successive governments," maintained JUI-F Senator Saleh Shah.
He said not a single penny had been paid to the Mehsud tribesmen for the losses they suffered in the military operation in 2008, despite a report submitted by a committee comprising ISI, MI, political administration and some officials from Fata secretariat. The committee, he said, in its report estimated the Mehsud people suffered Rs320 million losses in the military operation.
"Instead of compensation, the government launched another military operation in South Waziristan in 2009 which brought more destruction and losses to the people living there. The operation is still going on and there is no word about its conclusion," the senator complained.
War of political stars
Both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have every right to fight, but for democracy and people
By Suhail Warraich
A strong believer in science and scientific phenomenon, I don't have faith in astrology but just for leisure's sake one can look into the national political scenario from the astrological point of view.
Betting on stars, the political war between Leo President Asif Zardari (26th July 1956) and Capricorn Nawaz Sharif (25th December 1949) will be a very interesting phenomenon to study. If we go by the movements of planets, differences between Leo Zardari and Leo Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary are also coming to a critical stage in the times to come. Similarly, the tussle between Leo President Zardari and Leo General Kiyani will take a final turn in the coming months.
Historically, astrologists say, whenever there has been a tug of war between a Leo and a Capricorn, Leo eventually takes the lead. According to them, Leo Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir defeated his Capricorn brother Prince Dara Shikoh. Similarly, Leo Ziaul Haq usurped power from Capricorn Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Same is the case with Leo General Musharraf who snatched power from Capricorn Nawaz Sharif in a military coup d'état. Experts on stars say whenever there is a clash between two Leos, the Leo in power is defeated while the Leo seeking power wins. Zardari's star was on the rise when he had assumed power from another Leo General Musharraf whose star was declining. In a side show, however, the out-of-power Leo Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was able to defeat the Leo in power, Asif Zardari, in the final stage of judicial movement, when the latter had to reinstate him.
Astrology apart, leaders of the two major political parties, President Asif Ali Zardari and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, are face to face with each other in political tactics, attitudes and positions. Both went through ordeals and hardships during the Musharraf regime. Zardari has the "honour" of remaining behind the bars for the longest period in the political history of the country. Both the leaders are brave and have the courage to take a stand in difficult times. Nawaz Sharif has the distinction of having refused to sign the dissolution order of the assemblies despite being arrested by the Junta on October 12, 1999, although any mishap could have happened. Zardari has the reputation of a "Mard-e-Hur" who will not bow to his enemies even in the worst of circumstances. When two courageous men have a duel, they are usually not expected to destroy each other. Rather, they fight while leaving room for each other.
Usually, politicians can be judged by their conversation; but both Zardari and Sharif are difficult to be judged by this standard. President Zardari usually talks too much and listens very little while Nawaz listens a lot and talks very little. Both have deceptive styles. Nawaz plays innocent and would give an impression to his guest as if Mr. Know-Nothing is listening to the subject from a Plato of recent times. Actually he might have had a three-hour briefing on the subject prior to the meeting and would know every detail of the subject better than any one else. On the other hand, Zardari plays Mr. Know-All to his guests. If a question is raised about the naval ships, one should be ready to have a full fledged lecture on the importance of navy, what kinds of ships we have and what should Pakistan do to improve the strength of the navy etc.
However, as a matter of fact, neither Zardari is Mr. Know-All nor is Nawaz Mr. Know-Nothing. But both have different approaches to converse with people so they deal in their distinct ways. Both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are secretive and deep and it is very difficult to peep into their hearts to know their actual thinking. Both have their political plans deep in their hearts and they continue to work on them. At times, Mian Sahib can hardly hide his anger and his face turns red. Zardari Sahib can wear his proverbial smile while meeting his enemies and still continue to hate them. Nawaz gives a personal touch while looking after his guests. He would plan where his guest will be seated, what he will be served with and what he will be told. In lighter moment, he will share jokes with his callers.
Zardari also has personal warmth for his acquaintances and would say one or two pointed sentences full of irony and humour to them. If he wants to show his closeness to his guest, he might pat on his belly and put arm around his shoulders.
Both Zardari and Nawaz are adept in drawing room politics. They can win political allies through dialogue. Talking to crowds had not been strength of both the leaders until a few years back, but lately both are proving to be good public speakers. Zardari still does not use verses in his speeches, but he is fond of Urdu poetry - last Mughal emperor Bahadar Shah Zafar being his favourite. Nawaz Sharif has a strong aesthetic sense, ranging from his love for music to the selection of clothes, shoes and watches. He has strong liking for legendary Indian actor Dulip Kumar and singer Muhammad Rafi. Sadly, both the leaders, despite their love for aesthetics, have yet to adopt some policies to save film industry and promote culture. Perhaps both are shy in showing their inclination towards film industry.
Governance and management are the two fields in which Nawaz may lead Zardari since the former has a vast experience as twice elected chief minister and then twice elected prime minister. Zardari is still novice in the field of governance and management and may improve these faculties with the passage of time by gaining experience. Under the present circumstances, the ongoing political fight might continue between the two, but it should not be turned into personal rivalry and revenge. Both have every right to fight for power, but they should not cross the limits that the leadership of the two parties had set in the Charter of Democracy. Crossing limits will not only hurt both, but would also derail the democratic process in Pakistan.
The Third World has its own standards of leadership. Any leader who does not have the courage to sacrifice his life, property and children cannot find a place in the hearts of people. Any political leader can bag votes, may come to power, but might not have a place in history unless he is ready to sacrifice his own life, property and his family members. Zardari and Nawaz have crossed rivers of blood and sweat, but they still have to prove their mettle by moving forward and making more sacrifices if they want a place for themselves in history.
The writer is Director Political Affairs Geo TV and National Editor Political Affairs Daily Jang
Hacking of FIA website that deals in cyber crime shows how vulnerable our online business is
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The website of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) cyber crime wing, called National Response Center for Cyber Crimes (NRCCC), was hacked on January 7 by some untraced hackers. The hackers, who called themselves Pakbugs, left a message on the "defaced" web page http://www.nr3c.gov.pk/, ridiculing the agency staff for not being able to protect even their own website.
The hackers triumphantly commented on the page on display that they were once against successful and complainants should approach them instead of the FIA officials. Reportedly, the website was closed down and restored after the bug was removed.
Ironically, the very website that came under attack was meant for filing complaints against incidents of cyber crime. The response center accepts applications against financial crimes, virus/worm attacks, internet time thefts, unauthorised access to systems, credit card frauds, anti-Pakistan/anti-Islam material on websites, ATM frauds, pornography and so on.
This was not the first attack of its type. In the past, there had been repeated attacks on FIA website as well as other official websites in the country. There were multiple attacks on the FIA website and server in January last year which, according to the agency officials, were successfully foiled. The press had reported at that time that these attempts were made within minutes of the federal Interior Ministry's disclosure of preliminary findings in Mumbai attacks probe. FIA is a major agency carrying out investigations into Mumbai attacks. An FIA official had disclosed on conditions of anonymity the hackers were based in some other country and the agency had involved Interpol to track them down. The hackers might be after the sensitive information related to the Mumbai probe, the official added.
Muhammad Imran, a network engineer based in Karachi, tells TNS hackers are mostly evil genius people and obsessed with the desire to breach the securest of systems. He says hackers have even hacked website of Google, so it's not a big deal gaining access to the FIA's system. "But what's important is that they should be traced and taken to task. If they are left to operate freely, many others will be encouraged to follow them," the engineer adds.
Imran says outsourcing the maintenance of official websites to private companies is a common practice in Pakistan. Many a times these companies have no idea of how sensitive is the information they are guarding, he says. Imran suggests the government departments should train their officials to guard their websites and avoid outsourcing these services, especially when they carry highly sensitive data.
Imran thinks the hackers either wanted to enter the computer network of the department and spoil the data stored there or they simply wanted to establish their superiority over the IT professionals employed by FIA. "In any case, they committed a crime and must be hunted down and prosecuted."
He says such incidents smash the confidence of people who are already wary of conducting financial transactions online. May be the government is also slow in pursuing its goal of promoting e-governance in the country for the same reason, he adds.
TNS contacted various officials at NRCCC, but none of them was willing to come on record. Most of them excused on the ground that they had not been authorised by the project director to talk to media. Deputy Director Cyber Crime, Faisal Iqbal, simply tells TNS, "the website is back and there is no other major development so far." Another FIA official says the hackers were not able to access the official data. All they could do was to deface the web page and jot down a couple of sentences, he adds.
Asif Mahmood Advocate tells TNS the perpetrators of such acts are liable to criminal prosecution under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance, 2009. He says this law applies to every person "who commits an offence under this Ordinance irrespective of his nationality or citizenship whatsoever or in any place outside or inside Pakistan, having detrimental effect on the security of Pakistan or its nationals or national harmony or any property or any electronic system or data located in Pakistan."
He says section 18 of the law prescribes "maximum imprisonment of 10 years or fine not exceeding one million rupees, or both, for those found guilty of gaining criminal access to any sensitive electronic system". This punishment will be in addition to that prescribed for committing that very offence, he adds.
Babar Ali, a Deputy Superintendent Police (DSP) Punjab, tells TNS sometimes it becomes very hard to trace hackers as they can even change the IP address they are using. "They appear to be operating from a particular place, but actually they are placed somewhere else. Sometimes hackers enter a system without letting anybody know about their move and spy on whatever goes on there," he adds.
Babar, who has a long experience of tackling cyber crime, says there is a need to train more and more officials and reduce dependence on private service providers. Besides, he says, instead of employing local players, the departments dealing in sensitive data should hire the services of network security providers like Oracle, Microsoft and Mcafee.