Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan
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Thread: Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

  1. #1

    Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

    Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan
    The signs of Islamic State moving into Pakistan are there, but what difference does this make in a nation already subject to similar horrors?

    A Pakistani man walks past a wall graffiti reading "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi". Photo: Getty
    On 16 April in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, an American teacher was critically wounded. Debra Lobo, 55, is married to a Pakistani and has lived in the country for around 30 years, working at a private medical college since 1996. She was sitting in her car when she was shot twice in the head by two men on motorbikes.

    Terrorist attacks and shootings in Pakistan are commonplace, but attacks on foreigners are unusual. The other thing that marked this incident out was that the gunmen left a note on Lobo’s car implying affiliation with Islamic State. The note promised more ambushes of this type on Americans.

    One thing that Pakistan has in no short supply is militant groups. The military is currently engaged in an operation against the Taliban in the north of the country. The main group, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has splintered into numerous factions after a leadership dispute. They join long-established sectarian anti-Shia groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah Sihaba Pakistan.

    There have been concerns about IS establishing a foothold in the country for some months now. Back in October 2014, after the killing of British aid worker Alan Henning, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid pledged the group’s support in a statement: “Oh our brothers, we are proud of you in your victories. We are with you in your happiness and your sorrow.”

    The following month, in November, international news outlets quoted several high-ranking TTP officials saying that they had defected to a new branch of IS. These officials claimed that thousands of fighters had defected with them, but there has been little evidence of this in practice. If the group exists, not much is known about its size and capacity. Other Pakistani militants, previously associated with al-Qaeda, have also said that they are now operating under the banner of IS.

    But Pakistani military and intelligence officials say that they have detected only scattered signs that there is a rising threat from IS militants in the country. While I was in Karachi earlier this month, a week before the shooting of Lobo, there were murmurs about the group establishing a base in the city. Residents particularly expressed concern about pro-IS graffiti. Certain areas of Karachi have become hotbeds of militancy. In some of these areas, I saw walls daubed with graffiti in support of “Daesh” (the Arabic acronym for the group). In the northern city of Peshawar, there have been reports of pro-IS leaflets being distributed. These are striking visual signs of support for the group, but do they indicate a serious cause for concern?

    The brutality of IS already has a clear precedent in the TTP. When the group seized control of parts of northern Pakistan after its formation in 2007, it imposed strict social codes with harsh violence. When the TTP briefly controlled Swat in 2009, barbershops and girls’ schools were closed down. Men who shaved their beards were killed and women who broke strict rules of modesty publically flogged. Beheadings were used frequently to instil terror in the local populations. The TTP beheaded nearly all the 100 Pakistani soldiers it took hostage in 2007. The similarities are not just tactical; both IS and the TTP have a harsh sectarian agenda, viewing Shia Muslims as apostates, and both have seized territory in their localities.

    Pakistan is a country inured to violence, where there is news of a bomb attack or a fatal shooting somewhere in the country every single day. More than 30,000 lives have been lost to terrorist violence since 2001. It takes major events, like the slaughter of 150 schoolchildren in Peshawar last year, to shock this traumatised population. Against this backdrop of violence and the already complex web of different militant groups – whose aims converge at some points and diverge at others – it is difficult to see what major difference the entrance of IS would make. Each year already seems to bring a worsening of atrocities. The key concern, of course, is that the arrival of a new group could exacerbate an already dire situation, and perhaps reinvigorate militant movements as the TTP struggles with internal fractures and the pressures of the military operation in Waziristan.

    After the Peshawar attack, Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced an end to the policy of differentiating between “good” and “bad” terrorists – negotiating with some while fighting others. From here on in, all are “bad”. This is a starting point, but it does not solve the problem that Pakistani extremism is not limited to a single group or a single geographical area. It is hidden in the corners of cities, and governed by scores of different networks that may coordinate at some times but work independently at others.

    The military has announced that it will not allow IS to establish a base in Pakistan. But given its poor record on fighting the extremist threat thus far – tacitly encouraging groups which serve its foreign policy goals while proclaiming to deplore militancy – it is difficult to have much faith in this.

  2. #2

    Re: Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

    Markets | Wed Apr 22, 2015 10:15am EDT Related: STOCKS, MARKETS, FINANCIALS
    MIDEAST STOCKS-Middle East markets edge up as Yemen air strikes end

    * Zain Saudi surges on improving performance

    * But Mobily falls further after unexpected Q1 loss

    * Saudi, Dubai face major resistance at 200-day averages

    * DAMAC ends well off high despite 2015 dividend news

    * Egypt stabilises after bout of weakness on tax plan

    By Olzhas Auyezov

    DUBAI, April 22 (Reuters) - Most major stock markets in the Middle East rose modestly on Wednesday after Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region decided to end a campaign of air strikes against Yemen's Houthi rebels.

    Riyadh announced late on Tuesday that it was ending a month-long offensive against the Houthis, who seized large areas of Yemen, and said it would back a political solution to bring peace to its war-ravaged neighbour.

    The Yemen fighting was never a big concern for financial markets, which believed the Gulf states could prevent the conflict from spreading beyond Yemen's borders; bond yields and credit default swaps barely moved in response to the violence.

    Nevertheless, the fighting did unsettle some retail investors in the Gulf and Egypt, and stock markets across the region fell by several percent in the days after the military campaign began.

    Saudi Arabia's index inched up 0.1 percent on Wednesday to 9,572 points, although it closed well off its intra-day highs, struggling for a fourth day in a row to break through major technical resistance in the 9,572-9,745 point area, where the 200-day average roughly coincides with the March peak.

    Telecommunications operator Zain Saudi surged 4.8 percent after announcing its first-quarter loss had narrowed to 257 million riyals ($68.5 million) from 318 million riyals a year earlier. Two analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast losses of 270.1 million and 289.4 million riyals.

    Blue-chip petrochemical firm Saudi Basic Industries rose 0.9 percent and property developer Jabal Omar , another main support for the benchmark, climbed 1.1 percent.

    But telecommunications operator Mobily, which posted a surprise first-quarter loss on Tuesday and tumbled 6.8 percent on that day, retreated 2.2 percent further.

    A number of other stocks also declined on profit-taking after rising sharply this week on news that the kingdom would open the market to direct foreign investment from June 15.


    Dubai's index climbed 0.3 percent to 4,133 points as most stocks gained. Property developer DAMAC initially surged after saying it would pay at least 25 percent of its capital in cash dividends in 2015 and the same ratio in 2016. But it closed only 0.3 percent higher.

    The company, which only offered a 10 percent bonus share issue for 2014, also reported a 38 percent fall in first-quarter net profit because of a large one-off gain a year earlier. It later clarified that the profit of its property unit, DAMAC Real Estate Development Ltd, rose 3 percent in the same period.

    Another real estate firm, Union Properties, jumped 3.5 percent to 1.50 dirhams, a five-month closing high. The stock has attracted increasing volumes after breaking this week through technical resistance at 1.34-1.35 dirhams, its peaks in late December and January.

    Dubai's benchmark is approaching major chart resistance on its 200-day average, now at 4,259 points. It has not traded above that level on a sustained basis since last October.

    Abu Dhabi's index rose 0.6 percent and First Gulf Bank (FGB) was the main support, jumping 2.3 percent ahead of an earnings announcement and after its competitor Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank beat estimates with a 31 percent increase in first-quarter net profit.

    But FGB's first-quarter profit, announced after the close, was 1.42 billion dirhams ($386.7 million), falling short of analysts' average forecast of 1.51 billion dirhams.

    Qatar's bourse inched up 0.1 percent as Qatar Electricity and Water Co, the country's monopoly utility, jumped 3.6 percent.

    The firm reported a 15.7 percent rise in first-quarter net profit to 346 million riyals ($95.1 million). Two analysts polled by Reuters had forecast QEWC would make a profit of 303.8 million and 308.8 million riyals.

    Egypt's index climbed 0.6 percent, after declining for five sessions in a row. Cairo had joined the Saudi-led coalition against Yemen's Houthis so the end of the air strikes was also positive for the Egyptian market, said Harshjit Oza, an analyst at Cairo-based Naeem brokerage.

    But the market may remain soft until the release of first-quarter earnings, which are due by mid-May, he added. One negative factor is the adoption early this month of bylaws covering new taxes on capital gains and dividends which, according to some market players, are making Cairo less appealing to investors compared with other bourses in the region.

    "That's a concern and we can see that in the volumes," Oza said.

    Several Egyptian media, including the Youm Al Sabeh newspaper, on Tuesday quoted Egyptian stock exchange chairman Mohammed Omran as saying that he himself did not understand some of the new regulations because of their complexity.



    * The index inched up 0.1 percent to 9,572 points.


    * The index edged up 0.3 percent to 4,133 points.


    * The index added 0.6 percent to 4,706 points.


    * The index rose 0.1 percent to 11,993 points.


    * The index edged up 0.6 percent to 8,629 points.


    * The index slipped 0.02 percent to 6,307 points.


    * The index added 0.3 percent to 6,351 points.


    * The index edged up 0.4 percent to 1,400 points. (Editing by Andrew Torchia)

  3. #3

    Re: Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

    'I’m a top Isis target': Berlusconi

    Silvio Berlusconi reportedly claims he is an Isis target. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
    Published: 23 Apr 2015 11:11 GMT+02:00

    Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has claimed he’s a top target of the Islamic militant group, Isis, and for this reason he can only take part in closed-door political campaigns.

    So this rules him out of any outdoor rallies on behalf of his Forza Italia party in the run-up to the regional elections at the end of May.

    “I’m among the targets of Isis, I’m at the top,” Berlusconi said during a meeting with Forza Italia deputies, Corriere reported, citing party sources.

    In early March, the 78-year-old was cleared of charges that he paid for sex with an underage dancer and then abused his position as premier to cover it up.

    The acquittal left him free to resume a central role in politics at the helm of Forza Italia. He has also hinted at running for mayor of Milan, it was reported last month.

    Embroiled in legal wrangles for the past 20 years, he was sentenced to one year in prison after being convicted in 2013 of tax fraud. But that jail term was instead converted to community service at a home for dementia suffers in Milan, which was cut short in March for good behaviour.

  4. #4

    Re: Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

    Apr 23, 8:40 AM EDT


    SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Yemen's defiant Shiite rebels pressed their offensive in the country's south, apparently ignoring an overture from Saudi Arabia earlier this week, while the kingdom's warplanes continued to target their positions Thursday, officials said.

    In a stunning development, Saudi Arabia had declared on Tuesday that it was halting coalition airstrikes targeting Yemen's Shiite rebels known as Houthis - a four-week air campaign meant to halt the rebel power grab and help return to office embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a close U.S. ally who fled Yemen.

    The Decisive Storm operation was ending and a new phase called Restoring Hope was starting, focusing on diplomacy, humanitarian and counter-terrorism issues, the Saudis said at the time.

    But hours after the announcement, new airstrikes hit the Iran-backed rebels and their allies on Wednesday - suggesting the U.S.-backed offensive was being scaled back but not completely halted. Despite the renewed airstrikes, the initial Saudi announcement indicated a willingness to negotiate.

    The bombardment also continued on Thursday, officials and witnesses said, as the Houthis sent reinforcements to the south, where their prized goal - the port city of Aden - remained an elusive goal, in part thanks to the Saudi-led airstrikes.

    Meanwhile, Pakistan's top leaders, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, arrived Thursday in Saudi Arabia to push for negotiations in the Yemen conflict. The two are to meet with King Salman to discuss the crisis, according to Pakisitan's Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam.

    Both predominantly Sunni majority countries, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are close allies, and Islamabad has supported the Saudi-led coalition though it declined to send troops, warplanes and warships to join it.

    The kingdom and Gulf Arab allies launched the air strikes March 26, trying to crush the Houthis and allied military units loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    The Saudis believe the rebels are tools for Iran to take control of Yemen. Iran has provided political and humanitarian support to the Houthis, though both Tehran and the rebels deny it has armed them.

    Loud explosions shook the cities of Taiz and Ibb in western Yemen on Thursday, as well as Aden when coalition warplanes bombed the rebels and their allies, witnesses said.

    Residents also said the Houthis and Saleh's forces were attacking the city of Dhale, one of the southern gateways to Aden, with random shelling.

    All Yemeni officials and witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media or feared for their safety amid the fighting.


    Associated Press writer Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.

  5. #5

    Re: Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

    Rules Won't Fix Europe's Gazprom Problem
    APR 23, 2015 12:01 AM EDT
    By The Editors

    If the Ukraine crisis has proved anything, it is that the European Union can't get Russia to play nice by trying to humor President Vladimir Putin. So though it was understandable for the EU to hold off on an anti-monopoly case against Gazprom when the conflict began last year, Wednesday's decision to go forward with it was overdue.

    No lawsuit can stop Putin from using natural gas as a political weapon to divide Europe. In the long term, the only real solution here is for Europe to diversify its energy supplies beyond Russia.

    mc russia gas demand
    In the meantime, however, there are a few things EU nations can do to resist Putin's bullying. One is to discover their inner Musketeer and sign on to Poland's plan for buying gas collectively -- all for one price, and one price for all. Then again, if the bloc showed that kind of unity, there would be no European debt crisis. So dream on.

    Russia's Gas Politics

    This lawsuit is a more realistic short-term response. The EU's case against Gazprom includes three complaints. The first and clearest is that Gazprom has written clauses into its bilateral supply contracts with eight EU nations, all from the former Soviet bloc, to prevent these buyers from reselling gas to neighbors that might be willing to pay more. The more isolated EU energy markets are, the easier it is for Putin to manipulate them.

    The second complaint charges Gazprom with unfair pricing, in part by using oil-linked formulas to favor some countries and penalize others -- specifically Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The final objection concerns old-fashioned muscle politics; Gazprom has a tendency to make gas supplies and prices contingent on permitting Gazprom to build and operate the pipelines it wants.

    Paradoxically, this last concern over infrastructure has become less important since the Ukraine crisis began. Gazprom has changed its strategy in Europe: Instead of trying to own everything, from the extraction process in Siberia to the retail distribution system in Europe, Gazprom now wants to deliver gas for sale at the bloc's border. Indeed, were it not for the currently sour political atmosphere, a quick negotiated settlement would be all but certain.

    Slowly, the EU and Russia are becoming less dependent on each other. The EU has begun building the liquid natural gas terminals and network interconnectors that may eventually create a more diversified supply and a single, transparent and fluid market. Russia, meanwhile, has finally agreed to build a pipeline to China after a decade of prevarication, giving it a new mega-consumer to supply. Both steps should have been taken long ago and, once they actually materialize, will be healthy.

    Yet the need of the EU's eastern members for Russian energy today remains acute, giving Putin powerful leverage. The EU's lawsuit may help curb Gazprom's abuses. But ultimately, only better coordination among European nations over energy policy can free Europe from its dependence on Russian gas.

    To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at

  6. #6

    Re: Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

    April 23, 2015, 10:00 am
    Turkey and the Sunni vanguard
    By Herbert London, contributor

    Although it is a NATO member, geographically a bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey's present leadership is tilting away from the United States. In most respects this is ironic, since President Obama was fond of saying his closest ally on the foreign stage is Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. That friendship has not stood the test of time.

    The unwillingness of the United States to assist the rebels in Syria was a disappointment to Erdoğan; but even more crucial in undermining the once cozy relationship is the present rapprochement with Iran. Negotiations with Iran over the enrichment of uranium have led to the justifiable belief that the United States will countenance an Iranian bomb. This belief — gaining traction throughout the region — is that a Shiite Crescent, the imperial Persian dream, may be realized with complicit American action.
    So profound is this sentiment that tectonic alternations are underway in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has made it clear it does not want a seat in the U.N. Security Council as long as negotiations with Iran continue. Moreover, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a long standing ally of the United States, has turned against American foreign policy with outspoken vengeance. He has even suggested the U.S. nuclear umbrella is unreliable and has prompted discussion with Pakistan over the acquisition of nuclear weapons should Iran be given a green light for further enrichment of uranium.

    It is not coincidental that Turkish foreign policy positions follow a Saudi script, since capital from Riyadh underwrites much of the faltering Turkish economy. Should Saudi Arabia obtain nuclear weapons, Turkey will be waiting its turn with open arms.

    Egypt, once firmly registered in an alliance with the U.S., is now turning to Saudi Arabia for aid and has turned to Russia for military assistance. Emerging from this chaotic Middle East equation is a Sunni alliance composed of Turkey, the nation with the largest army and most formidable air force in the region; Saudi Arabia, the richest of the Gulf states; and Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, in a critical geographic location.

    Whether this Sunni alliance can hold is another matter. Erdoğan did support the Muslim Brotherhood, later overthrown by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Egyptian military. The new Egyptian government has vowed to reinforce the peace treaty with Israel that former President Mohamed Morsi pledged to abrogate, a move Erdoğan has publicly criticized. And Saudi Arabia's ascension to a leadership position because it pays the bills may not last if fracking and new technologies replace the global reliance on Middle East oil.

    Notwithstanding this fragility, there is an impending Iranian threat that unites Sunni brethren. Erdoğan is not a beloved figure in this shaky alliance. He has one foot in the camp of moderates and one in the miasma of terrorists. He is known to be unreliable. He is also in a precarious electoral position at home. A corruption scandal, a dramatic increase in interest rates to forestall a precipitous decline in the lira, demonstrations on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara and the end of the Turkish economic miracle — which gave Erdogan a free ride as prime minister from 2002 to 2008 — contribute to an unpredictable and dangerous period ahead.

    Turkey has a history of deposing popularly elected governments with military coups. This scenario cannot be ruled out despite efforts by Erdoğan to purge the military of prospective opponents. The debt bomb is ticking, and Erdoğan's friends at home and abroad may believe it is time for him to go. Recent polls indicate he has lost support across the country.

    In many respects, Turkey in its present position is an exemplar of the Middle East. It is divided by geography, religious loyalties and politics. It is moderate in many ways, going back to the secular program of the first Turkish President Kemal Atatürk, and also extreme, as the Erdoğan program for Islamization would suggest. It wants to reside in the 21st century, but continually looks into the rear-view mirror at the former Ottoman Empire. It is pro-West and anti-West. It has been with the United States and now against it. It was an economic miracle, the darling of Wall Street for a decade, but is riddled with debt. In fact, at any given moment, almost anything one says about Turkey could be true.

    London is president of the London Center for Policy Research

  7. #7

    Re: Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

    Unemployment hits 12.9 per cent in Q1

    Photo Credit:Reuters/Susana Vera

    Amman, April 22 (Petra) -- Unemployment in Jordan stood at 12.9 percent in the first quarter of the current year, indicating a rise of 0.6 percent compared with the same period last year, official figures reveal.

    Unemployment among males reached 11 percent and 22 percent among females, according to the data by the Department of Statistics. The figures showed that the unemployment rate among university degree holders reached 18.7 percent, while 55 percent of jobless individuals have a secondary school certificate or higher.

    Unemployment among males who hold a bachelor's degree or higher was 24 percent compared with 77 percent for females. The southern governorate of Ma'an reported highest rate of unemployment of 16 percent while the lowest rate was recorded in Jerash at 9 percent.
    © Jordan News Agency - Petra 2015

  8. #8

    Re: Islamic State faces a complex web of militant groups and violence in Pakistan

    Resilient economy boosts bank profits in first quarter
    Wednesday, Apr 22, 2015


    Nearly Half a dozen banks that reported their 2015 first quarter results on Wednesday showed the strong resilience of the UAE’s economy and the banking sector on the face of sharp decline in oil prices and regional geopolitical challenges.

    Most banks reported strong growth in assets and profits while asset quality indicators showed strong improvement both year on year and quarter on quarter. Emirates NBD reported the strongest growth in first quarter profits among banks that have announced results so far.

    The bank’s net profits for the first three months of the year were up 60 per cent year on year to Dh1.7 billion. “Our strong result is driven by higher income, stable expenses and lower provisions. Emirates Islamic delivered a very strong first quarter, recording impressive growth in both income and assets,” said Shayne Nelson Group Chief Executive Officer of Emirates NBD .

    Abu Dhabi based First Gulf Bank (FGB ) announced a net profit of Dh1.41 billion for the first quarter of 2015, up 7 per cent compared to the same period in 2014.
    In the first quarter of 2015, FGB achieved revenues at Dh2.32 billion, up 3 per cent from the first quarter of last year.

    Although the bank faced a marginal decline in net interest and Islamic financing income, it was largely offset by the continued strength of non-interest income streams which expanded by 13 per cent to Dh735 million during the period
    “Our non-interest income continued to grow, reaching 32 per cent of total revenues against 29 per cent last year, which is a great achievement in line with our plans to diversify revenue sources,” said André Sayegh, CEO of FGB .

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